Transcripts: Supplemental Videos
The transcriptions of the three supplemental videos are formatted specifically for the reader to experience the synthesis of the interviews from 1984 and 2013–16. The interviewees’ names and the year of the specific interview from which the audio has been transcribed are included. The text has been edited minimally for clarity.
Arnold Jacobs’ Teaching Methodology
Stephen Chenette (Second International Brass Congress Talk Show, 1984): I’m Steve Chenette
from the University of Toronto. You alluded to this a bit just a few minutes ago, but if
you would amplify it a bit, I would find it interesting. I had my first lesson from you
twenty-two years ago, and I don’t think there’s ever been a year in which I haven’t had at
least one or two lessons. In the early years, you were extremely informative about the
physical aspects of playing. In more recent years, it’s almost entirely musical. Now, is
this a general change in your teaching or is this just specific to me?
Arnold Jacobs (Second International Brass Congress Talk Show, 1984): I would say that the
individual is involved in this very, very much. In other words, you go pretty much by
what people want to know. There are people who think along different lines—in a
sense— than what I do. You have to steer a person into—what would I say—a heavy
dominance of the musical thought. Steve was the first trumpet player with the
Minneapolis Symphony Orchestra for a good portion of his career, and a wonderful
trumpet player. You were a graduate of the Curtis Institute of Music, if I remember
rightly. You had years there. You had years of training in music and are a very fine
musician…. Your approach at that time, as I conceived it in those days was not to
enhance your musical thoughts, but to try to give you a better understanding of yourself
as to how to cope with your problems. I used a two-fold approach with you, if you’ll
remember. We used instrumentation to establish flow and we used conversation to give
understanding. I did everything I could to try to get the brain to focus on the phenomena
of song and wind—of wind—the ability to use air as a motion phenomenon. My purpose
in doing that was simply—we had to get you to form a new pattern, which was more
normal to your physical structures. In my studio, if you’ll remember, we did quite well
Richard Erb (Interview with M. Dee Stewart, 1984): As far as the psychology goes of what he’s
done—there are two or three different ways you can approach that. A lot of what people
talk about when they mention psychology with respect to brass teaching comes down to:
It’s always the power of positive thinking, in a sense. It’s encouragement. It’s
developing self-confidence and clearly he helped me in all of those areas. That’s not
really the most significant thing to me, because when I think of psychology as a term and
Mr. Jacobs, I think of the other aspect—or one of the other aspects of that word—which
are the behavioral … and the scientific aspect. Certainly, he was encouraging and
supportive to all of his students, and very much so to me…. I gained a lot of confidence
from my association with him. I think more interesting is the fact that this is [a] man who
has a knowledge of behavior—[the science of psychology]—the behavioral aspects of
psychology. When he worked with me, [the changes he made in my playing] … were
made by that method. The interesting thing was … he was able to get into the responses
that I was making to a given situation…. [In] a very systematic way [he was able to]
interrupt those responses and replace them with more appropriate ones.
Arnold Jacobs (Second International Brass Congress Talk Show, 1984): I’m perfectly willing to
work with any student and give them any knowledge that I have as to structure.
[However], function is a different study. There, we [get] into Dr. Kirshner’s field of
psychodynamics—thoughts that are going to stimulate motor responses. This is what we
use in the art form.
M. Dee Stewart (Interview with Richard Erb, 1984): I have heard some criticism about perhaps
his methods being too analytical. Would that be contradicted by what you just said?
Richard Erb (Interview with M. Dee Stewart, 1984): I think it would in a sense, because I don’t
think that the student has to understand intellectually what’s going on [in] the moment.
He [Jacobs] does the analyzing, and as a matter of fact, he cautions you that you can’t be
the student and the teacher at the same time. That’s one of his old favorites…. He makes
it very clear that [there are] two tracks at work here—one going in and one going out….
When you perform—when you operate your instrument—you should be performing …
and your mindset should be on the outward track of communicating with your listener.
Daniel Perantoni (Interview with J. Bryan Heath, 2016): Jake said, “You know there are two
sides. There’s the mental side—that’s where I wear different hats; [there is] the physical
side; and [there is] the musical side. There’s a hat as a teacher; there’s a hat as a player.
There’s the thinker; there’s the doer. When you play you’re the doer; as a teacher you’re
the thinker. I always … kept it simple…. That was the message he gave to me, too.
Arnold Jacobs (Second International Brass Congress Talk Show, 1984): I wear two hats. When
I study structure and function, I wear the hat of the investigator—the student. When I
am on the stage with the horn, I wear the hat of the performer—the storyteller…. I do not
let them cross over.
