by Sarah Achenbach
Jasmine Pigott carries a lot of firsts. She is on track to be the first Black female tuba player worldwide to earn a Doctor of Musical Arts degree. She’s produced the first EP of original tuba music in Black music styles composed and performed by Black tuba players. Pigott, a student of Peabody faculty artist Velvet Brown, is likely the first tuba player to host a podcast dedicated to health and fitness, andshe just might be the only musician whoseinspiration is an animated cucumber.
How did you choose the tuba?
Larry the Cucumber [from the cartoonvideo series VeggieTales]. I liked the oompah sound and how his tuba wrapped around his body. I started playing when I was 10. I’ve always liked classical music. My mom loves Mozart and Beethoven, and my dad played saxophone, piano, and flute and sang in our church. When you play tuba [in school], some tuba playersget the opportunity to play in other music styles, but I did not. It was incredible to discover Velvet Brown through my professor at the Ithaca College Summer Music Academy in high school. I saw her videos and thought, ‘She’s a Black woman!’ I realized then that you don’t have to be a white man to play the tuba. It’s amazing at Peabody to get to work with her in the flesh.
I realized representation is important. During the pandemic, I co-founded the Chromatic Brass Collective, which is a group of women-of-color brass musicians. This past May, we had our founding concert at the 2022 International Women’s Brass Conference. We premiered my piece, “Against All Odds,” which I conducted.
We still have Canadian Brass that is still white and all-male, but groups like Chromatic Brass Collective are starting to form. People are more aware of how critical representation is.
When did you become interested in health and why did you launch your podcast, Harmony and Healing?
I lost 130 pounds in 2019 through diet and exercise. The healthier I got, the better my playing was. Better health gives me more mental clarity, I am more focused in the practice room, and cardio has improved my lung capacity.
I launched the podcast in November 2021. I had been a personal trainer, but it got in the way of my studies. The podcast gives me a training focus even though I am not training at a gym. Exercising helps me think up ideas as a musician and a writer. I write novels but haven’t published yet. (See more at jasminepigott.com.)
Your album, Revolution, debuted in July 2022 with Black composers writing and performing tuba pieces in funk, hip-hop, soul, and R&B.What inspired it?
I was trying to figure out how I could make a difference with representation. I came up with the concept of Black music styles for tuba by Black composers. Students of color [often] don’t participate in orchestral instruments because they don’t see music in styles they listen to.
I did a Kickstarter campaign in 2020 and raised $9,600, then entered Michigan State University’s Running Start Competition and won first place. I used the $2,500 prize on commissions and the Kickstarter funds on recording costs, paying the musicians, production, Kickstarter prize fulfillment, and some marketing. I started composing during this and have been doing tuba pieces, and combining different media.
How are your interests and accomplishments coalescing inyour DMA studies?
The biggest impact has been winning first place in the 2021 Yale Gordon Competition for Other Instruments. It’s giving me a higher platform with Peabody. This fall, I am a teaching assistant in Peabody’s Music and Health program and will lead fitness classes for brass and woodwind players.