Staples of your orchestra: Erik Rooman

  • Friday, November 8, 2013

Michael Quirk/Journal Scene Summerville Community Orchestra tubist Erik Rooman poses with his instrument.

When Erik Rooman looks at his musical career, he has a sick day to thank for the path that he has taken. In a small twist of fate, Rooman missed the day of school where the band students selected their instruments. When he arrived the next day, all that was left was the tuba, an instrument he has played ever since.

“I always think of that wonderful accident like the Far Side cartoon of ‘Welcome to heaven…here’s your harp. Welcome to hell…here’s your accordion,’” Rooman said. “It was a very enriching experience and I loved it.”

Born in Brooklyn, N.Y. Rooman moved to Laurence, Kan. when he was young. His father, who played guitar and banjo in a rock band, influenced him to pick up music. Rooman has two sisters who also played in the band and he likes to rib them whenever he sees them.

“When I see them I can be like ‘So I played in this concert last week’ and I can see they’re jealous,” he said with a laugh.

In high school Rooman performed with the concert and marching bands, earning All-State his senior year. After graduation he joined the Navy where he experienced one of the country’s largest tragedies.

“We were on the USS Enterprise in the Persian Gulf when we saw the live feed of the Sept. 11 attacks on CNN. We were thinking how weird it was like ‘how do you just fly into the World Trade Center?’ Then we saw the second plane hit and our commander said ‘America is under attack.’ That’s something you never expect to hear.”

Rooman was a nuclear engineer during his time in the Navy and later earned his bachelor’s degree in the field from Excelsior College. He then earned a master’s in project management from North Carolina Central University.

After marrying his wife Angela, they had three children: 11-year-old daughter Erikah and 5-year-old twins Kristofer and Kaylah. Erikah has taken after her father with a passion for music and is a clarinetist at Rollings Middle School of the Arts.

“She told me that she wanted to start playing the clarinet and I said ‘you got it,’” he said beaming with pride. “I’m so happy she embraced it and that she practices every night without me asking.”

Between his family and his jobs as a project manager at Spawar and teaching project management at The Citadel, Rooman did not find time to play the instrument he loves.

“I had been wanting to play again for several years but didn’t have time. Then in 2010 someone told me about the Summerville Community Orchestra. I called and they said they needed a tuba player but I had to provide my own instrument. Tubas aren’t exactly cheap so I had to put it on hold.”

One year later he was called by Alex Agrest and Betty Settle inquiring if he could play tuba for the orchestra in the upcoming series. After some convincing, he ordered a tuba from North Carolina and was playing with the SCO a few weeks later.

“I didn’t know how much I’d remember after 12 years, but it was instantaneous,” he said. “I haven’t regretted it since. Summerville arts don’t get recognized like they should. I was surprised at just how good they were.”

Rooman practices an hour per night to meet the standards he expects from himself. While performing ability is important, it is another aspect that is infectious at the SCO he said.

“What they’re looking for is effort. They like people that show up and are ready to work. That is essential in an orchestra.”

In fourth grade he was told that he would never be the lead in a song, but he was essential in supporting every song. As the only tuba in the orchestra he has embraced his role.

“Having more than one tuba would be unnecessary. I like the uniqueness of it and how it was explained to me when I was a kid,” he said. “If you hear the difference between an orchestra with a tuba and one without, it’s not subtle. I’m glad that I get to be that one distinction to make that full sound.”

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