Daniel Perantoni (Interview with J. Bryan Heath, 2016): I used to ask him what words meant
[medical terminology]. He would use words [that] I would have to go back and look up
in the dictionary…. Then I used to giggle and say, “OK,” and then he would explain it in
a different sense. But no, I never thought of him as [being] too analytical. In fact, he
always ... told me, “Dan, everything I tell you right now is worthless unless your main
goal is making music.” I’ll never forget that statement, because I had heard that [Jake
was too analytical] from some other people, but that’s not true at all.
Robert Tucci (Interview with J. Bryan Heath, 2016): At that time he [Jacobs] was deeply
involved in study programs with scientists and people from medical professions…. This
came through in his teaching. He used a lot of terminology that in the beginning [didn’t
seem] really [very] easy to understand. But it was—if you speak about medicine you use
medical terms; if you speak about cooking you use different terms…. He used a lot of
scientific vocabulary at the time and there were some comments about this. One fellow
walked in and said, “Mr. Jacobs, it’s all well and good, but could you say that in plain
Charles G. Vernon (Interview with M. Dee Stewart, 1984): He has a way of—you know, [using]
these big long words and philosophizing … and I wasn’t able to grasp on to just the
simple concept of it until a little bit later.
Charles G. Vernon (Interview with J. Bryan Heath, 2014): He said, “Your right arm is a reflex
response to stimuli.” And I’m [like], “What the hell does that mean?” It took me some
time to figure that out.
Robert Allen Karon (Interview with J. Bryan Heath, 2016): For a lot of the people who studied
with him, it was difficult for them to adjust to that way of thinking…. When I went to
see him I said, “OK. I am going to trust this man. I’m going to totally put my trust in
him. There is nobody who knows more about this.” I listened to the people who had
studied with him and I said, “I’m just going to trust anything he says.”
Stephen Chenette (Interview with J. Bryan Heath, 2016): People say that he was sometimes very
complicated. He did know about anatomy—physiology—anything that [has an impact
on] brass playing. He knew about it in great depth. In the early sixties he was much
more into the physiological aspects of it … and it was a wonderful education. In a sense,
I needed that because I had had people telling me—do stuff this way or that way—with
no real valid reason. But Jacobs was so thoroughly knowledgeable in the physical
aspects of [playing] that it was impossible not to be totally convinced that what he was
telling you was right.
Keith Johnson (Interview with J. Bryan Heath, 2015): 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.” 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.”
Charles G. Vernon (Interview with J. Bryan Heath, 2014): He knew more about what goes on in
your body [while] playing than anybody [else]. He knew more about all the many, many
muscles that are involved in the anatomy of playing … the physical—what you do when
you breathe—all that stuff —[he knew more than anybody]. That’s what people think of
as being too analytical. They think he was only analytical. That only meant that he …
analyzed our bodies and we took lots of tests. The inspirex— [there were many] different
things—the incentive spirometer—where you blow this [device] filled with water and it
writes a gauge about your lung capacity….
Mark Lawrence (Interview with J. Bryan Heath, 2015): The devices he used were ways for you
to visually see what was happening, because … you can’t see in your lungs. You can’t
see in your mouth when you’re breathing…. It was a way to kind of visually let you …
observe what was going on. Don’t forget this is the athlete part, not the artist part.
Robert Allen Karon (Interview with J. Bryan Heath, 2016): Now, all of those little toys and stuff
that he had you working on—that’s your clinical time. You know, you’re not going to be
getting one of those incentive spirometers going during the concert. You’re not going to
pull that out of your bag and start breathing on that thing before you have to play a solo
or something. No. That’s your clinical time—when you’re working on something to …
improve your breathing with this…. But when you’re out there playing—it’s all just
concentrating on the music and that’s it.
Robert Allen Karon (Interview with M. Dee Stewart, 1984): That’s the thing that’s nice about
his teaching. Although he will work with you on mechanics and that sort of thing, near
the end of the lesson, he would say just to forget about that stuff. “I don’t want to talk
about how you do this,” he said. “Now you just make music.”
Charles G. Vernon (Interview with J. Bryan Heath, 2013): So, he would use these machines—
the inspirex—the little things that have Ping-Pong balls; you would blow out and turn it
upside down and you [would] suck the ball up like this [and it would go up]. These were
used for your mind to see the ball and for making the ball do something. It had nothing
to do with what your body was doing. It was your mental idea of what you were trying to
achieve. You see that ball going like this [sustaining with his hand]. You don’t want to
see it going like this [dipping motion with his hand]. You just do whatever happens—
whatever it has to do to get it to maintain that level.
