Jacobs: Song and Wind
Greetings from Las Vegas, Nevada! In the middle of the
desert, Las Vegas has become an internationally known playground. Once
a year, COMDEX, a major international computer show, attracts about 225,000
people. I am here on the convention floor writing to you.
|Arnold Jacobs is recognized as both the master
performer and the foremost teacher of wind instrument. Finally in 1996
a book written by Jacobs' assistant, Brian Frederiksen, entitled "Arnold
Jacobs: Song and Wind", arrived. We had a short "cyber-conversation"
Brian, the book has the title, "Song and Wind"
- why is that?
Song and Wind is a term that Mr. Jacobs have used
for years and a logical choice for the title of the book. Here is an excerpt
of Mr. Jacobs' comments on Song and Wind:
"My approach to music is expressed as Song and
Wind. This is very important to communicate a musical message to the audience.
"This approach is one of simplicity as the structure
and function of the human being is very complex, but we function in a simple
manner. When we bring it to the art form it becomes very simple.
"Song, to me, involves about 85 percent of the
intellectual concentration of playing an instrument, based on what you
want the audience to hear.
"You cannot get anywhere without wind. If you
think of a car, the wheels will not turn without an energy source—the engine.
Brass players must have a source of energy, as there must be a vibrating
column of air for the instrument to amplify and resonate. The musical engine
is the vibration of the lips. However, the lips cannot vibrate without
"When we combine Song and Wind, the musical message,
song, is the principal element comprising 85 percent of the consciousness.
The remaining 15 percent is the application of the breath, wind, to fuel
the vibration of the lips."
Could you briefly tell us the background for
this book project?
With such an influential teacher as Mr. Jacobs,
there was no question that a comprehensive book was needed. Dee Stewart
compiled Arnold Jacobs the Legacy of a Master in 1987 but, for the
most part, its contents were tributes from students. A more comprehensive
book was needed but the question was who would write it?
Mr. Jacobs once started on a book but the manuscript
was lost - a great tragedy! After his retirement from the Chicago Symphony,
he had the time but his health was failing with arthritis and glaucoma
to name a few problems. He was not physically capable of a project of this
I began research by scanning every source about
Mr. Jacobs. Next it was organized and an outline appeared. A team of Jacobs'
students went through this and Mr. Jacobs was cooperative answering questions.
The final draft was created and edited by John Taylor. Arnold Jacobs:
Song and Wind has been shipped across the world, from Australia to
Scandinavia, Israel to Japan.
So what next - yet another book. Mr. Jacobs has
agreed to more interviews, which will be included in Conversations with
Questions are now being sought - please contact
In the preface of the book you say: "In 1974,
I had my first lesson with Mr. Jacobs. It was the most remarkable lesson
I have ever had!"
I grew up in the Chicago area and my mother would
take me to Chicago Symphony concerts. I heard the great sounds of Mr.
Jacobs and the Chicago Symphony before I had ever played a note. Mr. Jacobs'
teaching has always been legendary and in 1974 it was time for me to start
what would be a lifetime relationship.
What is remarkable about Mr. Jacobs is his ability
to determine a student's strengths and weaknesses. A naturally positive
person, he will emphasize strengths wile setting a course of study to improve
weaknesses. To some, how he achieves results may be unorthodox but he is
looking for results. This may mean buzzing on a mouthpiece, running around
the studio, blowing up a ball, a few of many methods used by Mr. Jacobs.
During this first lesson, I was exposed first hand
to what I would eventually see him do hundreds of times - work with a player
and after 15 minutes make them sound better. While some of us can do this
some of the time, Mr. Jacobs does this all the time - which, among other
reasons, makes him the master! .
In his teaching, Jacobs uses equipment's like
Air Bags, Breath Builder….
Around 1960, Mr. Jacobs, along with three other
members of the Chicago Symphony, traveled to a University of Chicago hospital.
Many of the tests conducted on this laboratory equipment became the basis
of many of his theories. The most important information he gained was the
use of outside tools that could help speed up the learning process. He
then assembled equipment of his own borrowed from medical, air conditioning
and other fields including his wife's kitchen! While this equipment achieved
most of the results of the laboratory, the cost was still prohibitive.
In 1982, Mr. Jacobs introduced to the music world inexpensive devices that,
for the first time, allowed a student to own their own equipment.
Here is a brief description of this equipment. For
more detailed instructions, the WindSong Press home page on the Internet
is available at www.WindSongPress.com
Voldyne - This is a hospital device that
will give a rough measurement of lung capacity, up to five liters.
Inspiron - Unlike the Voldyne,
which is basically a measuring device, the Inspiron is used for
exercising. While inhaling, the unit is in an upright position and for
exhaling it must be turned upside down. Resistance can be adjusted and,
in the upside down position, a mouthpiece can be attached for buzzing exercises.
Breath Builder - Another exercising device,
this is simply a ping pong ball in a plastic tube with holes at the top
that can be closed to vary resistance. While not as versatile as the Inspiron,
it is much easier to use, especially with younger students.
Air Bags - A major problem of these other
devices is that oxygen is being exchanged making hyperventilation a problem.
