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'Yew-pho-what?' Euphonium, tuba gain more visibility at Eastern Music Festival.

GREENSBORO Henry Wagner admits that he’s a bit embarrassed to explain why he began to play the euphonium.

Wagner started out playing alto saxophone in his Winston-Salem middle school band — and hated it.

He told his band director he wanted to play an easier instrument with fewer buttons.

“He gave me a euphonium just to try, and I absolutely loved it,” Wagner said.

He discovered that it wasn’t necessarily easier. But Wagner loves it enough that, at 17, he has joined 25 young musicians accepted into the new Euphonium Tuba Institute at the Eastern Music Festival held here.

For two weeks, it immerses 15 student tubists and 10 euphonium players in lessons, practice, rehearsals and performances in an orchestral setting. Most are college students, with a few in high school or graduate school.

Only three hail from North Carolina — Wagner, Mia Wallace of Lexington and Matthew Wise of West End in Moore County. Others come from as far as California.

The 58th annual festival brings nearly 270 young musicians from around the world — and 75 professionals to teach them — to the Guilford College campus for five weeks.

Students in the Euphonium Tuba Institute will finish Saturday with a free recital beginning at 6 p.m. in the Carnegie Room of the Hege Library on Guilford’s campus. The rest of the EMF runs through July 27.

As far as organizers know, this is the world’s only Euphonium Tuba Institute at an orchestral festival.

“There are a lot of tuba and euphonium camps, but they’re not under the umbrella of an orchestral festival,” said euphonium player Demondrae Thurman, who runs the institute with tubist Aaron Tindall.

Even nonmusicians know the tuba, the largest and lowest-pitched instrument in the brass family.

So what exactly is a euphonium?

“You say the word ‘euphonium’ and it’s ‘yew-pho-what?’ ” Tindall said.

Euphonium players often have to describe the instrument to nonmusicians.

They confuse it with the tuba, a similar instrument but larger and an octave lower. A euphonium is not a traditional orchestral instrument; It is more often played in marching, concert and wind bands.

“My usual response is, ‘It’s kind of like a small tuba,’ ” Wagner said. “They go, ‘Oh, yeah, that makes sense. I’ve seen one of those before.’ ”

Most of the time, Wagner plays trombone in the Winston-Salem Youth Symphony. In his three years with that orchestra, it has played only two pieces that call for a euphonium — Gustav Holst’s “The Planets” and Modest Mussorgsky’s “Pictures at an Exhibition.”

Wagner enjoys it nonetheless. He loves the sound and texture, “and the lower register is really appealing,” he said.

When playing euphonium, “It’s thrilling to be playing an instrument that no one else is playing,” Wagner said. “But it’s also kind of nerve-wracking, because it pushes you to make sure everything is exact, as good as it possibly can be. You’re a representative of your instrument.”

Mia Wallace, 18 and a rising college freshman at UNC School of the Arts in Winston-Salem, began playing euphonium at age 12. She had played clarinet but wanted to switch to a larger instrument.

The tuba felt too large, so her middle school band director suggested the euphonium.

Like Wagner, “I just fell in love with it,” Wallace said. “The sound is so special and beautiful.”

Wallace, Wagner and other students study with two professionals who are tops in their fields.

Thurman teaches at Indiana University’s Jacobs School of Music. He performs chamber music and with many of the country’s finest orchestras.

Tindall teaches at the Frost School of Music at the University of Miami. He is principal tubist of the Sarasota Orchestra, and has performed in such prestigious settings as Teatro alla Scala Opera and Ballet Orchestra in Milan.

Both Thurman and Tindall have played other instruments.

During his student years at orchestra festivals, Thurman played trombone and brought his euphonium along.

Tindall actually earned his undergraduate and master’s degrees in euphonium. He took up the tuba because it offered more job opportunities and studied with a retired principal tubist for the New York Philharmonic while finishing his doctorate.

For 12 years, Thurman has traveled to the EMF with his wife, violinist Jenny Grégoire, who teaches and performs with the faculty orchestra, and their two children.

He played occasionally with the faculty or student orchestra when a piece called for a euphonium. But he didn’t play a full-time role.

Tindall had taught the festival’s two tuba students, who play with the student orchestras.

