Behind the Scenes: Practicing with the SSOPO musicians

Next in our series of behind the scenes Seattle Symphony musicians' practicing, we have a story from Chris Olka, our Principal Tubist. Most of our readers out there probably know how much Symphony musicians have to practice on top of rehearsals to maintain our skills and be fully prepared for performances - anywhere from 20-40 additional hours weekly. Did you know that a tuba's sound can be so powerful that finding a place to practice is not always easy or possible? Chris has always thought outside of the box (literally!) by finding his own outdoor practice spaces to be sure he gets all the time needed to put on the best performances. Here is Chris' personal practicing story in his own words:

View Chris' Gallery of Outdoor Practice Locations

When I first got to Seattle I lived in Madison Park. Anyone who's been there knows what a beautiful place it is with the beach front park as well as the arboretum. Well, I used to go and sit on the park bench at the Madison Beach and practice until I was given a ticket by Seattle PD. The officers felt really bad about it and apologized but, it turns out that there is a sound ordinance in Seattle City limits. Unless you have a busking permit, anyone playing a musical instrument outdoors is violating that ordinance.

Well, I thought "surely I'll be fine if go out to the arboretum to practice. No one could possibly hear me there". At first I practiced over by where the golf course abuts the arboretum. The same cops who ran me out of the beach park showed up and said people with houses on the golf course were complaining. They didn't give me a ticket this time but suggested I go and practice over by the 520 interchange on the Northwest corner of the arboretum. So, I moved over there and found a secluded spot in the woods. Apparently the secluded location worked well for things other than practicing the tuba, though. After an hour or so I started to notice a regular parade of single, shirtless, men walking through the woods on a path that went right by my practice spot. I found it really odd until I saw an article in the "Stranger" mentioning that the arboretum was one of Seattle's prime pick-up spots...back to the drawing board

When it came time to buy a house with my wife and we'd narrowed down to a few houses, the very first thing I told the realtor showing us the house was that I needed to bring my tuba and practice in the basement while my wife, Kimberly Russ, stood out on the curb to see how loud it was going to be for the neighbors. We found a great little house on a cul de sac that had a basement with two bedrooms on each end of it. I was able to have a tuba practice room and my wife, the pianist in the orchestra, was able to have a piano studio on the other side of the house. We could practice at the same time without disturbing each other or the neighbors. It all worked out in the end.

View Chris' Gallery of Outdoor Practice Locations
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