Richard Erb (Interview with J. Bryan Heath, 2013): From the general populace of brass players
you get either, “Oh yeah, Jacobs, the breathing teacher!” Or you get, “He uses
machines.” [People said] “He’s crazy.” [They asked], What’s wrong with him?” You
still hear it…. That still comes up. But he was not “the breathing teacher.” He taught
me a more effective way of using my body. That’s for sure.
Charles G. Vernon (Interview with J. Bryan Heath, 2014): People think of those [breathing
devices] being analytical. That was not his approach. His approach was purely mentally
imagining something and trying to make that happen, and let your body do what it’s
supposed to do. He said many times to me… “If I were to pick this up right here and go
like this with it [picking up sunglasses], and then put this on my head and try to look
cool, and then take it off like this, and put it back down—the billions of neurons and the
muscles that happen to get that to work—you can’t think about any of that stuff.” So he
understood this very well. Some people think he was too analytical and they just don’t
Richard Erb (Interview with J. Bryan Heath, 2013): He told me … about the third year of study
with him … and he had used scientific equipment throughout that time. Up until that
point in time I had really never studied music with him. That’s a paradox—because
that’s what he said you had to do in order to succeed. He said, “Look, if I had you as a
student at Northwestern and I had you all four years, you’d never have even seen a
machine. Never. We would have worked on your solfege. We would’ve worked on your
ear. We would have worked on your artistic imagination, and you would have
[improved].” But he said, “We had to do this with machines. You had three weeks and
you had a job. You had to go back to work. That’s why.” And it worked, and I did.
Charles G. Vernon (Interview with J. Bryan Heath, 2014): So basically, it was like he threw all
of that out the window. He said, “I know more about the body than anybody. I have read
more about the physical anatomy and the mental things at work when you’re playing; but
when I put the tuba to my hand, I’m an artist. I sing through it and I let all of that go. I
don’t think at all about what I’m doing.”
Richard Erb (Interview with J. Bryan Heath, 2013): He had the information about the structure
and function of the human body—more than most people in the medical field, or in the
psychology field; more than your average practitioner. He knew psychology and
physiology—human behavior—structure of the body. He knew all of that. Well, I can’t
claim that I know it like he knows or knew it. I didn’t go to medical school and cut up
bodies. But I learned as much as I could from him and from my own reading and study,
so that I had some basis on which to address a problem other than “old wives’ tales,”
which is what an awful lot of brass teaching is. That’s a quote from Vince Cichowicz.
Charles G. Vernon (Interview with J. Bryan Heath, 2014): He was learned. He was smart as a
whip. He just knew what was going on so he could go in the back door. He could go in
and approach you differently. He approached me differently than anybody else or you.
Robert Allen Karon (Interview with J. Bryan Heath, 2016): One thing about him that is very,
very interesting is that he never wrote a book. He never wrote it down like a treatise.
Daniel Perantoni (Interview with J. Bryan Heath, 2016): He also said, “Don’t ever write
anything down because you can’t change your mind.” He firmly believed that.
Robert Allen Karon (Interview with J. Bryan Heath, 2016): It was always—it was very much
communicated from person to person rather than from … some kind of a mass media
thing. I think that he was really the master of this. He didn’t teach any two people
exactly the same thing. I mean there were a certain kinds of basic tools that he gave most
everybody, but he really zeroed in on each individual.
Robert Tucci (Interview with J. Bryan Heath, 2016): He felt that what he had to impart had to be
imparted on a direct personal basis. The other thing of course was translation. We said,
“Well, your teaching should be translated.” He said he felt that some aspects of it might
be lost in translation.
Daniel Perantoni (Interview with J. Bryan Heath, 2016): Also, Mr. Jacobs said… “I had to tell
somebody just the opposite.” Well, I do too sometimes, just to get the right language and
communication with a student. Remember, we’re not teaching homogeneously—we’re
teaching one-on-one, and that has a lot to do with the personality and communication of
the teacher with a student. You have to relate—whatever it is. OK. That’s his influences
to me, because he related to me great.
Arnold Jacobs (Second International Brass Congress Panel Discussion, 1984): You have to be
very sensitive to your students’ needs, and to do that you have to in some way be able to
equate with the student and if necessary, even try to think like the student; that means you
must study their background a little bit. You must have some knowledge of the student—
his use of language. To issue a word—if I use the word hypertrophy and the person
doesn’t know what it means, then we have to change it into “the growth that occurs as in
weight lifting, and so forth.” We have to find words that have meaning and
understanding for the student. We can issue messages from now until Doomsday, but if a
student can’t receive it there’s no meaning. You have to find how you can equate with a
Keith Johnson (Interview with J. Bryan Heath, 2015): A lot of times, it’s simply not
understanding. It’s not “this is right and this is wrong;” it’s that “the way it’s expressed”
is not always clear; and some students—we have to remember this—students all learn at
different speeds. No two students learn at exactly the same pace. Classroom teachers
don’t have the luxury in most cases. There’s always some private time, I hope. But they
don’t have the luxury of spending two hours with one kid while there are 28 sitting in a
class throwing paste on the roof or whatever children do these days.
