Retired Chicago Lyric Opera Bass Trombonist, and author, Bruce Nelson talks about his first encounter with Mr. Jacobs in 1968. “I can see you have the wrong approach to music” was Jacobs’ first assessment of Nelson’s warm-up. Simple mouthpiece buzzing tunes such as Pop Goes the Whistle, America the Beautiful. Re-orient your mind from asking questions to making statements. Jacobs highly valued solfeggio training and acting. You must be a communicator to the audience. Jacobs death is discussed. Conceive, don’t perceive. Jacobs was always looking for ways to get into the student’s mind. Make statements, don’t ask questions. The nervous system has two types of nerves – motor and sensory. Don’t fight bad/established habits. Instead establish a new/good habit. Think more positive thoughts and more musical messages. Do your training away from the horn. Jacobs’ knowledge of psychology, physiology, and highest caliber of musicianship all in one person was unmatched. Blow air, don’t create pressure. Nelson was encouraged to feel the vibration of his trombone with his hands and then use that memory as a way to motivate great tone immediately. Because of the nature of his work with the opera Nelson developed a habit of asking questions in his thoughts about his role in the orchestra. He had to renew and amplify his statement oriented thinking. Because of minor lip surgery for wart removal, Nelson suffered some nerve damage to his lip. Anxiety caused Bruce to take his mind off of the musical message. Jacobs worked with him to re-orient his thoughts enough to continue playing in the Lyric for an additional eight years. The aging process and its negative effect on respiratory function is discussed. Jacobs in his later teaching years focused more on the psychological aspects of playing whether it had to do with breathing or playing. The instrument in the mind is the source for the instrument in the hands. Earlier in Nelson’s study with Jacobs, Jacobs was more often to use medical terminology. This changed as the decades went on to a more simple approach with his students. Nelson said his book (Also Sprach Arnold Jacobs) is a compilation of Jacobs’ main pedagogical themes. The remedial steps that Jacobs took Nelson through following his lip injury is described.
Steve Norrell, famed Metropolitan Opera Orchestra bass trombonist, is featured in this episode of TubaPeopleTV. Norrell’s initial exposure to Arnold Jacobs’ pedagogy came from Charles Vernon. In 1982 he went to the week-long series Jacobs master classes at Northwestern University where he had his first lesson with Mr. Jacobs. In that first lesson Jacobs asked Norrell to play the Mozart Tuba Mirum on a mouthpiece connected to a gauge that measured air-flow. Jacobs was trying to get Norrell to get tone in front of the note rather than articulation. Immediacy of tone and sound. Get air to the lips. Jacobs stressed that the way it feels has nothing to do with how it sounds. Seventh cranial nerve is about imparting information. Fifth cranial nerve is for gathering information. Find and develop the positive stimuli that helps you to be successful. Don’t worry about how it feels. Focus on how it sounds. Jacobs worked with Norrell’s respiratory system in order to help get air moving more fully. In 1987 Norrell had a lesson with Jacobs after having spent many hours the previous evening playing quartets with other visiting professionals. As a result his face wasn’t as recovered has he would have liked. Even so, Jacobs continued to encourage Norrell to expand his sound. The use of vibrato in forte and fortissimo was a technique Jacobs used to free things up. Norrell’s lessons often were filled with him playing problematic passages. Hary Janos is mentioned. Articulation is discussed as being the combination of embouchure efficiency, coordination of air and tongue. “Coordinating the tOH” is how Norrell described articulation. Norrell demonstrates his use of the incentive spirometer in relation to getting more immediate tone. Steve describes the effortlessness of Jacobs’ tone. Norrell admired how Jacobs was uniformly successful at extracting positive results from students of varying skillsets. Norrell reminisced about numerous Chicago Symphony concerts at Carnegie Hall, in particular a 1978 performance of Bruckner Symphony #7 led by Sir Georg Solti.
Louisiana Philharmonic Principal Tubist, Robert Nunez shares his journey coming to the pedagogy of Arnold Jacobs. He was initially introduced to Jacobs’ concepts through Neal Tidwell and Richard Erb. In his initial lesson with Jacobs, he was immediately challenged to set higher standards on the instrument. Jacobs encouraged him to buzz on the mouthpiece rim to increase his quality and efficiency of tone. Put the wind at the lips. Don’t meter the body, blow air (from the lips). Jacobs’ work with Nunez was life-changing. Eventually Jacobs allowed Nunez to record his lessons. Sing with the lips. Pop goes the weasel. Increasing the vibratory rate of the lips leads to much more resonance on the tuba. The tuba is not important, the artistry and buzzing of the lips is. Seventh cranial nerve. Tuba in the mind. Jacobs taught on multiple levels at once. Jacobs had Nunez blow into various incentive spirometers using wind patterns while imaging various tunes and excerpts.
