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An unlikely jazzman finds passion in playing the tuba

Richard Feloni | 7/27/2011, 11:03 a.m.
Loubins Richard (r) plays the tuba with his trio “Mobtet” at Faneuil Hall. Richard Feloni

When tuba player Loubins Richard and his trio began their set outside of Fanueil Hall at a recent free show, much of the City Hall Plaza crowd was more concerned with getting home after work. By mid-set, they were dropping dollar after dollar into the drum case belonging to Richard’s “Mobtet” group.

Richard, 22, a student at Berklee College of Music, had an unlikely beginning with the tuba, a staple brass instrument in genres like big band and jazz.

After graduating elementary school in Miami, where he grew up, Richard didn’t want to attend the middle school his mother chose for him. Instead, he wanted to join most of his friends at the public school near his house. His mother relented, but only under one condition: He needed to join the band.

“I saw the tuba, and it had three keys. I made the assumption that it was the easiest instrument,” he said with a laugh. “That was an over-assumption.”

Though he started reluctantly, his interest grew day by day. Today, he still credits his middle school band director Mr. Allen with placing him on the path to changing a hobby his mom forced on him into a personal passion.

By the end of middle school, he was good enough to perform in an All-State band.

Richard continued his education at Miami Central High, where the marching band now required a new level of effort and dedication. Like most of his peers, he didn’t appreciate the hard work at the time. Today, however, he’s extremely grateful.

“They worked you to perfection, man,” he said. “I owe that band program my sound.”

As he began to tell the story of his move north to fine-tune his talents at Berklee, a lone saxophone player began a set, instantly captivating Richard’s attention during an interview.  “As a musician, you hear everything,” he said.

It was at Berklee where he began his study of jazz that he plays and enjoys now. He developed an interest in traditional black music — something he says, that perhaps unlike fleeting trends in pop music, “you can appreciate forever.”

That’s not to say, however, that he doesn’t enjoy Top 40 hits. As a DJ, he’s come to appreciate and respect all forms of music and has logged in studio time with different kinds of recording artists.

Richard looks forward to furthering his talents after school. “I definitely want to tap into all the different parts of being a tuba player, around the world. Meeting more musicians, learning more, different genres of music, different cultures affiliated with the music.”

He’s experienced how music can change someone’s life, and he wants to dedicate himself to inspiring others through his own. To him, it’s about understanding the importance of doing something — anything — really well.

“Someone could only hear like five minutes of a two hour set that I play,” he said, and if he can impress someone enough to want to be passionate about one of their interests, then he’ll be happy.

In the immediate future, he will continue to play with the Mobtet. Joining him for his Fanueil Hall set were trombone player Alex Csillag and drummer Harsya Wahono, a couple of highly talented friends from Berklee.

“Mobtet is an idea, it’s a collective. You’ll see different musicians, but the music will stay the same,” said Richard.

The trio showed their versatility with a set that ranged from jazz to funk, and even included their rendition of hip hop group Outkast’s classic “So Fresh, So Clean.”

Richard pointed to the saxophone player and asked his band mates, with a big smile on his face, “Why aren’t we playing with this guy right now?”

Several minutes later, Mobtet had unpacked their instruments once again and were jamming alongside that very sax player.