Alan Baer, a South Brunswick resident and the principal tuba for the New York Philharmonic, has been appointed to the Music Department faculty of Mason Gross School of the Arts as head of the Brass Program.
As a professor of tuba at the school for the past seven years, Baer has developed a straightforward way to strengthen the program and its musicians. How?
“Get back to basics,” Baer says. “We’re going to build a foundation for our students.”
Baer will lead the department in developing a strong chamber music program, in which all brass students will be required to participate beginning in the fall semester. Collaborating with other musicians in small groups, Baer says, develops not only listening skills but also a strong work ethic.
“In an orchestra, sometimes players can hide,” Baer says. “In a quintet or duet, you have to really take responsibility for your part.”
Baer joined the New York Philharmonic in 2004, after teaching for several years at California State University–Long Beach, where he directed the university tuba ensemble and the brass choir. He has been a faculty member at the University of Wisconsin in Milwaukee, Bard College Conservatory of Music, Manhattan School of Music, and Mannes School of Music.
“We are proud, and honored, to welcome Alan to Mason Gross,” says George B. Stauffer, dean of the Mason Gross School. “Holding the position of principal tuba with the New York Philharmonic, he brings extraordinary musical skills to the Music Department. We anticipate that he will do great things as the new head of our Brass Program.”
Baer has performed with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, New Orleans Symphony, and Los Angeles Philharmonic, among many others.
He performs regularly with other principal brass players from the New York Philharmonic in the Principal Brass band and has collaborated on recordings with the Boston Symphony Orchestra and the Philadelphia Orchestra. Baer has released two albums of his own, Coast to Coast (2005) and Song and Dance (2008).
Baer says he has a “very mechanical mind” and is well versed in how his instruments work. He runs his own horn maintenance shop out of his home with his wife, Noreen, a trombonist.
He also designs instruments with the touring musician in mind—one of his tubas, the “Trolley 14,” will fit in the overhead compartment on an airplane.
This fall, Baer looks forward to creating what he calls “a collaboration of musical ideas” between student musicians through group work and recitals.
“We are the conductor’s instrument,” Baer says. “We have to be able to do what the conductor wants to be effective.”