Jacobs encouraged Nunez to get his mind off of the internal function of the body and think external instead. Jacobs warned Nunez to not do too much continuous time on the visualizer, but to transfer that experience to the mouthpiece and the tuba. Aging process as related to air capacity, breathing. Take in large breaths. Using the spirometer to help objectively increase airflow, and then using that airflow while playing. Intra-oral air pressure. Tight embouchure leads to elevated intra-oral pressure. Equalization process of respiratory function…internal versus external always trying to equalize. Jacobs gave this information to Nunez but encouraged him to forget about it while playing. Jacobs continues to live through his students. Even though he had enough air to play phrases (due to his physical stature) Nunez’ playing was suffering because he wasn’t filling up with air enough to make the air flow thick and full. Jacobs managed to re-direct Nunez’ thinking from being internally oriented to external. Suck air and let the wind (air) do the work. Mouthpiece work – tunes. Conceive and sing while you play. Storyteller of sound. Jacobs had two lungs (not one).
Former Chicago Symphony personnel manager, Deborah Oberschelp shares her memories of being on tour with Arnold Jacobs and Adolph Herseth.
Utah Symphony principal tubist, Gary Ofenloch describes how hearing Jacobs for the first time as a fifth grader sparked his interest to make tuba a career. Even though Ofenloch ended up going to college in Boston and then to Salt Lake City for work, he always sought out lessons with Jacobs whenever he came to Chicago. Jacobs taught Ofenloch to put words to the music he was playing. Ofenloch shared a wonderfully personal story regarding his Utah Symphony audition and how Jacobs helped him through that by instructing Gary to personalize his thoughts while performing the audition. Ofenloch insists that Jacobs was all about the music and not merely the “breath guy” that so many remember him to be. To Jacobs, the breath was always ancillary to the art form. Ofenloch talked about the letters R.F.B. — Relax, Focus, & Breathe — and how Jacobs taught Gary to play with weakness and not strength. Blowing air from the lips was also part of the conversation. Ofenloch had one opportunity to sit next to Jacobs playing 2nd tuba on Symphony Fantastic. He remembered the sounds around him, Kleinhammer, Crisafulli, Cichowicz, Clevenger, etc.
Retired NY Philharmonic trumpeter, Vincent Penzarella went to Mr. Jacobs’ studio in 1958 after having a very severe accident resulting in serious damage to his embouchure. “He brought me back from the dead” Penzarella said about Jacobs. For the first thirteen months Penzarella could not get a sound with his lips. Jacobs demonstrated tremendous ingenuity and patience as he guided Penzarella to a point at which he could again play at the professional level. Song (music) was always first, no matter how many gadgets were being used in a lesson. Developing the sound of the trumpet in his mind was key to getting the lips to respond. The “present negative.” If you are playing great “hear it better.” Jake’s order of importance: 90% music, 9% air, 1% lip. “You’re trying too hard.” Breathing bag exercises are discussed. Ho in and tOH out. Penzarella discusses the re-training process Jacobs exposed him with regard to being able to vocalize Ho and tOH. Sit in a standing position when playing. Listen in your mind as a listener while playing (rather than listening to yourself while playing). Don’t try to fix what is wrong, but establish in your mind what is right. Believe that what you’re doing is right. Be an actor. The three things that Jacobs impressed upon Penzarella were 1) the first teacher has to be the music, 2) the second teacher has to be the brain in order to coordinate what the multiple functions that the body must do, 3) the last teacher has to be the tape recorder because it never lies. Jacobs knew not only about the system of respiration, but also about the mind of each of his students. Penzarella notes that about 99% of the students he works with are working harder in terms of physical effort and air pressure inside the body than is necessary. He uses sound to teach the right direction. Go for the cause (sound) rather than the effect (effort). Use techniques of imagination to guide the musical product desired. Jacobs had several points for breathing, 1) weakness is your friend, 2) breathe to expand, don’t expand to breathe, 3) the end of your inhalation is the start of your exhalation with the least amount of hesitation. Penzarella compares his lessons between Jacobs and Herseth: Jacobs – Here is everything I have for you, and I hope you can use it and feed off it. Herseth – Was more sheltered and less open in his approach with students. Charlier #2 lesson story. Parsifal lesson story. Herseth saw one sound as another sound. He didn’t think of them as high or low. Your body is much more relaxed if your brain is relaxed. “Jacobs taught me to get to that point where my body would be a mirror of my mind.” Penzarella talks about his time playing 2nd trumpet with John Ware, and then Phil Smith in the NY Philarmonic. Jacobs summarization – VP went to Jacobs after a period of intense physical and emotional trauma. Jacobs gave him hope, put him at ease, and helped VP to begin conceiving great excellence in his thoughts and then imitating those thoughts through his trumpet. “Have fun!” “Notes don’t matter, go for music, and you’ll get the notes. If you go for notes, you may not get the music.”
