When Nathaniel Woodhull Elementary School music teacher Christopher Miranda was in college studying to become a music educator, it never crossed his mind that one day he would be using size nine-and-a-half flip flops and PVC piping as part of his lesson plans.
That odd fact came true after Mr. Miranda spent last summer building his own “tubulum,” a PVC-pipe instrument that can play multiple bass notes and low tones in one instrument. It’s also the perfect complement to boomwhackers – colorful tubes that emit higher octave sounds – which he uses regularly in class.
Building a tubulum was years in the making for Mr. Miranda and something that he thought would be fun and memorable for his students. So, he spent weeks last summer researching and planning out the proper way to build the tubulum from the ground up. He determined the length of each tube based on the desired note, calculated those lengths, built a wooden frame and drilled out each hole to assemble it, using a design similar to a piano. He also spent hours dry-fitting the pipes with angle couplers to organize and fit them into the frame so it would be “aesthetically pleasing on one end and wild and crazy on the other.” He topped it off by painting each note to match the color scheme for the boomwhackers so students can easily cross over between playing both instruments.
Since its debut this past fall, the tubulum, which was inspired by the Blue Man Group and a musician named “Snubby J,” has been a hit with students and adults alike.
“Students say the best part about it is that you play it with flip flops,” said Mr. Miranda.
He and his colleagues have recorded small samples of “Billie Jean” by Michael Jackson on the instrument and students have had a go at playing “This Land is Your Land” by Woody Guthrie and the holiday favorite, “We Wish You a Merry Christmas.” Mr. Miranda and his students even demonstrated the instrument at a recent meeting of the Board of Education to the delight of the trustees and all in attendance.
Please enjoy this rendition of “We Wish You a Merry Christmas” performed by Becky Neikens and Wendel Thelot.