At the age of 15, Arnold Jacobs began to study tuba at the Curtis Institute. He also studied voice with Luigi Bocelli. As his vocal study progressed, he found he was experiencing a great deal of physical discomfort and many problems. He came to the conclusion that Bocelli’s concepts of strength, and words such as support your tone, led him into states of excessive physical contractions, causing great physical strain. His vocal technique also brought about sore throats and extreme vocal fatigue. During the panel discussion in 1984, Jacobs recalled wondering why playing tuba was so easy, when his singing technique was causing him so many vocal problems. This prompted Jacobs to begin the study of respiration, during which he began a lifelong study of the anatomy and physiology of the human being. This was a study that would have a lasting impact on the way brass instruments would be performed and taught for generations to come.
Mr. Jacobs became a well-respected expert on the subject. Whereas many people focused on the physical aspects of playing, Jacobs’ approach was to focus on how to sound. His philosophy was to view music as an art form. He believed that we work most efficiently by the stimulus of the product (what we want to achieve) and not the process (how we are going to achieve it). (Stewart, 1987)
During the panel discussion, Mr. Jacobs shared that he had studied the structure and anatomy of the human body thoroughly, but that as soon as he found out how little that meant when it came to actually making a good sound, he had to go into the study of what he considered to be function. How do we operate the equipment with which we are born? (Jacobs, 1984) In medical terms, this is the study of psychomotor activity, the reflex response to stimuli.
According to his students, Mr. Jacobs had an extensive knowledge of behavioral psychology. He was of the opinion that a brass player can have the most perfect embouchure setting, posture, and tongue placement, but if there is no stimulus in the brain the player may obtain no function at all. (Erb, 2013) While talking with Professor Stewart, Steve Chenette said:
Richard Erb said:
During one of the discussions with his students in 1984, Mr. Jacobs was asked how he learned about the psychological aspects of brass playing. Mr. Jacobs replied:
Dr. Sheldon Kirshner (Chicago Attorney and Psychologist) said of Arnold Jacobs:
Although Mr. Jacobs had a vast knowledge of the anatomy and physiology of the complex bio-machinery of the human body, according to Erb (2013) he believed that human beings were operated by a simple set of controls in the brain that were guided by the stimulus of the product. He had a knowledge of human structure and function that would perhaps even rival general practitioners of medicine, and was sometimes highly analytical as a teacher because that allowed him to make the appropriate diagnosis of how to help the student physiologically in any given situation. (Erb, 2013) He would use machines and medical gadgets to measure different aspects of respiratory function. His goal was to find the exact need of the student. As a result, he would be able to help the student learn how to think and thereby to play more effectively.
Everything in Mr. Jacobs’ studio had a purpose. Merriman Hipps (Trumpet, Minnesota Orchestra) said:
Arnold Jacobs knows how the body works while playing a wind instrument, but more important, he knows what the mind must do to get the body to work well. From complex knowledge he has distilled a simplicity of approach which offers all of us the possibility of becoming natural players. The essence of this simplicity is to conceive of brass playing in terms of song and wind. (Stewart, 1987)
This is a man who has a knowledge of the … behavioral aspects of psychology. When he worked with me—the changes that he made in my playing … were made by that method. He was able to get into the responses I was making to a given situation and in a very systematic way interrupt those responses and replace them with more appropriate ones. (Erb, 1984)
I have studied the structures. I have studied a good deal about the brain. I follow the research in various disciplines. I’m an avid reader on that [behavioral psychology]. I have talked with many expert people in that field. This is a culmination of—what you might say is—many years of investigation. (Jacobs, 1984)
What Arnold has done really—based on the information that he had from his students—[he has] intuited the laws that we have come to understand [in behavioral psychology] through intuition and at least 60 years of research. I teach learning theory at a graduate level, and … he’s on the money. (Kirshner, 1984)
How can I describe Jacobs’ studio? It looked like a mad scientist’s laboratory. There were anatomical charts on the walls, and there was the strangest collection of machines, meters, gauges, pipes, and hoses I had ever seen. The centerpiece of this bizarre assemblage was a contraption known to Jacobs’ students far and wide as the “Christmas tree.” It consisted of a cast-iron base and shaft, which appeared to be part of a music stand with a bewildering assortment of dials, tubes, gauges, and hoses. (Stewart, 1987)