O.J.'s Trumpet Page Interview
Interview with Robert "Bahb" Civiletti

Robert "Bahb" Civiletti is a trumpet player living in New York. Since 1997 he has specialized on the Baroque trumpet.

About his playing Friedemann Immer says:
".. I gave Bahb one of my Baroque trumpets to show him how to play this kind of music on an original instrument. Right away, I could see his special talent for playing this difficult instrument: It seemed, that in the Baroque trumpet, Bahb had found "his" instrument."

In the autumn of 2002, a new book, Trumpet Secrets by Jerome Callet and Robert Civiletti was published.

We had a short cyber talk with Bahb about the Baroque trumpet and "Trumpet Secrets":

Maybe we could start with your musical background?
My musical training started in NYC with Myer Savits (Broadway and free lance) Isadore Blank (Principal Metropolitan Opera) and Carmine Fornorato (NY Philharmonic). I left New York when I received a full scholarship to attend the Yankton Conservatory (Yankton S. Dakota) and a position with the Sioux City Symphony. I studied at the Conservatory with Fredrick Kaufman. Upon returning to New York I won a position with the National Orchestra Association of New York. I then went on to teach High School Music and continued my studies at Montclair State University where I majored in music therapy and worked as a music therapist at Overlook State Hospital. During this period I also started my own music school, “Star Music”.

After my classical music training and education I went on as a free-lance trumpeter playing with such groups as Tito Puente, The O.J.’s, The Glenn Miller Orchestra and many other groups in the New York area. I started my studies with Jerome in 1973 and his techniques then helped to develop a high lead trumpet range. Then I took a 12-year hiatus from the music industry to pursue other interest. In 1993 I resumed playing and continued studies with Jerome.

How did you "find" your instrument, the natural trumpet?
In 1997 I accompanied Jerome to Sweden to an I.T.G. Conference. At that time I had the good fortune to meet Friedemann Immer, who is in my option the finest Baroque Trumpeter in the World. My main focus was playing Baroque music on Piccolo Trumpet. After Friedemann heard my Piccolo playing he invited me to study with him at a Master Class in Germany. During that class he introduced me to the Baroque Trumpet. I was a bit hesitant since I did not known much about the instrument. Friedemann said, “You try it, I think you will do well”. He handed me his horn and I played a 2-octave arpeggio to high C and down in the harmonic series of the horn and Friedemann exclaimed, “You are a Natural”, to which I replied “I Natural, Natural Trumpeter?" We both had a good laugh. At the end of the Master Class Friedemann gave me a Baroque Trumpet to take back to the States. He wanted to see if my interest would continue. The rest is history, I was hooked.

You are the co-author of Trumpet Secrets. Tell us about this book project!
The book lays down a systematic approach to understanding the workings of the Embouchure. It has been my experience as well as many others that when we ask a great player to please explain how he is able to play with out effort and strain, the answer is too often the same, ”I don’t know, I just play naturally”.


Jerome had been planning to write a new book for some time. After years of drawing side views of the embouchure with his free hand and writing explanations of the Tongue position in relation to the teeth and lips, he realized that he had found the Secrets of the great players. The sub-title, “Secrets of the Tongue Controlled Embouchure” came to me while waiting in an airport in Germany and re-reading the drafts. I realized that the Tongue controlled the entire Embouchure.

Why is the "tongue-controlled-embouchure" so well suited for playing the baroque trumpet?
As you well know, the Natural or Baroque Trumpet does not have the luxury of valves. Every note has to be focused and centered in order to play the instrument. I have heard many good Piccolo trumpet players fall short when they try to play the Baroque Trumpet.
When you first start to play the Baroque Trumpet you realize immediately that your embouchure is your total mechanism. The “Tongue Controlled Embouchure” will help you to develop the tongue and lip muscles needed to perform not only on the Baroque Trumpet, it can be used on all Brass Instruments.

In the Baroque era the trumpet players were members of a guild and they kept their skill a secret. We do not know what technique the players in Leipzig and Dresden used when they played the clarino parts. When looking at the music that Bach wrote for trumpet, we know that Gottfried Reiche and others must have had a very effective embouchure. What do you think?
I honestly believe that those great players of the Baroque Era had to be using their tongues to control all the notes. We will never know for certain, but if I can play all the Trumpet parts that Bach wrote on the Baroque Trumpet with my tongue in this forward position as described by Jerome Callet - what logical conclusion can we come to? To think that a great Genius like Bach would have accepted a spread and out of tune tone from a Trumpeter is ridicules. If you look at all the Art from the period, it plainly depicts the Trumpeter as having puffed checks. If you look at photographs of the great Trumpeters of Modern times, you notice that they play with a puffed Embouchure caused by the Tongue.

About the basic training method for natural trumpet, could you point out some of the important things?
Obviously, warming up is an important part of brass playing and the amount of time one uses to warm up is arbitrary. I strongly suggest that in warming up you start at the lowest note with a strong attack and slurr up to the highest note and down again. The ability to play in the style of the period requires the technique of Unequal-Tonguing and this section must be practiced frequently. The Set-Tongue Studies are invaluable if you are going to play the music of the Baroque Period.

Do you teach this new method?
Yes, and I have been for many years. I’ve gotten tremendous results with both beginners and professionals.

You have a Baroque trio called Buccina Cantorum, tell us about it!
The name “Buccina Cantorum” literally translated from the Latin means ”Singing with the Trumpet”. The group consists of Harpsichord, Mezzo-Soprano/Contralto and Baroque Trumpet. Each member is a Virtuoso in his or her own right. We have been performing together for 3 years and have dedicated ourselves to the performance styles and techniques of the Baroque Period. Our New CD “Music of the Italian Baroque” has just been released and is available at the Callet website www.super-chops.com. Our performances include demonstrations of the Natural Trumpet, Baroque Trumpet and the Tromba da Tirarsi. We also give a brief description of the musical forms and the Composers.

What future plans do you have?
My future plans are to educate the brass-playing world to the advantages of the “Tongue Controlled Embouchure”, thru private lessons, clinics and performance. I plan to build a Conservatory in my hometown and invite players from around the world to come visit, play and learn.

You can email me at: BAROQUEBAHB@aol.com

Bahb, thank you very much for this cyber talk!

o.j. 2003