'Tommy Tuba' prepares for the Army National Guard Band

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BISMARCK, N.D. - Sometimes you give someone a nickname and it just sticks.

Just ask Tommy Iken.

In middle school, he wore a shirt with a picture of a tuba on it and his friends started calling him Tommy Tuba. Now six years later, he’s still known as Tommy Tuba. But the reasons go beyond that shirt he used to wear.

Iken is a natural musician. Besides the tuba, he has played the piano and the violin.

“I was the kid who wanted to play the big bass fiddle. They said, ‘well we don’t really have one for you because that’s not normal.’ So, I started on the violin,” he recalled.

He has also played the baritone.

“I always wanted to play the tuba, but teachers said it was too big, so I played the baritone,” said Iken.

And then there was the bass trombone. In 8th grade, he picked up the tuba, and the nickname Tommy Tuba.

“It just kind of clicked for everybody,” said Iken.

Of all the instrument’s he’s played, the tuba is Iken’s favorite.

“I’ve always liked the low end of the sound,” he said. “I’ve worked for it a little.”

He’s worked at it enough to be accepted into the Army National Guard Band. In October, he’ll go to 10 weeks of basic training, and in January, to AIT, where he’ll focus on music.

“It’s basically a college setting for 10 weeks. I’ll be practicing music, learning music theory, and getting better,” he explained.

Music may not be Iken’s future career.

“I’m thinking about going to UND to get a physics degree," he said.

But he says music, and the tuba, will always be a part of his life.

“I could see myself doing it forever," Iken said.

Iken auditioned twice for the National Guard Band. To be accepted, you need to score an 18 or higher. As a junior, he scored a 16. He spent the next six months practicing and when he auditioned last January, he scored a 22 out of a possible 24 points.