Thurman pitched the Euphonium Tuba Institute to EMF Music Director Gerard Schwarz and Executive Director Chris Williams.

The festival has added guitar and conducting programs in recent years. They liked the proposal to add another.

“It’s turning out fantastic,” Schwarz said.

Tindall and Thurman start each day with a warmup session and a talk about technique.

Students then play music in a large ensemble and smaller trio, quartet or quintet. They take solo lessons. They attend master classes, where Tindall or Thurman critiques a student’s performance.

They learn how to become their own teachers through practice. They practice during free time, or attend a concert.

When the student orchestras perform this week, two euphonium students will perform two of the most important works that use the instrument: “The Planets” and Strauss’ “Don Quixote.”

Even when they don’t perform, students learn by attending rehearsals how an orchestra goes from sight-reading scores to playing in concert.

Thurman and Tindall talk about career opportunities.

There are a variety of ways to make a living, Thurman said. But for those who want to teach at a high level and play in a professional orchestra, “it’s a tough conversation because there’s not a great job market,” he said, adding that it’s no different for violinists.

“But if you’re willing to do the homework, go to summer camps, go to summer festivals, study with people who can put you in the right place, you have the opportunity to have the kind of career you want,” Thurman said.

Wallace calls the institute “a once-in-a-lifetime experience.”

She will enter college at UNC School of the Arts this fall to study music. She aims to teach at the college level and play euphonium professionally.

A graduate of Atkins High in Winston-Salem, Wagner will enter UNC-Chapel Hill to study computer science instead of music. But he hopes to join the school’s wind ensemble.

The institute “is kind of exhausting,” Wagner said. “But I don’t feel like there has been another time in my life where I have learned as much in such a short period of time."

EMF's Euphonium Tuba Institute

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It would be cheaper to buy coastal homes than to keep fighting nature, new report says

RALEIGH — Coastal towns may be better off buying out beachfront property owners than spending years trying to protect those homes from floods, erosion and shifting sands, a study of North Topsail Beach concludes.

The Western Carolina University Program for the Study of Developed Shorelines, in a study released Sunday, found that it would be cheaper to purchase 347 properties in North Topsail Beach that are at risk from storm surge, flooding, erosion and inlet migration than to spend millions over 30 years to protect them by constantly rebuilding beaches, maintaining sandbag walls, and building a barrier in the water to control erosion.

North Topsail Beach is a small town on a barrier island near an inlet, which are erosion hot spots.

The study puts the cost to purchase the properties at $30.1 million. Adding the lost property tax revenue, the cost to remove the buildings and sandbag walls brings the cost to $54.8 million over 30 years, including inflation and appreciation. Removing the buildings would save $57.6 million over 30 years by avoiding the fight to keep them from flooding or falling into the water.

Vulnerable seaside properties typically aren’t eligible for FEMA-supported property buyout programs that aim to get people and houses out of flood-prone areas. FEMA will help pay for properties that are primary residences. Vacation homes aren’t eligible.

Even without state or federal contributions, it would be worth it for coastal communities to consider buying and removing residences from areas in the greatest jeopardy, the report said.

In an interview, Robert S. Young, director of the Western Carolina program, said he wants the study to start conversations in coastal towns about what would be best for their communities. The report on North Topsail is one of a series the center plans to produce, he said. Others will focus on communities outside North Carolina.

“What we really hope it will do is give town officials across the state something to think about and something to talk about,” Young said. “Let’s have an open discussion about what is and isn’t feasible.”

A buyout of the most vulnerable properties would allow local officials to concentrate more attention and money on less threatened areas of the community, and would increase public access to the beach, the report said.

“If you can refocus all the administrative energy and emergency management funding to the 93 percent that is sustainable over the long term, that is really a positive argument for all of this,” Young said.

North Topsail Mayor Dan Tuman isn’t buying it. Tuman said he’s heard the buyout suggestion before, but does not think it would work. “It works only if all the property owners agree and people are not going to agree,” Tuman said.

And Tuman said $30 million wouldn’t be enough to buy all the properties in a zone called the inlet hazard area, which is at a higher risk of erosion and flooding. The properties in that zone have a value of $100 million, Tuman said. “I think he is unrealistic,” he said.

Young said Tuman is talking about an area larger than the focus of the report.

