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A Museum With Nearly 300 Brass Horns: You've Gotta See It Tuba-lieve It

Single-belled baritones and euphoniums line the ceiling of the V&E Simonetti Historic Tuba Collection to make room for the bigger instruments on the floor and walls.
Single-belled baritones and euphoniums line the ceiling of the V&E Simonetti Historic Tuba Collection to make room for the bigger instruments on the floor and walls.

The V&E Simonetti Historic Tuba Collection in Durham, N.C., is the result of an obsession that grew one oompah-pah at a time.

Vincent Simonetti started playing tuba in high school in the 1950s — and it was love at first puff.

"And I would draw it in study hall. I'd draw pictures of it. I don't know why. I just became obsessed with it," he says.

He and his wife, Ethel, used to run a tuba exchange that sold sousaphones, euphoniums and other members of the tuba family to high school bands. Now that they're retired, they've converted a house into a home to almost 300 tubas. The collection fills five rooms.

He says the tuba we know and love was invented in Germany in 1835. "I have one almost exactly identical to that first tuba from 1845," he says.

To hear the sounds that come out of this tuba — as well as others in the V&E Simonetti Historic Tuba Collection — click the play button above.

Morning Edition is visiting unsung museums all across the county, those little-known but ridiculously interesting gems you're glad you stumbled across.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

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