How do you cap a life spent in music? By investing your legacy in future generations. That’s what beloved School of Music brass professor Eugene Dowling is doing with a special January 11 concert inaugurating the Eugene Dowling Scholarship for Tuba and Euphonium. Not only will this kick off fundraising efforts for the scholarship itself, but the concert will also tie together Dowling’s friendships, musical life and his years performing in both the School of Music and the greater Victoria community.
While Dowling officially retired in 2014, he has continued to teach a reduced workload at the School of Music while undergoing chemotherapy for stage four prostate cancer—a harsh reality that Dowling is meeting head-on. “It’s important to approach it realistically, and with a note of optimism,” he says frankly. “You know, one out of every seven men go through these hormonal cancers. I had really planned on working longer, but unfortunately it really moved fast. In fact, I’m getting a chemo treatment then playing this concert five days later.”
Dowling’s cancer has also stirred him to contemplate his own mortality and examine the things that have been most important to him: his love of teaching, the relationships he’s developed with students and colleagues, and the importance of sharing what he had been given as a student so many years ago.
“My teachers gave me a deep, beautiful gift: a love of music, an instinct for musical line and the desire to keep growing as a musician and person,” says Dowling. “By starting a scholarship fund in my primary teaching area, I wish to share with future students of the instruments that I play, the same things that I have tried to pass on to my students for the past 38 years.”
A beneficiary of scholarships himself as both an undergraduate and graduate student, Dowling can’t stress enough the importance of these kind of financial incentives to future students. “The older established universities like UBC have more scholarship money than they know what to do with,” he says. “As a school, we have a lot to offer but as a comparably young institution, we don’t have the same alumni base. I thought this would be a way of acknowledging what UVic has meant to my life—these wonderful relationships with students going back to 1976, two years before our current building was even built.”
Dowling chuckles as he recalls his early days on campus, back when the MacLaurin building only had an “A” wing and the School of Music was limited to just three classrooms, two practice rooms and no dedicated auditorium. “It was nuts,” he laughs. “People had to practice in washrooms or in storerooms!”
The concert, he notes, “is largely based on friendship.” Dowling will be joined on stage by some of his closest colleagues, including most of the Victoria Symphony brass section (“half of which I’ve taught,” he chuckles), two local bands he regularly performs with—The Bastion Jazz Band and The Pinnacle Brass Quintet—as well as a range of students and alumni.
Notably, the program will include School of Music instructor Scott MacInnes’ Quintet No. 1, a piece he composed last year in honour of his long time mentor, colleague and friend. “The piece is divided into three movements that each visits a wide-ranging spectrum of emotions,” explains MacInnes. “Although saturated with sorrow, there is the ever present sense of hope and even joviality that triumphs over all else.”
As a young man, Dowling studied with euphonium virtuoso Leonard Falcone at Michigan State, as well as at Northwestern with legendary pedagogue Arnold Jacobs, former principal tubist with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. A Yamaha Artist, Dowling was himself principal tubist with the Victoria Symphony for 25 years, and his recording of The English Tuba (Fanfare/Pro Arte) was nominated for a Juno Award.
Another Dowling legacy is the Victoria TubaChristmas Ensemble which, under his direction, has raised thousands of dollars for local charities over the past 36 years—including $2,600 in two hours this year alone. Looking to the future, Dowling co-conducted the 2014 TubaChristmas event with former student and 2011 Distinguished Alumni recipient Paul Beauchesne. Beauchesne, who stepped into Dowling’s shoes as the Victoria Symphony’s current principal tubist, will not only be taking over TubaChristmas but also Dowling’s teaching load. “We’re really looking towards the future—that’s why I’ve taken steps for Paul to succeed me with TubaChristmas and sessionally at UVic.”
But for now, Dowling is primarily focusing on his cancer treatments and the scholarship fund. “We’re going to kick off the scholarship with this concert, and then my estate will pony up the money for the yearly scholarship until it gets to the $25,000 level in perpetuity,” he says. “It’s been a wonderful career, a wonderful life and a wonderful chance to work with some really, really great people.”
—with files from Kristy Farkas
The Eugene Dowling Scholarship for Tuba and Euphonium concert begins at 2:30pm Sunday, January 11, in UVic’s Phillip T. Young Recital Hall (MacLaurin Building B Wing), featuring performances by tubist Eugene Dowling with pianist Charlotte Hale, violinist Ann Elliott-Goldschmid, tenor Benjamin Butterfield, the Bastion Jazz Band, the UVic Student & Alumni Tuba & Euphonium Ensemble, and the Pinnacle Brass Quintet. Tickets are $18 & $14 and available at the door or through the UVic Ticket Centre (250-721-8480).
Donations to the scholarship can be made here using this online donation form.