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How to Make a Tuba Lantern

Updated: Oct 16, 2023

The tuba lantern ended up being the element of the Ha Ha Da Vinci show that encapsulates the incredible number of expert hands and amount of collaboration that went into every moment of the show.

Tuba lantern
The tuba lantern in the attic of Celebration Barn

The first sketch of the tuba lantern

Tuba Lantern Plans...

After touring for a full summer with my homemade version of the tuba lantern, built from cardboard and PVC pipe, I set out to create a new version that would be more durable on the road and more reliable in performance.

To start, I turned to Pepper Fajans to help with the structural engineering piece of creating the lantern. Pepper came back to me with renderings of what would ultimately become the touring tuba lantern.

First rendering of the tuba lantern clamp

Second rendering of the tuba lantern clamp

The challenge would be to create a base for the sousaphone lantern that supported the arching arm of the lantern, without bending the delicate bell of the horn.

The tuba lantern clamp from the back

Closeup of the tuba lantern clamp

Building the Lantern

Tuba player Aron Uchitelle - also known as Tuba Aron - took Pepper's plans and began to breathe life into the design, making tweaks as he worked with our actual sousaphones and material that would best fit the instrument.

Shaping the tuba lantern so that it perfectly fit the curved shape of a sousaphone bell took particular expertise.

So Many Iterations...

There were countless iterations of the tuba lantern, including one with a ridiculously heavy but very exciting amount of copper tubing.

And another handful of iterations built from PVC pipe. While it takes time, it's possible to bend PVC pipe to shape by heating up sand which is poured inside the tubing. This makes the pipe flexible. For the experiment below, my dad ran back and forth from the stove inside the house with various pots of hot sand while I slowly shaped the lantern arm.

The Early Experiments...

The earliest version of the tuba lantern is - funny enough - the version on all Ha Ha Da Vinci posters and promo materials. The photo below by Jason Squire was part of our first tuba lantern photo shoot.

I hadn't yet figured out how to hold the tuba lantern steady on top of the horn, so we just barely got the photo of the level lantern that is on the posters. Most other photos feature the lantern swinging wildly to and fro while I splash about in the water.

Just the Beginning

The tuba lantern process continues to be rewarding... 30 shows down and more iterations of this creation ahead!

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