Mr. Jacobs stressed that the dominant factor in the brain must be the song, which he defined as the entire picture in the brain of what we wish to communicate with our audience. He believed that the complexity involved in what we are thinking should be in the interpretation of music, and that it is much more important to focus and develop our concept of how to sound rather than how to play. (Heath, 1996)
Often the effects of Mr. Jacobs’ teaching were immediately apparent. The following is a section from Richard Erb’s interview in 2013, in which he recounted working on eliminating Valsalva maneuver with Mr. Jacobs:
Mr. Jacobs was not above criticism. Some players have criticized his approach as being too simplistic. His philosophy was to reduce the complexity of playing a brass instrument and to redirect the student toward becoming a “fine musician [who is] musically apt to deliver a musical product to somebody else.” (Jacobs, 1984) Mr. Jacobs has also been criticized for having been too analytical. He had become an expert in anatomy and physiology, and would at times describe in detail the way that the human body would respond to stimuli. However, the consensus of those interviewed was that his individualized instruction allowed him to be analytical while not overwhelming even his most inexperienced students.
Mr. Jacobs’ deep understanding of human anatomy and psychology, paired with a thorough understanding of behavioral science, allowed him to judge the learning needs of individual students and tailor his methods to their specific learning needs. Whereas one student would need an explanation of the physical approach, that same information might confuse another student. Regardless of learning style, his goal was to find simplicity in the approach to the instrument. When Mr. Jacobs worked with students he would most often take this approach. In his own words:
Keith Johnson addressed this during his interview in 2015:
I told you about the problem with different embouchure settings for different registers that I had acquired. Well, he never said a word about that. Not a word. Never. [He] never mentioned it. He got me to play some things—you know—simple things. I was concerned mostly with getting it so I could start the notes.... I got back home and was practicing and … everything [was] going great, but I noticed that my high register wasn’t as good as it used to be.... I [was] having trouble: I [couldn’t] get above G above middle C. I had had a real remarkable high range before that. [It was] useless, but it was very remarkable. It scared me [when I could not play the high notes] and I [asked] what was happening. He said, “Wait a minute.” This is the absolute truth. He said, “Just a minute.” I’m talking on the phone here with him. You could hear his papers being shuffled and the pages turned. He said, “Oh, well, you were here on May 23, right? That’s three weeks ago. I’m surprised. You should have called me sooner. This was supposed to happen right away.” He said, “I changed your embouchure. What you were doing before isn’t available anymore, but you don’t need it. It will develop again in a more healthful way.” It was so funny because he had said, ”Oh, you called me late.” I thought for a minute that he said, “You called me too late. I can’t fix it.” It was the exact opposite. He said, “That should have taken place already anyway.” So the range came back; everything was much better. (Erb, 2013)
All of this information, which he is so filled with—that he just had to talk about— all these electrical things about brain waves and all kinds of scientific stuff—it went over my head … but, it really wasn’t [over my head]. It was [said] in a way that I wasn’t smart enough to understand at the time. It was deep enough to support what I call the bookends: the beginning and the end. [These are]: take a deep breath; sing through the trumpet. Everything else is just stuff. And there are people that have just ridden me mercilessly because they say, “Well, you’re just being so simplistic.” And I said, “It’s not simplistic when there are a million neurons firing off in your head when you say, ‘Hello.’ That’s not simplistic. That’s skill.” (Johnson, 2015)
We [always] sneak in the back door … [when there is] a problem. We don’t confront the problem head-on. [Where] a man has a difficulty [in a particular area], we don’t try to correct that difficulty. We find where he can function. Then we can sneak that function into the difficulty. In other words, we overcome their difficulty without them even being aware of it. (Jacobs, 1984)