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Walter E. Sear 1930-2010

Postby Roger Lewis » Fri Apr 30, 2010 8:03 am

I am saddened to report the passing of Walter E. Sear, former student of the great Bill Bell, Principal Tuba of the Symphony of the Air in New York, and my first teacher.

For many years he has been very active as a sound engineer, specializing in analog recording and has many notable credits to his name. He also worked closely with Cerveny in developing better horns and has a signature mouthpiece out there as well.

For me, he showed me what could be done, how to do it, how to get better and he inspired me to be as good as I could as a musician.

My deepest sympathy and prayers go out to his family.

"The music business is a cruel and shallow trench, a long plastic hallway where thieves and pimps run free and good men die like dogs. There's also a negative side." Hunter S Thompson
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Re: Walter E. Sear 1930-2010

Postby the elephant » Fri Apr 30, 2010 8:13 am

I am very sorry to hear about this. RIP, Mr. Sear...
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Re: Walter E. Sear 1930-2010

Postby Roger Lewis » Fri Apr 30, 2010 8:18 am

From Consequence of sound:

"R.I.P. Walter Sear
By Alex Young on April 30th, 2010 in News

American recording engineer Walter Sear died yesterday (Apr. 29th). He was 79.

For over three decades, Sear ran the legendary Sear Sound recording studio in New York City. Known for its vast collection of vintage analog recording gear, the studio has served a bevy of well-known clients, including Paul McCartney, Muse, The Killers, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Wilco, Ryan Adams, and Jim O’Rourke.

In addition to his work at the studio, Sear was heavily influential in the development of a portable synthesizer which could be used in live performance. He would also become a performer and composer on the instrument, and created several soundtracks."
"The music business is a cruel and shallow trench, a long plastic hallway where thieves and pimps run free and good men die like dogs. There's also a negative side." Hunter S Thompson
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Re: Walter E. Sear 1930-2010

Postby bloke » Fri Apr 30, 2010 8:31 am

A Sear-Helleberg is one of my faithful "emergency mouthpieces" that is kept on one of my vehicles. I think of him every time I'm in that glove box looking for things.

My first teacher tells a story of stopping in Mr. Sear's tuba place to try out some tubas. Mr. Sear handed him a York CC tuba to try out. My teacher (then a college student) asked him how much Mr. Sear was asking for that instrument. Mr. Sear explained to him that it wasn't for sale, and that he just wanted to see how good of a judge of tubas my teacher (again, then only about 20 years old) was.
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Re: Walter E. Sear 1930-2010

Postby bisontuba » Fri Apr 30, 2010 10:14 am

Sad news...
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Re: Walter E. Sear 1930-2010

Postby cambrook » Fri Apr 30, 2010 10:35 am

I'm very sorry to hear about this, as a child his name was engraved on a tuba I thought was magical - the first "piggy" to come to Australia (as far as I know). I later had the opportunity to buy that instrument, and was always fascinated by the Sear name on it - even more so as I learned more about the man and his influence in many areas of music.

My best wishes go to his family and friends.
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Re: Walter E. Sear 1930-2010

Postby TubaRay » Fri Apr 30, 2010 10:58 am

R.I.P. Walter Sear
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Re: Walter E. Sear 1930-2010

Postby rodgeman » Fri Apr 30, 2010 11:56 am

Sorry to hear about his passing. My prayers are for his family.
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Re: Walter E. Sear 1930-2010

Postby hbcrandy » Fri Apr 30, 2010 2:00 pm

I am greatly saddened and shocked. I communicated with Walter via E-Mail several months ago and was invited to stop in and see him the next time I was in New York. Walter sold me my first CC tuba, a Cerveney tall model.

Is there a public memorial service planned? If so, when and where?

Rest in peace, friend.
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Re: Walter E. Sear 1930-2010

Postby G H Boyd » Fri Apr 30, 2010 2:21 pm

Sorry to hear of Mr. Sear passing. :(

With respect.