Robert Tucci (Interview with J. Bryan Heath, 2016): In a way, he felt that teaching music was
private instruction and that every person was unique. Every person was unique and had
to be taught in an addressed matter.
Richard Erb (Interview with J. Bryan Heath, 2013): He approached the student in a certain way.
He approached every one of us, I think, as an individual. Individual problems are your
problems, and they’re not generalized problems. It’s not like all people from Kentucky
can’t jump or something. Jacobs taught absolutely as an individual.
Solutions In Simplicity
Richard Erb (Interview with J. Bryan Heath, 2013): I had three lessons in that first visit. I came
back home and it [referring to the Valsalva maneuver] never happened again…. It was
gone. Now, I could still contrive through inattention and stupidity or distraction … to get
an attack once in a while … [that I didn’t] like so much. I’m still human. It’s literally
true. He fixed it in three weeks. How?
Stephen Chenette (Interview with M. Dee Stewart, 1984): In my own work with Jacobs I had a
lot of things to relearn.
M. Dee Stewart (Interview with Steve Chenette, 1984): How were you able to accomplish this
while you were first trumpet in a major orchestra?
Stephen Chenette (Interview with M. Dee Stewart, 1984): His approach is so clear and simple,
and it goes with the body instead of against it. It made my work easier right from the
beginning, and the more of his ideas that I could incorporate, the better. It was not a
problem to try to work it in.
Robert Allen Karon (Interview with M. Dee Stewart, 1984): It turned out that just after that first
lesson…. A couple [of] days later when I went back for the next one … things started to
open up and I started feeling better.
Daniel Perantoni (Interview with J. Bryan Heath, 2016): I never worked much on music with
him. I was a very established player, but I took several things to him and he gave me
some really good ideas [about] how to plan it—how to do it. I remember I needed a high
G fast. I had to play a recording in a week. I had a really good E-flat but not a G….
[He] gave me an exercise, [and] in 3 days and I nailed it … also, I couldn’t double or
triple tongue at the time. I could single tongue like a snake but I got in trouble when we
were [getting ready for] Scheherazade [it was coming up soon]. I couldn’t triple tongue
at the time. And I said, “How do you triple tongue?” He said… “[Like] this, Dan.”
Boom, boom, boom…. Frankly speaking, I walked out of there [as if] I could always do
it. He made it quite simple.
Robert Allen Karon (Interview with M. Dee Stewart, 1984): I went to Sacramento for an audition
for 2nd trumpet. Didn’t get the job. Flew to Chicago and had a lesson with Arnold
Jacobs—came back—they had an opening for principal trumpet. [I] took that audition
and nailed it.
Richard Erb (Interview with M. Dee Stewart, 1984): He was able to look exactly at my
performing and [found] the point in the response that wasn’t working right … and [he
was able to] change it in a very, very short time. He did this by essentially understanding
the physiology of the body and how your psychological system motivates that.
M. Dee Stewart (Interview with Steve Chenette, 1984): It sounds like a great deal of emphasis
on the mental aspect of performing or of playing.
Stephen Chenette (Interview with M. Dee Stewart, 1984): Well that’s of course the ultimate
Richard Erb (Interview with J. Bryan Heath, 2013): It’s [really] simple…. This is another thing:
when I wrote about it … I didn’t do a good job of that. I need to do that again. The first
thing you have to do is to appreciate that the atmospheric pressure in the room—X—
whatever it is—whatever number—whatever value the atmospheric pressure is inside
your lungs—is the same, as long as the airway is open. If I sit here looking stupid [mouth
hanging open], and the airway is completely open, the air pressure in here [pointing to his
chest] would be only microscopically different from what’s out here [outside the body].
You have to get comfortable with that feeling and you do that away from the trombone.
You don’t pick up your horn and try to achieve that, because the horn is a very powerful
Arnold Jacobs (2nd International Brass Congress Panel Discussion, 1984): Now, the exercises
are to be done away from music to establish normalcy as a person.
