O.J.'s Trumpet Page Interview

Lasting Change for Trumpeters

Book cover

An interview with Luis Loubriel

Arnold Jacobs was considered to be one of the most influential brass pedagogues of the 20th Century. This is evident in the number of articles and books that have been published as a tribute to his work. Many players studied with him during his 62-year teaching career. Jacobs teaching principles were summarized by the expression "Song and Wind".

Luis Loubriel was born in San Juan, Puerto Rico. In 1983 he began  his studies at Northwestern University in Evanston, IL. At the same time he took private lessons with Arnold Jacobs of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. In 2006,
Luis published the book, "Lasting Change for Trumpeters".  We had a short "cyber-talk" with Luis about this book:

Before we start talking about the book, could you tell us a bit about your background as a trumpeter and teacher?
I have to start when I was very young because my neighbor was a very fine trumpet player so I had the sound of the trumpet in my ear since I can remember.  By age nine Don Cesar Concepcion (the Harry James of the Latin World) was a family friend and gave me my first trumpet lesson.  I would also go hear great brass players downtown San Juan, such as Harry Glantz, Armando Ghitalla, Mel Broiles, and even Arnold Jacobs, play with the Casals Festival Orchestra of Puerto Rico in those early years.

I studied music at the Escuela Libre de Musica and the Conservatory (founded by Pablo Casals whom I met) of the same city.

When I turned 16 I joined the American Federation of Musicians to play with the Philharmonic, the Zarzuelas Orchestra, and extra with the Puerto Rico Symphony.  I was the junior member of all of the trumpet sections I played with.  All of those fabulous players played like angels.

By the time I got to Northwestern University to study with Vincent Cichowicz I already had acquired two years of professional playing experience.  I also, for the next seven years, went downtown Chicago to hear Herseth play with the Chicago Symphony and teach trumpet sectionals on a regular basis.  In Chicago I played with the Chicago Civic Orchestra, the Chicago Chamber Orchestra, Elgin Symphony, and (for one weekend) with the Artie Shaw Orchestra as an extra player at the Medinah Temple with Artie Shaw conducting!

In Minneapolis I studied with Manny Laureano (Principal Trumpet of the Minnesota Orchestra) and David Baldwin for six years.  They both gave me a strong technical/musical background.  In Minneapolis I also had the chance to play with the Minnesota Orchestra as substitute and extra player and with Canadian Brass Quintet in a series of concerts.  Those were some of my formative experiences as a trumpeter.

I owe my teaching “chops” to my mother who has been a professor of education at the University of Puerto Rico for 50 years!  She teaches her students how to teach.  I was always following her around as a kid and I learned most of what I know about teaching by watching her teach.  She is a remarkable teacher.  I also earned a doctoral minor in music education and I have taught applied trumpet for 18 years.  I always had a deep interest on how people learned and taught.

How did this book project start?
The project started around 1984.  My “youth orchestra” in Chicago practiced in the same building where Jacobs taught.  You could hear every word he said from outside the door and every Saturday I would try to get as much information as I could.  I was amazed on how efficient and effective Jacobs was in his lessons.  I could also tell, from Jacobs’s students I knew in Chicago, that his teaching produced lasting changes.

I kept asking Cichowicz questions about so many of the concepts I had heard from Jacobs that, perhaps to get a break from me, he (Cichowicz) started loaning me textbooks from his private library.  Many of those books had been suggested to him by Jacobs.  The collection included Percy Buck’s Psychology for Musicians (Oxford) and Maxwell Maltz' Psycho-Cybernetics.

For the next fifteen years I read about 800 more books on psychology trying to find more answers to my questions and in the late 1990’s I took a year sabbatical in Amsterdam (Holland) to put it all together.  For the next four years I transcribed 150 hours of Jacobs’ lectures, 93 hours of taped private lessons given by Jacobs, and 15 hours of taped interviews with expert trumpet teachers.  The result is “Lasting Change for Trumpeters”.

How is the book organised?
At a technical level the book is a “qualitative study” that uses a method a triangulation to extract the four basic elements found in Jacobs’ teaching.  System theories are then used to “tract” the evolution of those four elements through a spiral that is dynamic (it moves from less complex to more complex).

At a narrative level the first chapter of the book takes a comparative look at the teaching methodologies prevalent during the Twentieth century with that of Jacobs.  The first chapter also traces the gradual introduction of scientific data as the basis of pedagogical decision-making and writings.

