If you have driven to Mason’s Fairfax Campus, chances are good that you’ve caught a glimpse of Tuba Guy Jay Converse, MS ’88, probably on Braddock Road. He decorates his “beloved” 1951 Holton sousaphone with colorful propellers and pinwheels while making tracks—and music—around Fairfax City. Converse started his solo marches in 2004 to prepare for the 30th reunion of the University of Virginia pep band, which he helped start while an undergraduate in the 1970s. This summer he rigged the horn to shoot fire and traveled to Black Rock City, Nevada, for Burning Man 2015. He also plays on campus with the NCAA’s #1 pep band, Mason’s Green Machine. We caught up with him in October for a brief discussion.
Do you have a favorite song?
My #1 non-seasonal song is probably “If I Only Had a Brain” from The Wizard of Oz, that’s one that young and old know. Though, in a couple weeks, The Addams Family [theme song] will move to the top of the charts.
You used to track your routes and distance on your Facebook page TubaGuy. Why did you stop?
I stopped tracking routes a while ago. I was bored looking at other people’s “I ran 4.3 miles today!” posts, and figured they were bored with mine.
Do you have a personal best for distance?
My personal best is 28 miles on my second marathon. I underestimated the distance from Hybla Valley to Mount Vernon to the White House.
Is there any significance to the number 99 on your Green Machine jersey?
I picked 99 for no reason except I look 99 years old compared to the rest of the band.
In this photo of you from Homecoming 2015, all the 20-somethings seem to be playing white King tubas.
Yep, that’s me, playing my scruffy old horn amidst the new clean ones. I heard a rumor last year that the Mason art department was going to “creatively” paint them, but I’m still waiting.