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Career tuba player who’s played for presidents

March 5, 2010

Joanna Hersey, professional tuba player
Customer with J. Parks Mullis Insurance Agency

Joanna HerseyHometown: Right now, Laurinburg, N.C.

A career musician: Tubist Joanna Hersey released her first solo album, O quam mirabilis, earlier this year. The recording, which features music by women composers, is just the latest step in a noteworthy career.

Why tuba (no, seriously—WHY?): As an 8th grader in rural Vermont, Hersey wanted to learn violin, but there were no school orchestras nearby. She was asked to choose a band instrument.
“The teacher offered me the chance to play a sousaphone that wasn’t being used. This seemed like a great solution because… I didn’t know what a sousaphone was. I figured it must be like a flutaphone, so I accepted, thinking I’d become a flute player. Imagine my surprise when I saw the banged-up sousaphone: white, plastic and bumpy.”

Her first puff: “I took up a large breath and let go with all my might, a large blast rang through the building, students in class looked wildly over their shoulders in alarm—and I had begun to play the tuba.”

Degrees: Hersey earned a master’s of music in tuba performance from the New England Conservatory of Music and a doctorate in musical arts in tuba performance from the Hartt School in Connecticut.

Current gig: Assistant professor of Low Brass at the University of North Carolina at Pembroke.

POTUS notice: As principal tubist with the United States Coast Guard Band—a position she won at age 19—Hersey performed for Presidents George Bush, Bill Clinton and George W. Bush.

In good company: In her freelance career, Hersey has performed with artists such as Placido Domingo, Roberta Flack, Arlo Guthrie and Michael Bolton. She’s also appeared on The Today Show and Good Morning America.

Why ERIE: When Hersey moved south three years ago, ERIE was recommended by “a wonderful real estate agent. She said James Parks Mullis [in Laurinburg, N.C.] was a great person for insurance. And she was right! Now I see him all around town, in church and other places. It’s a lovely small town.”

Encore!: To hear Joanna’s music and find out more about the artist, go to

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