Richard Erb (Interview with J. Bryan Heath, 2013): You pick it up and whatever you always did
is what you’re going to do, unless it is interfered with in some dramatic way…. It’s all
cue–response–reward. You know … the most primitive learning psychology there is. So
you have to learn [it] to be comfortable with it, and believe that the air will stay in your
body—as long as your body doesn’t get smaller—without any interference. Once you’ve
mastered that, you’ve got a shot. The next thing then to do is to appreciate what makes
air come out. You’re full of air [demonstrates full breath]—it wants to come out by the
body changing size. That’s all. So you can do this: you can take a deep breath, and
you’re so relaxed you can feel it [blowing] on the back of your hands. That’s this arm
pushing this [his hand pressing against his belly]. It’s not me doing anything else.
Nothing. Yeah, right—that’s pretty crude isn’t it? Pretty simple. Once you’ve got that
down, then you can add something to it: which is to forget the arm and just blow at the
time you wish to, and work on that for a little while, [until] you can do that whenever you
feel like it. Then the next thing is to add the tongue. This is where it gets very
complicated, because we are trained—most of us have been—[to] place the tongue, and
then you play. Mr. Jacobs said, “No. That’s not what you do. You put the thing on your
mouth and when you’re full of air, and you’re ready to play, the tongue should be lying
on the floor of the mouth like a dead fish right there.” Those were his words. Now, you
decide on a rhythmic beginning of air, not tongue—a rhythmic beginning of air
[demonstrates air being blown rhythmically]. It’s timed. It’s rhythmic. The moment that
you have decided the air is going to make its entry into the instrument—of course the
results of that would be—if you have any luck at all, the lip will vibrate and you’ll get
some noise out of it. The tongue does this: it goes up and hits something up there, as if
you’re saying “toh.” It’s all speech.
Stephen Chenette (Interview with J. Bryan Heath, 2016): He said, “Think words, think ‘who—
too.’” Sometimes he would have me whisper it and other times he would have me say it.
But the “who” would be done on an inhalation and the “too” would be spoken as a
normal whisper or word. I can’t speak it going in, but it kept air in continuous motion.
The air doesn’t slow down as you fill up. It’s going in at full speed. And you say “too”
and it goes out its full speed: “who—too.”
Richard Erb (Interview with J. Bryan Heath, 2013): If you said the word “toh,” and nothing
strange like [an exaggerated] “toh-oh,” that is all there is to it…. That is the exact
opposite of what I was taught. Because I was convinced there had to be elaborate
preparation, and placement of the tongue, settling of the embouchure, put the thing in the
right place, and not pressing too hard, but pressing hard enough. Given enough
instructions you couldn’t play anything. Paralyzed—[which was] literally what was
Stephen Chenette (Interview with J. Bryan Heath, 2016): A couple of professional brass players
that got in “choking-up trouble”: there was a horn player and this trumpet player and we
went for coffee or dinner and I explained the “who—too.’” It fixed their problems.
Jacobs said most bad embouchures are the lips really trying to cope with an inadequate
Arnold Jacobs (Second International Brass Congress Panel Discussion, 1984): If you just take
your hand and go [hissing sound] against it with a sibilant “S,” you will feel a large
pressure of air behind the tongue but very little air at the hand. If you just blow thick air
on it, you’ll feel tremendous increase in pressure of air against your hand. The quantities
of motion are vast compared to thin air. Well, the ability to have the sibilant is not only
there at the front of the tongue, it can be through closure in the laryngeal arrangement
with the epiglottis having it come up under there, expansion of the musculatures under
the tongue, closing off in the airway, to where you actually starve embouchure for the air
volume. You can have it for air pressure, there will be oodles of pressure, but the volume
of air is too small to operate the embouchure. If you go beyond a critical point, the lip
will start to fail. In other words, it will start to be very unresponsive. Up to a certain
point there’s no harm in the reduction; past a certain point is a disaster. Now, with these
people who are suffering lung-volume issues—automatically—now there’s a cycling that
starts. With his increasing sense of difficulty in tone production, the brain stops being
positive [and] starts to say, ”What’s wrong? This feels terrible.” You can’t get the
sensations in the inter-oral cavity or the pharyngeal. You get it from the lip—the feeling
of lack of response, of increasing resistance, and that it doesn’t want to respond. What’s
wrong? You start analyzing it. The first thing is—the signal that should be going down
the seventh cranial nerve to provide stimuli for the motor reflexes of the embouchure
based on conditioning is not taking place. There’s a big question instead of a statement.
These people very quickly leave the business.