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Re: Walter E. Sear 1930-2010

Postby Toad Away » Fri Apr 30, 2010 2:32 pm

Rest In Peace, Walter Sear.

Many thanks for all the work you did on the
Sear & Waldeck huge book of orchestral
excerpts from the late 60s.
The etudes at the end were great, also!

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Re: Walter E. Sear 1930-2010

Postby skeath » Fri Apr 30, 2010 11:04 pm

Very sorry to hear of his passing. Walter Sear holds a legendary place in the tuba world. I still consider his tuba duets to be among the best of all time, and a real workout for the players. I have fond memories of playing in a tuba sextet with him, Richard Frazier, Walter's daughter (also a tuba player), and two other people, in the dormitory at Indiana University in 1973 (?), at the First International Symposium.

R.I.P., Walter.
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Re: Walter E. Sear 1930-2010

Postby ben » Sat May 01, 2010 11:43 am

I will pull out my Sear Duets in his memory. Any takers?

Re: Walter E. Sear 1930-2010

Postby snorlax » Sat May 01, 2010 11:53 am

Here's a post I made to another forum.
there's a side to Walter Sear that many people
never saw. It wasn't enough that he was a
pioneer in tuba playing and design!

I am hearing some noise from friends in NYC that he had been involved in some sort of accident...
Can any of our NYC forum members cast some light on this?
Last I chatted with him on email was early in 2009.


I am sad to report the passing of Walter Sear, a true pioneer in electronic music, though perhaps not as well known as some other names.

Walter owned and ran Sear Sound in New York, one of the best-known studios in the city, most famous for its use of tube gear.

What most people don't know, however, is Walter Sear's role in the development of modern electronic music. Perhaps I can fill in some of that gap here.

Walter was a cantankerous old guy with a sense of humor tinged with the finest New York City irony. He was passionately devoted to recording, and the client list for Sear Sound is evidence of that devotion.

On a personal level, Walter Sear sparked my general interest in music, and planted a seed that didn't bear any fruit until much later.

In 1968, I was a high school tuba player. Walter Sear was a Curtis Institute-trained tubist who had a recording studio in New York's Great Northern Hotel. He had, I believe, just bought out his partner Robert Fine, whose name may be known to recording aficionados. He also helped to design tubas and imported instruments from Belgium (Mahillon and de Prins) and Czechoslovakia (Cerveny)

I was long on enthusiasm, but short on money. In talking to Walter, I mentioned that I had an amateur radio license and loved electronics. He had been a ham in his youth and understood the fascination. He showed me his studio, which included some electronic instruments, and offered to let me work off my tuba lessons by pulling patch cords and doing other grunt work after school and on weekends. I was also adept at soldering and had a working knowledge of vacuum tube technology, which also helped. I also uncrated tubas and got them ready for sale at his warehouse in downtown Manhattan (784 6th Av.)

This relationship continued for two years as I played in dixieland bands by night and worked occasionally in the studio to work off my lessons. The best thing he did for me was to convince me that there was more to music than just gigging in dixieland bands and playing tuba in orchestras. He also encouraged me to continue with electronics and other areas of interest and keep performing as a secondary source of income and enjoyment. How right this advice was!

As I was in the studio, I would occasionally chat with people on the phone or in the office as they waited for Walter. Two of those people were Bob Moog and Walter Carlos. Walter Sear was working with Bob Moog on some kind of development issue or other for a while at that time, most likely involving theremins IIRC, and again IIRC, Walter (before becoming Wendy) Carlos was vitally interested in Walter Sear's electronic instruments.

Another highlight for me was sitting and watching some sessions for an album called THE COPPER-PLATED INTEGRATED CIRCUIT, arguably one of the first-ever electronic albums, and a collaboration between Bob Moog and Walter Sear. If you want to see where all this electronic music stuff got started, you need to find a copy of THE COPPER PLATED INTEGRATED CIRCUIT on eBay or on a collector site.

Walter Sear was not as much in the foreground or public eye as either Bob Moog or Wendy Carlos, but everyone should know what a big role he played in the development and advancement of electronic music. Anyone around NYC who is involved in recording certainly knows Sear Sound.

