Stephen Shoop

Playing for Mr. Jacobs

Arnold Jacobs (1915-1998)


Playing a Little Greensleeves for Mr. Jacobs

During the summer of 1989 (June 16-30) I attended an Arnold Jacobs masterclass at Trenton State College, in New Jersey.  During the sessions, Mr. Jacobs selected volunteers to come up on stage and play for constructive criticism.  I believe it was the last afternoon session of the final day that he called upon me.  I remember him asking "What would you like to play for us today?"  After a rather vague answer from me, he asked if I could play a little bit of "Greensleeves."  I remember playing just the first few notes before he stopped me!  He then told me (and the entire auditorium of fellow participants) that I had a lot of paying problems.  He went on to say that the most common problems in brass playing are associated with (1) breathing and (2) tonguing.  None of this offended me.  After all, I was there to learn from the master.... and become a better player.  Following that experience, I spent considerable time and effort working to conquer problems in my playing associated with those two areas.  I must say that for the most part my my efforts have led to a considerable degree of success.

Over the years, and as a result of Mr. Jacobs' teaching, a great deal of pedagogical information has been disseminated about breathing and wind instrument playing.  It seems that much less attention has been devoted to issues involving the tongue.  This is probably because tonguing problems seem to be less widespread than breathing problems. 

In any event.... that is my encounter with the great tuba player and teacher.... Arnold Jacobs.  I feel fortunate to have played for him, however brief.
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