Tubas’ tunes cheer holiday travelers at RDU

Annual Christmas Tubas perk up airport on post-Thanksgiving Sunday

aspecht@newsobserver.comNovember 25, 2012 

— Sure, April Hanlin stood out among hundreds of travelers waiting around Baggage Claim 3 at Raleigh-Durham International Airport.

But when you have young children exhausted from flying 1,600 miles on the busiest travel day of the year, you’ll do almost anything to ease their anxiety – even if it means sitting in the middle of RDU’s marble floor, holding your 3-year-old daughter as she gazes upon a group of tuba players in Santa hats.

“Whatever helps calm her down,” Hanlin said, holding her daughter, Aubrey. “The music is definitely soothing, and it distracted her from being upset.”

Moments earlier, Aubrey let out a shrill scream when her mother lowered her onto the floor from her shoulders. The Hanlins, after all, had been traveling since early Sunday to, hopefully, return to Fayetteville from Denver at a reasonable hour. Luckily, the little girl’s fit stopped as soon as the Christmas Tubas began its rendition of Silent Night.

“They’re effective,” said Rory Hanlin, holding Aubrey’s 2-year-old sister, Adria. “And I thank them for it.”

The Christmas Tubas have played at RDU on the Sunday after Thanksgiving for years – a balm for some of the estimated 200,000 travelers who came through RDU between Wednesday and Sunday.

For the 25-member band, the annual two-hour event is about more than calming the chaos of post-Thanksgiving travel.

“I love the camaraderie of it,” said David Hunter, who plays in the band. “Some of us only get to see each other once a year.”

Some of the players are pros, while others are amateurs getting to play before an audience for the first time, Hunter said.

Folks like Biljana Wilsey of Cary, who plays piano, can’t tell a difference.

Wilsey, her husband, David, and their three daughters look forward to hearing the band every year after flying back from Little Rock.

“As a musician, I appreciate that the airport brings them back every year,” she said. “As a traveler, I know there have been a couple of times (the band) has helped ease my nerves.”

Like the time they’re flight was delayed for hours in Chicago, she noted.

Plus, Dana, Wilsey’s 7-year-old daughter, told her mom she can’t break out the Christmas decorations until they’ve heard the Christmas Tubas.

“That’s when Christmas starts,” Dana Wilsey said.

For others, like Cary’s Jeff Carcillo, the band’s melodies were bittersweet.

Carcillo listened to a few songs with his daughter Christy before she boarded her flight back to the University of Pittsburgh. As Christy Carcillo shuffled her way through security, her dad raised up on his tiptoes and to wave goodbye.

“Until last Wednesday, I hadn’t seen her since August,” Carcillo said. “The tubas were a nice touch, a nice way to end (her trip).”

Carcillo didn’t say whether he meant for the band to buy him a few extra moments with his daughter. He did point out what the Wilseys and Hanlins will soon discover: time with your children goes by too fast.

Specht: 919-829-4826

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