First, they came for the copper…

I remember the famous poem by Reverend Martin Niemöller about not standing up for something because at least they weren’t coming for you. It has been used many times over the past fifty years to point out that even though your own ox might not be in danger of goring at this particular moment, after they run through everybody else’s oxen, you will probably find yourself in the cross hairs. It seems to be a thread that connects all of us when it comes to misfortune and calamity. Some would say it’s random and all part of a crazy universe with colliding atoms surrounding us variably striking chance and opportunities. I believe its more deliberate than that.

In recent years with the economy being the way it has been, theft of metals for scrap has become a very large enterprise. It seems like every day you hear of another bizarre story of whole buildings being emptied of the copper piping and wiring.

In my home town, large communities have been abandoned to drug cultures and as the old neighborhoods are abandoned, their wiring is almost always the first thing to go. Relatives who live far away come to clean out the old houses when a parent passes away only to find there is nothing left to clean. The house has been stripped bare.

Recently, a new rash of thefts has been occurring in Southern California that has particularly brought this epidemic right to my doorstep

A crime so hideous and appalling that I can barely write about it. But in the interests of all those who may become a victim, I feel I must make the sacrifice and keep myself from becoming too emotional. These new thefts are just the first ripples of what I believe will become a tidal wave and will eventually reach your neighborhoods and schools.

Yes. I am speaking about the rash in thefts of Tubas


Schools all over South Central Los Angeles are experiencing a large amount of Tuba thefts. I Googled the story just before writing this blog and there were over 4,900,000 hits on Tuba thefts. Now, granted, almost every hit was exactly the same story in a different news outlet but that’s not important now. What is important is that in the very near future, marching bands and concert bands will no longer have the important voice of the Tuba to fill in the bottom line of their music. The large chunky kids will not have anything more to carry in the Rose Bowl parade and you know what that leads to… more kids with free time on their hands to steal copper.

I know what you are saying. Just have the baritones and the trombones play a little louder. Have the baritone sax parts re-written to cover the loss of the small notes a Tuba may add to the Malagueña. Many listeners will not know, but I will. Nothing can replace the deep boom boom boom as the rest of the band prepares to blast you with the stirring sounds.

Fear the Tuba

But what about when they come for the trombones and baritones?

How long will it be before trumpets and French horns fall victim? There are statistically many more of them which would mean a lot more brass. While the clarinet will always be safe since it is quite useless, are you sure you are willing to risk the flutes? I for one want the flautists to always maintain their unique abilities… (ah, memories of my youth).

The real question though is why Tubas? Why Now?

This is where it gets tricky. There is apparently a relatively recent craze called the “Banda Music Craze” which is an offshoot of some kind of foreign influence south of the border. Apparently, the Tuba is known to create an overpowering sensation in women that makes them, shall we say, stimulated? (I was going to say horny but this could be a family column someday and frankly it would be too gratuitous for a high caliber journalist like I pretend to be to take such an easy shot)

From a recent article:

La banda dangerousa

“Watching it all was Jesse Chavez, hosting his own 25th birthday party that night. Chavez said the success of his party was dependent on a tuba, which has a reputation for attracting dance-minded partygoers – especially women, he added.

“I had to have a tuba,” he said. “There’s more thunk, thunk. Also, they bring girls.”

These days, clients won’t hire a band “if you don’t have a tuba,” Jose Davila, singer and accordionist for the norteno band Grupo 5.7, said between sets at another backyard birthday, this one in South Los Angeles. Norteno groups almost always use bass players, but Grupo 5.7 fired its bassist and replaced him with a tubist to keep partygoers happy.”

(Note: Names redacted to protect the innocent)

This of course confirms something I long suspected as a young man about the power of the Tuba. But to see it used in a craze like fashion to lure young innocent girls into a life of frivolity and abandonment is very sad. Apparently, it has another side affect too. Tuba players from all over Mexico are now coming to the States and replacing American Tuba players. It wasn’t bad enough that our employment opportunities were already limited but now a new wave of freedom seekers are coming and will and it appears they aren’t bringing their own Tubas.

More from the article:

“We were in a little box before. Now they’ve set us free and we’re able to show what we’re capable of,” said Santiago “Shagi” Mata, a tubist who lives in Maywood. “Now the girls want us to play near them and take photos with us.”

La Banda Tubas

Today, the thunder of banda tuba experimentation peals across Southern California, with players using hip-hop, country, scratching, jazz and electric bass lines as they reinvent a Mexican folk music far from home. As a sign of how tradition-bound Mexican tuba was for years, it’s considered bold that some Tubists now play in minor keys.

Tubists are practicing harder and competition getting fiercer. But the jobs are still there. (Author: For now)

“Of every 10 calls I get, eight are offering work,” he said. “I’m thankful to God for whatever talent I have on the tuba.”

There it is. Taking jobs that pudgy American kids used to look forward to. Like many crazes, how long will it be before they spread across this great Land of Sousa? Is your school safe? Does anyone even remember where the key to the band room is? Are you prepared for a Tuba-less homecoming parade?

Maybe the article title should be

“First, they came for the Tubas.”

I am glad to see that Alana Kagan has recused herself from the Supreme Court deliberations for Arizona’s immigration laws. I have to be frank and tell you I wish the same was true for Ms. Sotomayor. I understand she has recently been seen at a few banda parties…

That kind of scares me a bit.


Mister Mac

I hate to blow my own horn but:

Bob Boot Camp Band


Frankly, I am keeping my fingers crossed for Arizona

I didn’t realize that they may be the last thing standing between us and the loss of this great horn!

4 thoughts on “First, they came for the copper…

  1. Thanks for keeping us in Arizona in your thoughts and prayers. We need all we can get from ground zero of the immigration wars….


    1. I knew I liked you for some reason. I started with the trumpet, moved on to Baritone and finally Tuba. Bari will always be my favorite though. The most misunderstood of the brass instruments and ignored by musical writers for years. My dream has always to own one again (they were hard to have on submarines for some reason). The price tag has always been an inhibiter but maybe I will make a qiuck run to LA… (Kidding)

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