Not all property owners would agree to sell, Young said, but the study isn’t meant to offer a plan for immediate action.

“The point is to say this should be one of the tools in the toolbox,” Young said. “Everyone should take it seriously.”

Files from dead mapmaker focus of court hearing on N.C. redistricting lawsuit

RALEIGH — Documents recovered from the house of a dead Republican mapmaker that are part of a partisan gerrymandering lawsuit in North Carolina shouldn’t be used in this month’s scheduled trial because there’s no way to authenticate them, attorneys for the Republican Party said Tuesday.

Attorneys for the plaintiffs in the lawsuit subpoenaed the files linked to Tom Hofeller — a longtime redistricting consultant who helped the GOP in North Carolina and other states draw maps to expand the party’s electoral power this decade — in March.

Some of Hofeller’s files already have surfaced in separate litigation in other states challenging a plan by President Donald Trump’s administration to include a citizenship question on the 2020 U.S. census. Those cases haven’t focused on whether the documents are legitimate.

Hofeller’s estranged daughter, Stephanie Hofeller, provided Common Cause, the N.C. Democratic Party and voters, all of whom sued over the N.C. House and N.C. Senate legislative district maps, more than 75,000 files from more than 20 hard drives and thumb drives. The daughter said she came across them while looking for personal mementos in the months after her father’s death in August at age 75.

The plaintiffs’ attorneys told a panel of three state Superior Court judges Tuesday that they want to use only 35 of those documents in the trial, scheduled to begin July 15. They say the files will bolster their arguments that GOP legislators drew state legislative districts in August 2017 with excessive partisan intent, in violation of the North Carolina Constitution.

The files will show that “Hofeller in fact did have significant discretion and did use partisanship as a predominant motivation in drawing districts in county groups and within significant parts of the state,” attorney Daniel Jacobson told the judges. The plaintiffs want the maps redrawn in time for the 2020 elections. The party that wins majorities in those elections will control the next remapping, which takes place once a decade.

The GOP legislators who drew the 2017 maps have said they followed state redistricting rules and weren’t aware then of whatever map-drawing Hofeller performed on his own time before the legislature officially hired him that June. The GOP-controlled General Assembly voted to approved the boundaries in August 2017. Hofeller completed the actual drawing of the legislative boundaries on a state-owned computer.

Attorneys for the GOP want the judges to keep the files out of the trial and have them destroyed, saying they were improperly obtained. Regardless, attorney Phil Strach said, because Hofeller is dead there’s no way to make sure the files were authored by him and haven’t been altered.

“If this court is going to try this case on the facts and the law, these files are baseless speculation and they will remain so,” Strach said. “There’s nothing the plaintiffs can do to fix that because Dr. Hofeller is not here to talk about those files.”

Tuesday’s hearing came less than a week after the U.S. Supreme Court declared in a 5-4 decision that federal courts had no authority to rule on partisan gerrymandering claims. But Chief Justice John Roberts wrote in the majority opinion — responding in part to challenges to North Carolina’s 2016 congressional map —that action could still be taken by Congress, the state legislature and state courts.

This case continues, as the plaintiffs sued in state court and allege violations of the N.C. Constitution.

Superior Court Judge Paul Ridgeway, presiding over the three-judge panel, gave no indication when it would rule on motions on whether the 35 files should be kept out of the trial. Strach wants the judges to delay the trial date if Hofeller’s files are allowed.

Ridgeway also didn’t say when the panel would rule on demands by Republican attorneys to consider punishing the plaintiffs’ lawyers for their conduct related to accessing Hofeller’s files. Mark Braden, a lawyer for the GOP lawmakers, said there’s no telling how many people have reviewed the documents — some of which are personal or confidential — and whether they’ll end up in other litigation, like the census cases.

“The lust for these documents and the desire to distribute them nationwide overcame any normal ethical judgment,” Braden said.

Stanton Jones, a plaintiffs’ lawyer involved in both the North Carolina redistricting and census litigation, said no unethical action was taken and that “courts not only allow but encourage the sharing of discovery material that’s received from one case to the other cases where it’s relevant.”

The trial is expected to last two weeks. Any outcome likely will be appealed to the N.C. Supreme Court, where six of the seven justices are registered Democrats.