Richard Erb (Interview with J. Bryan Heath, 2013): So, I was lucky because I understood what
he was saying. I will say there were some people who find that whole concept a little
mysterious. I still don’t know why, but they do. [Perhaps it is because] it’s not grounded
in … what they expect in terms of watching other people play or what their teachers
originally told them…. I don’t know. I was lucky enough to understand it right away.
Another funny thing is: 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 says, “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….” So the range
came back; everything was much better.
Arnold Jacobs (Second International Brass Congress Panel Discussion, 1984): 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. We sneak up on it. You have to do this, because as I say, you have very little
communication in a two-way sense with the machine system. The fifth cranial nerve …
where the embouchure is concerned is probably purely sensory. There are other parts of
it … in various phases where there are certain motor activities. The seventh cranial
nerve is a motor nerve that governs the embouchure. What you learn by feel is
completely inadequate to make judgments. In other words, your lip feels good when you
sound good and your lip feels bad when you sound bad. Which comes first? [Do you]
see what I mean? And so … when you teach this sort of subject, you do it based very
much on insisting the student becomes a fine musician and becomes musically apt to
deliver a musical product to someone else, not [with] how he does it. Get the music—get
it all wrong—but make it sound great and the next generation will try to do it your way.
Problems and Paralysis
Robert Allen Karen (Interviewed by J. Bryan Heath, 2016): I find it kind of interesting that
some people still say, “Oh no, you’ve got to do this. If you don’t put your stomach like
this … you’re not going to play it.” No, that’s not it. I keep mentioning Arturo
Sandoval. When you see Arturo banging away on a timbale and he just scoops up his
trumpet and starts to play, he’s not setting up this, that, and the other with his mouthpiece
[his embouchure]. He just picks it up and starts to play…. It’s really all of these things
that you start seeing [in] the players that you admire. That’s what they’re doing, and I
like it. It makes you free, really. And I think that that’s part of the happiness that comes
out of this.
Daniel Perantoni (Interviewed by J. Bryan Heath, 2016): Remember this, too. I’m [really]
careful of it. I’ve seen a lot of my really good friends get in trouble: [to where they] can’t
play. Thank God the fact that it comes out now that even Jacobs back in that time—we
used to think it was a Valsalva maneuver. We were confused about what was happening
with dystonia…. I kind of think we get too smart…. We have to be very careful in our
teaching. Frankly, [when my students] come to be graduate students they’re too smart. I
have to … tell them, “Hey listen. Quit analyzing. Quit analyzing.” I’m a broken record
on that. [I tell them,]“Sit down and just play.” [Then] I start getting too analytical
[myself]. I have to go back and try to practice and just forget about it. Daydream....
You have to always practice that.
Arnold Jacobs (Interviewed by M. Dee Stewart, 1984): I’ve watched many fine players go
downhill when they’ve started teaching. Many careers were actually aborted too early by
people who became teachers. You have to look at what teaching involves. It involves a
tremendous amount of analysis. In other words, there’s this magnificent human brain,
which we all have trained to learn what the student is doing. You try to hear what they’re
doing. You try to guess what they’re thinking—[You learn] how to communicate [with
them]. But the brain is wide open for incoming messages through the eyes [and] through
the ears. In other words, the question state of the brain becomes very dominant. There’s
a tremendous risk to this … that you [may] carry over into your practice…. You [may]
start self-teaching based on the same questions. [The problem with that is,] we don’t play
by questions, we play by statements.
Daniel Perantoni (Interviewed by J. Bryan Heath, 2016): “You don’t ask questions, you make
statements. And this is what you try to always do.” And with my students—look, this is
a major university. These guys have majored in business and everything else, so there’s a
lot of analysis. Don’t take [the analysis into your playing]. To be honest with you I’m
very careful about that. I think I’m a broken record … speaking of that. I watch out for
symptoms of that nature, and I can tell you, usually, it’s brought on by thinking too much
and bad physical habits. Always take care of what [made] you [a good player] in the first
place. And you keep doing it: don’t drop that. I’m not one who believes in warm-ups too
much … because that can also lead to paralysis.
Richard Erb (Interviewed by J. Bryan Heath, 2013): That led directly to the problem which sent
me to Mr. Jacobs in the first place, and this is where it gets ugly. This is what you’ve
asked me to tell you. Are you familiar with the Remington warm-up? You start on the
middle B-flat every day. And you [play] expanding chromatic intervals down to low E
and lower if you happen to have a [valve]. So I did that. And if you do that the next
thing you do is a three-note slur exercise, B-flat– F–B-flat. By then you’ve been playing
for 15 minutes and you haven’t played above middle B- flat, then you have to do a fivenote
slur, which I always found [to be] a terrible challenge. But I did it.... What it …
developed into was … combined with the concept of sticking your tongue through the
lips and everything else half-way down the throat of the mouthpiece—it got to be where I
could play from middle B-flat down with a certain embouchure. When I went in the
valve range, it had to change…. above middle B-flat it [my embouchure] had to change
again. It finally got to be so bad that the B-natural below middle C—I couldn’t play with
either embouchure. That was an inconvenience to me. It was getting harder. My
training up until then was such that the solution was … you would practice twelve hours
a day if you had only been practicing ten. So I did the same thing all-wrong for twelve
hours a day instead of eight! It didn’t get better.
