“Tuba or not tuba” was never the question for English musician Jon Hodkin. In 2000, he came up with the concept of InnerTuba, an endeavor that unites a perfectly-tuned quartet of T’s: tuba, tricycle, trailer, and travel.
Since its inception, Hodkin’s InnerTuba journey has taken him across thousands of miles through England, Northern Ireland, and Scotland, pedaling a recumbent ICETrikes tricycle and pulling his tuba and gear in a specially designed trailer that weighs about 150 pounds.
“I've loved playing brass instruments since I was 10,” says Hodkin, “and I have loved cycle-touring since my late teens. I teamed up with a sheet metal worker in about 1987, and between us we designed and built my first trailer.”
Now Hodkin, a self-proclaimed “tubadour,” has brought his traveling music show across the big pond.
Hodkin arrived in America in July. Since then, he’s ridden 450 miles with 10,000 other cyclists for The Register’s Annual Great Bicycle Ride Across Iowa (RAGBRAI) from Council Bluffs to Keokuk, dipping a tire in the Missouri and the Mississippi rivers on both ends. Sometimes he pedaled 16 hours a day in order to keep up with the demanding route.
Along the way, Hodkin is raising money for the Child Life Music and Arts Therapy program at the Blank Children’s Hospital. So far, Hodkin has raised nearly a thousand dollars.
The trip to the Midwest was sponsored in large part by the Connecticut Yankee Peddler in Chariton, IA, and the UK-based ICETrikes cycle company. The tour has included many impromptu roadside performances, and Hodkin says he has been touched by the spontaneous hospitality he’s received.
In 2012, Hodkin lost “the love of his life,” Karin Prior, who worked as a children’s occupational therapist. Her passing gave new meaning to the InnerTuba mission.
Prior was Canadian-born, but lived for many years in the UK. Now Hodkin aspires to complete a coast to coast InnerTuba trip across Canada as a tribute to her. He estimates that the trip would be about 5,000 miles, and he plans to complete it in two summer seasons. “I like to think that my example of doing the things I love inspires others to assess their own lives,” says Hodkin. He hopes that others will see his journey and become motivated to fulfill their own dreams.
After Hodkin arrives in Rochester, he’ll be doing some private performances for groups like the Boys & Girls Club, but he’ll also have a public performance with the Rochester Community Band on Thursday, Aug. 22, at 125 LIVE. At the show, he’ll be featured on a few compositions specially composed for him including “Tuba Odyssey: The Journey of InnerTuba” by Franner Otter and “A True Fantasy for Solo Tuba and Wind Band” by Katrina Gordon.
Becca Combs-Cawley is a local tuba player and band teacher who also happens to play with the Rochester Community Band. Through their online conversations before Hodkin’s American sojourn, the idea was hatched for him to perform with the local community ensemble.
“Jon loves biking and playing shenanigans as much as I do,” says Combs-Cawley. “Anyone who is willing to hop on a bike and ride across Iowa in the middle of the summer has got to have a sense of humor about them. Anyone willing to do it while towing a trailer and tuba has got to be a little bit nuts, and I dig it.”