For this reason, Mr. Jacobs recommends only a few minutes exercising at
a time with frequent rests. The use of air bags results in the rebreathing
of air, mostly carbon dioxide that does not cause hyperventilation.
Mouthpiece rims - Commonly called "embouchure
visualizers," Mr. Jacobs will have a student buzz with this rim on a stick.
Many times he will use this in conjunction with a decibel meter for a student
to see the output level.
After the release of Arnold Jacobs: Song and
Wind demand for these items have increased to the point that WindSong
Press now sells them. We are also developing new devices and finding software
that can achieve the same results as some of Mr. Jacobs' original equipment.
What in the book would be of specific interest
for a trumpet player?
Arnold Jacobs: Song and Wind has three sections
telling who Mr. Jacobs is, what he teaches and reference for gathering
more information. The teaching section contains the most material that
is of use for all wind instrumentalists. Here is some physiological and
psychological information on playing a wind instrument. All instruments
have a brief section about instrument-specific subjects.
Many trumpet players have recommended parts pertaining
to the relationship between air flow and air pressure. I am not surprised
as a number of trumpet players use too much air pressure! Mr. Jacobs will
commonly have a person blow into a gauge and measure the amount of pressure.
The highest pressure the human body can produce is around 3 pounds of pressure
and to achieve this, but their body's musculature contracts to a point
where it can withstand more than 100 pounds on their abdomen. Mr. Jacobs
demonstrates this by having his wife stand on this person. The point of
this demonstration is that the body can contract to hold 100 pounds but
is only capable of producing three pounds of pressure. Trumpet playing
demands far less - a maximum of less than 2 pounds of pressure, even in
the high range. There seem to be a lot of trumpet players out there who
are too tense and by-products of this are problems taking a full breath
- that is another subject!
Since we are doing this interview for a trumpet
periodical, could you tell us about Jacobs relation to CSO's principal
trumpet for the last 50 years, "Bud" Herseth?
During the research phase of Arnold Jacobs: Song
and Wind, I talked with many past or present members of the Chicago
Symphony Brass Section. Most said that their job was to "fit between Bud
(Herseth) and Jake (Jacobs). They became the "bookends" of perhaps the
greatest orchestral brass section.
It is remarkable that both came from small towns.
Jacobs commented "I am the only person who grew up in a smaller town than
Herseth." Herseth was raised in Bertha, Minnesota (population 700) and
Jacobs was from Willow Brook, California (population 400). Jacobs graduated
from the Curtis Institute of Music, spent two years with the Indianapolis
Symphony and five years with the Pittsburgh Symphony before joining the
Chicago Symphony in 1944.
Adolph Herseth was in the Army and graduated from
the New England Conservatory. Arthur Rodzinsky, then Music Director of
the Chicago Symphony, auditioned Herseth in his hotel room and after a
few hours told Herseth, "Congratulations, you are the Principal Trumpet
of the Chicago Symphony." Herseth was stunned. Rodzinsky then asked,
"What experience do you have." When Herseth told him "None,"
Rodzinsky was stunned. Herseth joined the Chicago Symphony in 1948, just
as Rodzinsky was fired. A few years later, Fritz Reiner was guest conducting
in Chicago and asked Jacobs "Where did you find that jewel?"
A great personal friendship exists between Herseth
and Jacobs even to this day. Herseth writes about Jacobs, "I cannot
think of anyone in our exotic world of music, and particularly, of course
in the world of brass players, who has made such a contribution to so many
facets of our art. Having Jake as a personal friend and colleague for all
these years has been a marvelous experience, not just for me, but for everyone
who had the good fortune to be associated with him both on stage and off
Jacobs has the highest respect for Herseth as he
states, "I've said it before and I'll say it again, Bud Herseth is the
finest brass player I have ever worked with."
How can our readers get this book?
At the present time, there is no distributor in
Norway. In Sweden, Michael Lind (the tubist in the Stockholm Philharmonic)
has a supply of books (Michael Lind, Torkils VAG 27, S-19273 Sollentuna,
Sweden). In Denmark, it is available at: Brass Center ABRS, 1517 Solvgade,
Dk 1307, Copenhagen K, Denmark.
The publisher is WindSong Press (P.O. Box 146, Gurnee,
Illinois 60030 USA) with a cost of $29.95 USD plus $6.95 USD shipping.
The post office generally delivers to all of Scandinavia in under a week.
Visa, MasterCard, and American Express are accepted. Orders can be mailed,
called to 847 223-4586, faxed to 847 223-4580, or emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org.
A web site on the Internet is available at:
Here is information on the book, directions and
ordering information about breathing devices used by Mr. Jacobs, a bibliography
of all information available about Mr. Jacobs and links to sites on the
web pertaining to Mr. Jacobs.
Finally, Brian, your last name, Frederiksen,
"suggest" that you have relatives here in Scandinavia?
On my father's side of my family, my grandmother
(the Olsson family) came to the States from Sweden, my grandfather from
Denmark. My stepfather's family (the Grundset's) was from Norway. Apparently
there are relatives in Scandinavia but I do not know. Any brass players
from the Olsson, Frederiksen or Grundset families there? Maybe you have
a lost tuba-playing relative in the United States!