Robert Tucci (Interviewed by J. Bryan Heath, 2016): He talked a lot about and assured that we
did conditioning studies, played long tones, worked on technical aspects of playing, but
always to a musical end—not articulation for the sake of articulation, or a technique
study for purity of execution or velocity, but always to a musical end.
Richard Erb (Interviewed by J. Bryan Heath, 2013): [I] played the Ride of the Valkyries 188
times a day and each time I got a little closer.
Robert Allen Karon (Interviewed by J. Bryan Heath, 2016): OK, so that’s called paralysis from
Richard Erb (Interviewed by J. Bryan Heath, 2013): It was so obvious that [my approach] was
not working, but I continued with that regimen. I was in the orchestra three years before
I caught on. [Actually] I didn’t catch on: Mr. Jacobs [asked] me, “What are you doing
that for?” The whole concept of warm-up: it was so inhibiting and so anti-musical. It’s
sad, but that’s not music. Our job as musicians, our first job, is to think of the music.
The first thing Jake [had asked] me was, “How much do you practice?” I said, “Oh, I
don’t know—eighteen or twenty hours a day—some nonsense…. It was a lot.” He said,
“Let me make a suggestion: When you can’t hear it anymore put it away. If you can pay
attention to what’s musical that’s coming out, OK. Practice, but look, it’s not a violin—
it’s not a piano [which has a lot of notes], it’s a trombone. If you can do that for a lot of
whole lot of hours a day, you need to get out more”—or words to that effect.
Daniel Perantoni (Interviewed by J. Bryan Heath, 2014): I don’t have to warm-up. I play three
hours a day. To be honest with you, I’d have to play low in the orchestra—which I don’t
do all the time. I used to have to pay my dues on that one, just to get some big sounds.
But you’re right: the best advice I can give anybody is watch out for some of these
symptoms. As a brass player, you can overdo [it]. You get tired quick…. Then you can
build it up. Also, in [the] orchestra, we make it too hard. These guys sit down and they
talk about [three or four cents sharp] and to be honest, it gets boring as hell. I never
thought playing in the orchestra [was that hard]. You want to play something hard, play
the Vaughan Williams Tuba Concerto. Die Meistersinger is a piece of cake. Now, if you
sit down and analyze it, and [realize that] you’ve got 200 measures coming up and …
have to play a high C … you do that, and you’re done. You just have to learn that. You
have to keep reinforcing that. And then, yes, I think I took that away from Jake. I
learned a lot myself. He would say, “Why don’t you sing it?” I could sing just about
anything … [bah doo bah doo dah]. Play it back.
Robert Allen Karon (Interviewed by J. Bryan Heath, 2016): You can’t be under the hood of [a]
car checking on all of the different things that are going on while you’re driving. It’s not
recommended. So that’s one of the things that he was very insistent about…. It’s from
here [his head] out to there [the audience]. That’s it. You cannot be analyzing what’s
going on while you’re performing—you can’t do that. Now, all of those little toys and
stuff that he had you working on: that’s your clinical time. You know you’re not going to
get an incentive spirometer going during the concert. You’re not going to pull that out of
your bag and start breathing on that thing before you have to play a solo. That’s your
clinical time—to be working on something—to improve your breathing and this, that, and
the other thing; but when you’re out there playing, it’s all just concentrating on the music
and that’s it. You can’t be thinking about something else. You know what’s really funny
is—you’ll hear … lots of times someone will go ahead and they’ll play a beautiful phrase
and it has an incredible high note in it and they play it beautifully. [Then] right after that
they’ll make mistakes. That’s because the guy’s looking back saying “Oh, hey. I did
pretty good on that.” Bam! Crash! You’re done. You can’t be thinking of other things.
It’s like I told you with the Cubs. You can’t be thinking about the Chicago Cubs while
you’re performing. You can’t do that. It destroys the entire experience—not just your
experience as a performer, but it destroys the experience for the audience. Because all of
a sudden the music goes stale…. He [Jake] was very much aware of that.