Brass legend, Dan Perantoni sits down with Puddles to talk about his studies and professional relationship with Arnold Jacobs. Perantoni chronicles how although he was a very established player he knew he was playing with too much physical tension, so he sought out Jacobs’ aid. Jacobs was able to effect change in Perantoni from being an “update player to an efficient player.” “Always practice what made you good in the first place” was an inspirational message from Jacobs to “Mr. P.” Mr. Jacobs worked with him to use more air and to always remember the main thing is the musical message. Perantoni remembers how gracious and positive Jacobs was as a teacher and as a person. Jacobs was always interested in the student and the student’s background as a means of connecting with the student. Jacobs wanted to make each student as complete a musician as possible. Perantoni points out that “blowing from the lips” is a missing part of Jake’s message that he doesn’t think receives as much attention in other Jacobs pedagogical research efforts. Efficiency, practicing with a realization of percentages, suction without friction, not analyzing while playing, and tonguing are all discussed. Lastly, Perantoni shares a story about himself with Jacobs and Rudy Meinl, as well as other social observations.
Indianapolis Symphony Principal Trumpeter, Marvin Perry shares what led to his decision to study with Arnold Jacobs. Pianissimo playing, resonant tone, over-pressurization, and music are some of the topics discussed.
Legendary tubist Sam Pilafian shares his expertise on a myriad of topics, including his interactions with Arnold Jacobs, his time in the Empire Brass, Miami, Boston, and much more. He discusses how Empire patterned their approach, in part, on the Chicago Symphony brass section, and how he was transfixed by Jacobs’ performance of Prokofiev’s Alexander Nevsky with the CSO and Fritz Reiner. In addition to his own lessons with Jacobs, Pilafian would often offer his NYC studio to Mr. Jacobs to teach in when the CSO was in town to perform at Carnegie Hall. Pilafian would sit in the corner, observing lesson after lesson. One of the prevailing themes in many of those lessons was getting away from the physical and more into the conceptual/musical. Pilafian and Jacobs would regularly share a meal at King Crab in NYC. Jacobs would query Pilafian about what it was he observed in those lessons. Pilafian’s main teacher in Miami, Connie Wheldon was influenced by Jacobs, which led Pilafian to seek him out. Pilafian, Wheldon, and Gail Williams have the same adult lung capacity. Learning to think about the importance of managing the air (bow) was something that Pilafian learned early on. Pilafian wanted to learn from Jacobs how to lead from the bottom. Jacobs worked with Pilafian’s imagination to think about music in a different way, which in turn positively affected his use/management of air, as well as pitch matching with the piano, mouthpiece, AND tuba fingering. Jacobs was a bass player, too, which related to Pilafian a great deal. Pilafian states that Jacobs’ tone was a derivative of his bass tone. Pilafian talks about his use of CC tuba in Empire, and F tuba now in Boston Brass (upright vs. electric). Pilafian wanted to learn from Jacobs how to miniaturize what Jacobs was doing for chamber music use. Pilafian shares his memories of early tuba ensemble history when Bill Bell and Arnold Jacobs were in Miami judging tuba ensemble compositions. More discussion of tuba ensemble literature development under the leadership of Connie Wheldon in Miami. Pilafian’s first performance experience playing with people older than himself was in a tuba ensemble. Lew Soloff, Jon Faddis, Marvin Stamm, Vince Penzarella, Jim Pugh, entered the discussion. Wide World of Sports sound track! Soloff and Pilafian would talk about their lessons with Jacobs. Rolf Smedvig. Jacobs’ instructing Pilafian to resonate, not just play, was highly instructive. Hear it and buzz it exactly. Do this well and your playing will get better. Pilafian recalls post-concert hangs he had with Jacobs and Herseth. CSO at Ravinia, Alpine Symphonie. Erich Kunzel with the CSO. CSO Fanfare for the Common Man. Populist approach led to the Breathing Gym. Concord Blue Devils. Pilafian recalls how the Empire Brass was called to divert to Chicago to fill in for Maurice Andre, to perform at Orchestra Hall. Another post-concert story was shared. Gene Pokorny
CSO principal tubist, Gene Pokorny, talks about his introduction to the Chicago Symphony, and the several lessons he took from Arnold Jacobs.