I still have some of the tubes that Walter traded with me in the late 60s (actually, we traded tubes quite a bit back then as our needs dictated)--I recently plopped a couple of them in one of my Hammarlund shortwave receivers and they lit right up!

Anyway, I post this because not many people knew Walter Sear's role in the history and development of electronic music. All of us who regularly load up Garritan (or any other) libraries, or who ever fired up a DX-7, owe a debt of gratitude to Walter Sear for his pivotal role in advancing electronic music.

There's a thread on gearslutz here . Be sure to check out the pic of Walter with Bob Moog, and click on what's now the last post. The link says REQUIRED READING.

Sear Sound's websiite is here . Just check out the client list!

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Re: Walter E. Sear 1930-2010

Postby Rick Denney » Sat May 01, 2010 7:40 pm

ben wrote:I will pull out my Sear Duets in his memory. Any takers?

They never leave my music stand.

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Re: Walter E. Sear 1930-2010

Postby jeopardymaster » Sat May 01, 2010 8:00 pm

Sad news indeed. My sincere sympathies to his family and friends.

I bought a marvelous Cerveny monster BBb from him in 1978. Still kicking myself for my numbskull decision to sell it some years later to finance the purchase of a computer - that soon became about as functional as a boat anchor.

During our visit I mentioned the 2 books of duets. He smiled and told me "The first volume is for fun. The second is for blood."
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Re: Walter E. Sear 1930-2010

Postby bdaniel » Sun May 02, 2010 11:08 pm

Mr. Sear certainly leaves a legacy to the tuba world. I met him sometime in the mid-late 70's when he was selling the Cerveny tubas at a music educator conference. I seem to remember the Cerveny line had the Sear name stamped on some of them. I use his duets with my students on a regular basis. His etude book is quite good too. This coming week is the last week of lessons for the semester, but I plan to read a Sear duet with each student in their lesson.
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Re: Walter E. Sear 1930-2010

Postby Alex C » Mon May 03, 2010 8:51 am

Along with his contributions to electronic music Walter Sear should be remembered by tuba players for his contributions to the development of the tuba in the USA. He began importing Mahillion-DuPrins and Cerveny tubas in the early 1960's, possibly earlier. It is hard to imagine, but at the time, there was only one Mirafone importer on the West Coast and Custom Music importing Alexander tubas. Sear relatively low-cost, good quality instruments were the first good tubas many American college students ever owned.

His Sear-Helleberg mouthpiece (in solid nickle-silver) is a fine example of a Helleberg. He and Lew Waldeck put together the first real tuba excerpt book for tubas. It was massive in size and covered most of the major pieces played in orchestras of that period. There were a couple of duet books available for tuba before Walter wrote the "Advanced Duets" sometime in the 60's. His solid compositional skills and musicianship produced the most musical duets available for the next twenty years.

Several solos of his are still played, I assigned the Sonatina to a young student this year.

Obviously, his life did not begin and end with the tuba. His work deveoping electronic instruments (a gift and a curse to us analog musicians) is better told by others, however it would be hard to minimize his contributions to the development of the tuba and tuba players.
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Re: Walter E. Sear 1930-2010

Postby Kevin Hendrick » Mon May 03, 2010 10:17 am

Very sad to hear of his passing. I bought one of the Cerveny CCs from him in 1974 for college, still have it, and have always enjoyed playing it.

Rest in Peace, Mr. Sear.
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Re: Walter E. Sear 1930-2010

Postby Phil Dawson » Mon May 03, 2010 1:14 pm

I bought my first horn from him at his shop in NYC in about 1969. The shop was amazing as he had about 75 different models of tubas. I of course didn't have a clue about what I was doing but he set me up with a good new horn (miraphone) clone with a small blemish near the bell, a nice gig bag, and a hard case for $700. This also came with some cool stories about Bill Bell and other tuba playing tales. He was kind not to take advantage of a young player. He will be missed by the tuba community and the recording community.
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