Daniel Perantoni (Interviewed by J. Bryan Heath, 2014): So I’m very careful…. Frankly
speaking, the less I have to say, the less I do [say]. [I like to] work a little more on music,
and you know, sound, sound, sound—that beautiful sound. We all have that. I can
remember his sound, and imitate [it] to you today…. Wow! [It] was fantastic; a lot of
overtones; don’t work so hard.
Arnold Jacobs (Interviewed by M. Dee Stewart, 1984): We use psychomotor. When you’re
going to play you will always play based on a message for somebody else [Jacobs buzzes
on the rim of a mouthpiece]. It’s a voice … you understand what I’m doing there. In a
sense I’m not controlling the embouchure, I’m controlling the sound. When I’ve
controlled the sound, I’ve controlled the meat. I can’t do that if I’m going into a self analysis.
This is simply a read-out of my thoughts. If you have a question you will not
have the stimuli in the brain for the reflex response in your tissue. It’s that simple.
Richard Erb (Interviewed by J. Bryan Heath, 2013): As far as nineteenth-century brass teaching
—for instance, the simple subject of attack—how you start a note. Well, this book, this
[is the] good old Arban’s method…. t says right there on page 12 under [the] instructive
comments: striking or commencing the tone—trying to throw a small seed off the tongue
is a good analogy. A pencil or a finger held vertically against the lips is barely touched
with the tip of the tongue. OK.
Daniel Perantoni (Interviewed by J. Bryan Heath, 2014): I worked with a kid here the last four
years who had severe Valsalva…. I remember Mr. Jacobs working on that with some
players—I don’t want to mention any names—major players who were having some
severe problems, and [they] didn’t know what the heck it [was]. You just [kept] going
[to] see what [you could] do. You [would] try to expand the range … [and you would]
have to start again with very simple things. It has to do with blowing. Most of the time,
I’ll tell you, the culprit is the tongue. It just locks up [shows clenched fist] and goes back
[in the mouth, closing off the air]—where it should be like [this] [shows a loose, relaxed
Richard Erb (Interviewed by J. Bryan Heath, 2013): How do you start? Like it says in this
book, you build up air behind the tongue, place the tongue first somewhere—wherever
you’re going to put it—behind the teeth, out your mouth or whatever…. You build up air
pressure behind it in your body, and then you pull [the tongue] away and sure enough a
note will explosively result.
Stephen Chenette (Interviewed by J. Bryan Heath, 2016): You know, get a tight gut, you
develop the internal air pressure, and then you’re ready to play and then say “too”
[emphatically]. Oh, I was just choking up.
Richard Erb (Interviewed by J. Bryan Heath, 2013): See, that’s where I hit the rocks bad. There
is a phenomenon in physiology, which is designed to help you to do other things than to
play the trombone. It’s universal. Everybody does it. Everybody has it. Your brain is
hardwired that when you close the airway with high static air pressure in the body
anywhere—it better be in the lungs—static air under pressure; and you say, OK, I’m
going to pull the tongue back now, it won’t go. It won’t go: not when you want it to.
This is something I wrote about in articles…. I never did a good job at all explaining
why this matters. In music there’s something called rhythm, and rhythm describes when
[the note begins]…. Well, that maneuver which I described is voluntary in [that] its
initiation. I mean, anybody can, whenever they feel like it, go [simulates the Valsalva
Maneuver]. But you can’t necessarily with any subtlety and accuracy control when it
goes away. When it’s set up you’ve lost control.
Richard Erb (Interviewed by M. Dee Stewart, 1984): I had a couple specific things. One was
[with] simply beginning notes—what we call the attack in brass playing. In a general
kind of way, [they were] sometimes difficult to make speak … when I thought artistically
they were supposed to. I couldn’t understand why [they were not speaking]. I had no
idea why this was happening. I had a lot of good advice. None of it seemed to help.
Richard Erb (Interviewed by J. Bryan Heath, 2013): So when I followed all those instructions
from here [method books] and from my other teachers and from the Remington warm-up,
what happened finally was I would say, “OK it’s time to practice,” and I would say
“middle B-flat,” [simulates trying to play]—and then … nothing [simulates the Valsalva
Maneuver]. That would go on for an extended period of time sometimes. You can see
how that would be a disadvantage in the orchestral life though, couldn’t you? It’s
alleviated somewhat when you have a supplied a pulse externally. You can go with the
flow that way—usually pretty well. But even then, it’s totally unreliable. I didn’t
understand why the hell it was so hard to start to play when I thought I was supposed to
play. That’s when my friend Ross Tolbert said, “Look, you [had] better get up there and
go see him,” and that’s what got me there.