Lasting Change for Trumpeters
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
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
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.
did this book project start?
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
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
Jacobs educational concept is summarized in the expression "Song
and Wind". Could you elaborate on 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
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?
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?
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"?
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
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
“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
physical aspects of playing,
know this is
all very technical but it is very easy to understand once you
the aural skill
of styles, and
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
where can people get the book?
information is available at www.luisloubriel.com.