Chapter two discusses in detail each of the elements found in Jacobs’ teaching by following a trajectory of “upward causation” (building up one element at the time to get to an end result) and “downward causation” (going from the end result down to the elements).  All of the elements are discussed using Jacobs’ own words. I transcribed and edited those words using Jacobs’ speech patterns.

Chapter three summarizes chapters one and two in order to continue into, perhaps, the most technical part of the book.  This part is meant for those readers wishing to do further research or who are curious enough to take a look at what we do as teachers and players from an advanced psychological standpoint.

Finally, the appendices are the transcriptions of the lessons and lectures I used as data for the study.  If the reader wishes, this part can be read as a separate book.  The books has 261 pages of great reading.

Arnold Jacobs educational concept is summarized in the expression "Song and Wind". Could you elaborate on that?
That phrase works at various levels.  However, in 1995 Jacobs summarized the motto “Song and Wind” as follows: “You are a musician and things have to be always worked out based on music.  The final arbitral in everything is sound, phrase, and style.  Now, the words “Song and Wind” are very important.  Song has to do with the bio-computer and wind is your motor force.  Just like the bow is the motor force for the string family.  The bow is just a bow without a string.  Our string is our lip.  You cannot associate your lip with the reed family because it is a different principle.  Theirs is a piece of wood.  Your lip is part of you and it is tied into your nervous system.  The woodwind reed is not.  As a result you have to associate your lip with your vocal chords.  Then you get the picture.  You sing with your lips”.
At another level the phrase “Song and Wind” refers to the artistic aspects of playing (Song) and the scientific aspects of playing (Wind).  Both are very important but they have to be put in the right perspective.

At another level yet, the phrase “Song and Wind” refers to the way of performing and practicing.  That is, building from the end result downwards (downward causation) and building from each element upwards towards the end result (upward causation).

It is interesting to note that the “basic layout” of the Arban’s Method Book follows those two principles.  The first 45% or so works with upward causation and the second 55% or so (The Art of phrasing) works with downward causation.

Some people find it strange that trumpet players would go and study with a tuba player?
In many ways all brass instruments, and their players, function similarly.  There will be differences in terms of repertoire, styles, and the physiology involved in playing.  However, the basic psychological mechanisms will be similar to all brass instruments. Most trumpet players went to see Jacobs seeking specific answers for specific psychological and physiological problems and at that level Jacobs was able to help them.

How was your lessons with Arnold Jacobs?
My lessons with Jacobs were very good.  He told me I would be done in three or four lessons since he did not see any major problems in my playing.  By the time I studied with him I was well versed in his concepts.  I had already studied with Cichowicz and William Scarlett, had attended several of his master classes at Northwestern, and I had served as a translator in two lessons for him (Jacobs).

I would also call him at home, per his suggestion, with questions concerning some of the principles he used in his teaching. He always had time to talk to me, answered everything fully, and encouraged me to continue my research.

What do you mean by the title "lasting change"?
It is difficult to answer that fully without qualifying the answer a bit but I can tell you that “lasting change” refers to the ability of the player to develop the deficient elements of his or her playing on a continuous basis.  There is also the issue of achieving higher stages of development and acquiring insights but I am afraid, because of the length of the discussion, you all will have to read the book for that.

You talk about "the singing approach" and something called MEME. This is difficult to talk about in a short interview, but could you perhaps say something about the various elements of playing that we have to develop?
The “singing approach” refers to the thought pattern a brass players should have before playing the “entry note” of any phrase.  In other words, a brass player should “feel”, up to the moment of buzzing, as if he or she where to sing.  It is that similar to the act singing.

The singing approach is what we call a vMEME (or value MEME).  A vMEME is a guiding thought that is composed of various MEMEs.  The four MEMEs that compose the “Singing Thought” pattern vMEME are
the physical aspects of playing,
the aural skill aspect,
the mental images of styles, and
the performance attitudes
MEMEs.  I know this is all very technical but it is very easy to understand once you comprehend it.

Who would benefit from this book, and how should they use it?
Advanced, amateurs, and professional players will benefit most from this book. In other words, players entering college age, graduate school, or early and/or seasoned professional players.

Finally, where can people get the book?
Ordering information is available at www.luisloubriel.com.

o.j. 2006