September 15, 2015—Sean Jacob Turner, a two-time graduate of the UO School of Music and Dance, has been garnering a great deal of media attention recently for an offbeat summer project: setting a Guinness World Record for the highest elevation for a performance by a freestanding tuba soloist.
As reported by both The Register-Guard and the UO’s “Around the O” news website, this summer Turner, along with his father, Oregon State University business faculty member John Turner, climbed Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania, a unique father-son bonding activity.
At the summit, Turner performed on a so-called “pocket tuba” on loan to him by Michael Grose, UO associate professor of tuba and euphonium. Turner details how his UO mentor made one special request as payback for the loan.
“It's an understatement to say Mike Grose takes teaching beyond the standard educational parameters and confines,” says Turner. “I haven't been a student of his for three years, but when I approached him and asked if I could borrow his personal tuba for a climbing trip up the world's tallest freestanding mountain, he didn't hesitate to lend it to me...as long as I played the UO fight song at the top!”
True to his word, Turner performed “Mighty Oregon” at the summit. It’s a solo he reports as being “very hard,” no wonder considering his level of exhaustion, the thin air, and the frigid temperature.
Lugging a tuba, even a travel-sized instrument, first to Africa and then up a mountain, presented some unique challenges—and not just the ones you’d imagine.
“Not surprisingly, I did have some very ‘interested’ security guards at the airports in Tanzania,” Turner reports. “One actually requested to buy the tuba, and offered me the equivalent of $100 for it right there.”
Turner, now director of bands at Whiteaker Middle School in Keizer, Oregon, earned both his bachelor’s degree (2012) and master’s degree (2013) in music education at the UO.
As for why he would attempt such a feat in the first place, Turner traces the project’s genesis back to his twin loves of art and action.
“As well as traveling and adventuring, I also like playing tuba,” he says. “It was a natural progression from identifying my interests to thinking about how to combine them. I happened to check the Guinness record books and saw there was no existing record for the highest free-standing elevation for a tuba solo.”
“I just enjoy adding exciting or absurd adventures when I can,” Turner adds.
Scroll down to watch video of Turner's record-setting performance.