Student Profile: Josh Story
Playing the tuba would seem a natural endeavor in Germany, home of oompah bands. But for Berklee study-abroad student Josh Story, it ended up more complicated—and possibly more rewarding—than anyone would expect.
He was determined to study abroad, despite two issues that might have seemed like roadblocks. Berklee's partner school in Freiburg, the Jazz & Rock Schulen, didn't offer private instruction for tuba principals, and Story wouldn't be able to bring his tuba abroad.
However, Jazz & Rock Schulen staff members were determined to make it work. And Story's experience at Berklee had developed his ability to adapt and be resourceful: In his first year, along with studying music business and playing with the Berklee New Orleans Street Band Ensemble and a fellow student's Bahamian junkanoo group, he had found classical groups at Harvard and Boston College.
Staff found him a private instructor and scoured the countryside for a tuba. (Those small-town bands didn't have a lot of professional-quality rentals available.) From there, Story got chances to learn from musicians across the city and beyond, digging into the local culture. Instead of roadblocks, opportunity.
We talked to him on several tram rides to and from Freiburg's classical conservatory, the Hochschule für Musik, where Story was holding down the fort as the only tuba in Tchaikovsky's Fifth Symphony. This is a condensed and edited account.
What's it like to play with the Hochschule für Musik orchestra?
Intimidating. The group is so good! This conductor speaks German, English, French, and a little Italian. I'm relieved it's not all in German, because I would be freaked out not to understand what he wants. My teacher connected me with this orchestra—he's found me several groups.
Where else have you played during your Freiburg semester?
I played in a church in Emmendingen with a full orchestra, and I'm playing at Europa-Park this weekend with my teacher. I play with a symphonic group on Wednesdays. Pretty much everywhere I had to ride the train to get to. The Jazz & Rock Schulen gave me tram passes.
You take classes at the Jazz & Rock Schulen with other Berklee students. Are you part of any musical ensembles there?
I'm not in any of the ensembles of the school. The other Berklee students get more of the Jazz & Rock Schulen experience, and I get more classical. I would've liked to play in a jazz ensemble, but I'm fine with what I did.
Why did you choose Freiburg instead of Berklee's other study-abroad program in Athens?
Between Athens and Germany, it seemed like I could travel a lot more and see more of Europe here. I've been to Munich—we went for Oktoberfest. Amsterdam. Strasbourg with the school. We had a nine-day break and I went to Paris, Berlin, Vienna, Rome. I might be going to Munich again next weekend.
What was the best part of your travels?
I think Paris was my favorite. I went on top of the Arc de Triomphe and the Eiffel Tower was lighting up. It was the coolest thing I've ever done.
What do you wish you'd known before you left?
I didn't realize how hard it would be to learn German. They did tell us to practice beforehand!
Not only did you leave your tuba at home. . . you left your fancy-orchestra clothes. I heard your fellow Berklee classmates helped you put together an outfit for the concert.
I got a pair of girls' pants from Drew and I got a white shirt from Tom. These pants are actually huge. John's shoes are like three sizes too big for me and this jacket is too short.