I played an etude for Mr. Jacobs, and it was very unremarkable. Then he asked me if I could imagine what Charlie Vernon would sound like playing that same passage. I said, “Yes, of course,” because Charlie was one of my musical heroes. Mr. Jacobs continued, “Now, turn up the volume very loud in your brain and show me what Charlie would sound like.” (Heath, 1995) Immediately, I played the first few notes again and they were amazing. Mr. Jacobs responded jokingly, “Well, Charlie is obviously a way better player than you are.” (Heath, 1995) He told me that he was guiding my thoughts and getting me to stop asking questions and to start issuing statements. He followed that by assuring me that a great sound like Charlie’s could be mine, but I would have to develop the habit of focusing on the art of music rather than the mechanics of making it.
During another of my early private lessons with Arnold Jacobs, he said to me, “Don’t do it right, just sound better than anybody else; then the next generation will want to do it your way.” (Heath 1995) The world of music has seen this pattern emerge time and again. Countless musicians have sought and struggled to meet the standard of excellence set forth by great players who came before them. As they have labored toward the goal of sounding like the masters, generations of musicians naturally have asked the question, “How do I do what they do to sound like they sound?” Although brass players have experienced high levels of success in their playing and teaching via other methods, this question has driven many players to experimental applications based only on personal experiences, feelings, or observations. Rumors, opinions, and erroneous information have abounded. Although some players had knowledge of the physical responses of the body, this knowledge was often overshadowed by their misdirected focus on the concept of physical function, which became a stumbling block rather than a stepping stone. Those early lessons with Mr. Jacobs were the beginning of a study for me that would have a major impact on the direction of my performance and eventually my own teaching. Over the next several years I studied everything I could find about Mr. Jacobs’ teaching and his life.