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Episode Info

Episode Info:

Tom Holtz is a former member of “The President’s Own” United States Marine Band in Washington, DC. During his career with the Marine Band, Tom served as a soloist, an arranger, and as a concert moderator. He also performed with the United States Coast Guard Band in New London, CT, and was featured as a soloist twice with the Army Blues, from Ft. Myer, VA. He retired from active duty in 2012, after more than 21 years of service. Tom currently works for the Department of Veterans Affairs as the office manager of the Dundalk Vet Center, part of the VA Maryland Health Care System.

Tom is an active freelance musician in both classical and jazz venues across the mid-Atlantic region. He currently plays in the Bayfield Brass Quintet, from Annapolis, MD; and the Beltway Brass Quintet, from Fredericksburg, VA.  Tom is also a regular member of two New Orleans-style jazz bands, Big Bertha’s Rhythm Kings, from Baltimore, MD; and the Creole Gumbo Jazz Band, from Chesapeake Beach, MD. He also plays in the Balkan gypsy band Balti Mare, from Baltimore, MD; Off Bass Brass, a tuba quartet based in Washington, DC.; and Heimat Echo, a traditional German polka band from Occoquan, VA.

Tom is a frequent recording artist, having made several CD’s with the Bayfield Brass Quintet, the Beltway Brass Quintet, and Off Bass Brass. His arrangements have been performed by numerous brass quintets, the United States Marine Band, the Chesapeake Orchestra, and the University of Maryland Marching Band. He is an active clinician and adjudicator nationwide.

A native of Geneseo, Illinois, Tom Holtz received his Bachelor of Music degree in 1991 from Arizona State University in Tempe, Arizona. He now lives in Maryland with his wife, Becky, and his sons Alex, Doug and J.J.

In this fun and lively discussion, we cover:

  • Marine Band
  • Jazz tuba
  • Less is more in jazz
  • Picking a strategy for standing out in his improv
  • Getting thrown to the wolves on a gig in high school
  • Knowing your scales
  • Learning by listening and doing
  • Jamie Abersold tracks
  • Picking notes in a moment that are a line and that lead you to a spot and indicate your direction to the rest of the band
  • Comparing improv learning to juggling
  • Using your existing strengths as an entry point
  • Homework for bass lines is scales then easy tunes with easy bass lines
  • The importance of writing out the changes and figuring out the form and structure of a tune
  • Playing along with a recording of the tune
  • Aim for clear and obvious, rather than fancy or showy
  • Keep time, the importance of keeping time
  • The differences (and similarities) between playing bass lines and solos
  • Travelin' Light
  • On solos, start with the melody and mess around with it
  • Becoming your own player
  • The major influence of Dan Perantoni (and Dan's piano chops)
  • Dirty Dozen Brass Band, Kirk Joseph
  • Rich Matteson and The Dukes of Dixieland
  • How playing in The President's Own Marine Band helped him play bass lines
  • Record yourself and look at the waveform
  • Fat Slice
  • Tonal Energy Tuner
  • What is happening in his head while he's playing
  • Settle down and do the job
  • Tension is the enemy of tone (Joe Alessi)
  • Focus on the front end of the notes
  • David Fedderly
  • Using a bass amp with his helicon
  • Horn and gear from car to gig in one trip
  • Phil Jones bass amp
  • Finding his helicon thanks to Steve Dillon
  • Adding a cup holder and a wireless mic to his horn


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Expertly produced by Will Houchin with love, care, and enthusiasm.

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