Alumni Couple Leads a Very Merry Tuba Tradition

  • Santa Claus conducts at Merry TubaChristmas Los Angeles. Photo by Boyd Krueger.

  • CSUN alumnus Scott Wilkinson conducts at Merry TubaChristmas Los Angeles. Photo by Boyd Krueger.

What do nearly 200 tubas playing holiday music sound like together?

“You might think it would sound very raucous, but it doesn’t,” said California State University, Northridge alumnus and Merry TubaChristmas Los Angeles conductor Scott Wilkinson ’81 (Music). “It’s a very mellow, very warm, very round tone. Unlike anything else you’ve ever heard.”

Or you could hear it for yourself to answer that question.

Wilkinson and his wife, Joanna Cazden ’92 (Communication Disorders and Sciences), who serves as the audience-singing conductor, are leading the annual Merry TubaChristmas Los Angeles concert for the fifth year in a row.

The show will be held at 7 p.m. on Sunday, Dec. 13, at the Hall of Liberty on the grounds of Forest Lawn Hollywood Hills.

The show is free to concertgoers and will feature Christmas classics such as Jingle Bell RockSanta Claus Is Coming to Town and Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas, and Hanukkah songs S’vivon and Maoz Tzur.

TubaChristmas events happen annually in 200-plus cities throughout the United States, Wilkinson said. The tradition started in 1974 with a performance in New York City’s Rockefeller Plaza, as a tribute to tuba player and teacher William J. Bell, who was born on Christmas Day 1902.

Wilkinson was handed the baton to run the Los Angeles show five years ago.

Tuba players of all ages and abilities come out to play with the band. This year’s show also will feature professional quartet The Tubadours, Jim Self and the Hollywood Tuba 12, and the USC Tuba Quartet. There also will be a visit from Santa Claus and a food truck on site.

“This is a very, very good family event,” Wilkinson said. “The best way to [sell the event] is it’s completely free. No ticket needed. No reservation needed. Just show up.”

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