HARRISBURG – When she was ready to start learning to play a band instrument in fifth grade, a young Nikendra Webber thought she wanted to play the flute – that is, until she heard the low notes of a tuba.
"I saw the tuba and heard it, and I loved it," she said.
Now Webber, 14 and a freshman at Harrisburg High School, is the only female tuba player in the band.
It is uncommon these days to find young women interested in the tuba, her band teacher Hannah Drake said.
"It is a little unusual," Drake, who began teaching at Harrisburg during the 2009-2010 school year, said. "I've only had two girls play tuba since I've been here, and both of them had transferred to Harrisburg."
The tuba presents a challenge for those who play it simply due to its size and weight. Webber doesn't play a tuba when she marches in a parade. Instead, she plays the baritone, the "little brother" of the tuba.
But, on the football field, she does play the tuba, which she said can be tiring.
In addition to the tuba, she said she has played the violin and upright bass previously. When she attended St. Charles Wredling Middle School, she was a member of the school orchestra as well as the band.
"When I played the bass, I sort of took one for the team," she said, smiling as she recalled the experience. "They only had one bass player before, and he had graduated so they had to find someone else to play it."
Her experience with both treble and bass clefs has made it easy to learn some songs on the piano, and she has worked at learning guitar.
Music is something she said is important to her because of how it makes her feel.
"Sometimes in calms me down, and sometimes it really makes me happy," she said.
And, music plays an important part in her education.
"My plan is to get a music scholarship to college so I can become a physical therapist," Webber said.
While it may be unusual for a young woman to play the tuba, it certainly is not unusual for music to play a role in career success, Drake noted. Many successful career people have strong backgrounds in music, and Drake said she has seen the corrolation with the arts and success with former students who have graduated.
"We have seen a good number of the students in the top percentage of the class who enjoy participating in band or choir or theater," she said.