If you’re a middle school or high school student wondering whether a career might be a good fit, we have good news for you! For the next few weeks, our Musician Intern Team will be interviewing individuals with different careers involving music, from commercial film scorers to scientific researchers. Articles about these interviews will be posted on our website each week to help you explore different careers and pathways in music.
This week, Musician Intern and TYP tubist Hayden Silvester interviewed Mike Roylance, Principal tubist in the Boston Symphony Orchestra. Here’s what he learned:
When Mike Roylance was young, he never knew he would one day be a professional tubist, performing with a major symphony like the Boston Symphony Orchestra, also known as The Boston Pops Orchestra. He started playing the tuba while growing up in Orlando, Florida. Upon high school graduation, Mr. Roylance majored in music performance. He studied under a variety of tuba professors in colleges such as the University of Miami, University of Central Florida, and Rollins College, ultimately graduating with his music degree.
Amazingly, he was able to obtain his first major job as a musician soon after graduation, when he became a member of the Future Corps, an elite drum corp that performed up to seven shows a day at Epcot in Walt Disney World. At that time, Walt Disney World was “a hotbed of musical talent,” Roylance says. He was employed with Disney for twelve years. During those years, he also played full time in a Dixieland or jazz band in the evenings. Incredibly enough, Mr. Roylance also had several other part-time jobs during those years; he was a tuba and euphonium professor at the University of Central Florida, and he was the director of the athletic bands and the brass ensemble at Rollins College.
After Disney laid off the Future Corps players, Mr. Roylance was at a crossroads in his life because he wasn’t sure if he should continue to be a professional musician or not. He was thinking that he could either pursue a career as a professional pilot, as he had a huge interest in aviation and had even obtained his pilot’s license during his free time. However, he ultimately went “all in on the music,” as he says, and decided to move to Chicago to obtain his Master’s Degree and study orchestral performance at DePaul University. At that time, he studied under Floyd Cooley and Gene Pokorney. After a year and a half of intense musical studies, he auditioned for the Boston Symphony Orchestra and won the position as principal tuba. He has been there now for eighteen years.
The best part about being a member of the BSO, according to Mr.Roylance, is performing at one of the finest venues in the world, Symphony Hall on 301 Massachusetts Avenue in the city of Boston. In his words, “It is literally one of the top three acoustical buildings on the planet.” It is his office, as he says. He also reports that his colleagues, like bass trombonist Jim Markey, and the other members of the brass section, as well as all of the members of the orchestra, are the most talented in the world. Roylance adds that traveling across the world has also been an amazing experience for him with the BSO.
When asked what the most challenging thing about being a professional tuba player for the BSO is, Mr. Roylance immediately responded by mentioning the difficulty of always needing to sound perfect since he is the only tuba player in the orchestra. If he makes a mistake, he reports that he cannot point to “the other tuba players” because they don’t exist. Like a professional athlete, Mr. Roylance has to perform at a certain level. There is a lot of pressure to be “always on,” and although he says that he enjoys it, he realizes that the stakes are high.
The advice that Mike Roylance gives to young aspiring musicians is this: “Do it!” He says to follow your dreams, no matter what they may be. Basically, he says to do the best that you can in anything you desire to do. He also adds that you do not have to necessarily be the best in your band to maximize your potential. According to Roylance, “You do not have to win all of the music awards, you just have to be serious about your craft and go study with people who are being successful, and you will become like them.”