Tubist Earns Position with Civic Orchestra of Chicago

MSU undergraduate musician enjoys opportunity to play on the professional circuit.

Civic Orchestra of Chicago (COC) members left to right: David Nelson (principal tuba, COC), Joe LeFevre (associate member, COC), Gene Pokorny (principal tuba, CSO), Jose Martínez (associate member, COC)
Performance at the Midwest Clinic from the Civic Orchestra of Chicago, pictured left to right: David Nelson, Jose Martínez, Joe LeFevre, Gene Pokorny
Brass rehearsal with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra

Joe LeFevre came to his love of the tuba via a desire to be the class clown.

In fifth grade, the now double-major in tuba performance and music education in the MSU College of Music, took the dare from a classmate to take up the instrument as a venue for future comedy material. 

“I was this short, small, skinny guy and we both thought it would be funny to see me playing the tuba,” says LeFevre. “My friend was going to do it, too, but he bailed on me. It all took off from there.”

Today, LeFevre is receiving recognition and earning spots in prominent Midwest orchestras for his musical abilities. Ever funny and good-humored, LeFevre is totally devoted to his beloved tuba—the largest and lowest-pitched instrument in the brass family.

“My ultimate dream is to perform in a big city symphony orchestra,” LeFevre says. “It’s something special to take musical notes on a page and create something so much more.”

Over the last year, LeFevre ran a virtual “triple crown” as he auditioned for and earned an associate tuba position with the Civic Orchestra of Chicago—the premier training group for the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. Within a few weeks, LeFevre was “called up” to sub in a rehearsal with the CSO Brass Ensemble, and also performed a world premiere of Anthony Cheung's “Twin Spaces Intertwined” with the Civic Orchestra. Later in the month, he performed Vaughan Williams’ “Concerto for Bass Tuba and Orchestra” with fellow Civic Orchestra tuba players and CSO principal tubist Gene Pokorny as part of a special performance at the December Midwest Clinic international band and orchestra concert in honor of Arnold Jacobs—the godfather of tuba.

“I enjoyed sitting directly to Joe’s left during the performance,” says Pokorny. “While he is technically agile as a player, I most enjoyed his musicianship given his relatively young age, which is unusual. His efforts are worth noting for this accomplishment.”

Philip Sinder, MSU professor of tuba and euphonium, first met the young tubist when LeFevre was a junior at Portage Central High School visiting MSU. Sinder says it was evident early on that LeFevre had the physical abilities and musical sense to make things happen at a high level.

“He also has the desire to improve and work hard and to work with others,” says Sinder. “When you have those three things working at a high level you’re bound to have success.”

LeFevre’s recent achievements also include winning the MSU College of Music Honors Concert Competition in the brass and percussion area, which led to him being selected to solo with the MSU Wind Symphony in late April. He remarks that all the recent accolades and opportunities have felt a little “surreal,” but adds it helps validate his dream to be part a big city symphony orchestra someday.

“Sometimes it’s tough practicing when I go home to visit in Kalamazoo, though,” he laughs. “It resonates throughout the house. My family has gotten used to it and the neighbors enjoy it, too. My sister just puts in her ear plugs.”

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