Date: Mon, 6 May 2002 09:40:43 -1000
From: "Mark Minasian" <>
Subject: RE: Re: [TPIN] heart/physics/analysis/paralysis


    Thoughtful post.  I wonder how many real embouchure problems walked into
Bill Adam's studio at Indiana.  I doubt there were too many.  Most
embouchure problems were weeded out before they ever got to Indiana.  I tend
to doubt that Jerry Hey had a mess of an embouchure problem when he got to

Well, let's see.....I walked into Mr. Adam's office after having my chops fall apart and being unable to play an A above the staff to save my life. Dr. Karl Sievers has told me that, when he went to Mr. Adam, he couldn't play a high C. Go to his Bach Trumpet Corner website and you can hear a wonderful sound file of him doing the Brandenburg. I've heard from many that Charley Davis could barely play a tuning note when he was accepted into Mr. Adam's studio. Randy Brecker couldn't play much of anything nor was he very good at reading when he arrived. Chris Botti needed an embouchure change and substantial work on sound concept. In fact, I'd say the MAJORITY of Adam's students needed significant chop work when they entered.  While IU's music school was prestigious and OTHER faculty would only accept students that, basically, didn't need their help beyond running orchestral excerpts, Mr. Adam accepted anyone with the willingness to work hard.

I heard Mr. Adam tell a story of Stan Kenton's band coming to IU when Charley was a senior. The lead trumpeter looked at Charley and said "You'll never play high on that embouchure." Charley then played a lead line up to double C then asked "What do you think of my embouchure now?"

Mr. Adam was not respected among other faculty at IU because his undergraduate students did not play well. Many were "bulls in a china shop", had rough sounds and played too loud. When the ensemble directors would complain, Mr. Adam's response was that he's not there to put students in ensembles but to train them to be trumpet players. It never seemed to register with them that the marvelous principal trumpet in the philharmonic was the rough sounding, struggling trumpeter sitting in the concert band 3 years earlier.

Bryan Edgett's quote of Bill Adam saying "If a student comes in here with an embouchure problem, I just blow that sound at him until it goes away" is not representative of the Adam method. Mr. Adam may have said something like that, as he has a "down home" way about him and doesn't get into much detail with those who do not understand his methods, but he would analyze, diagnose and solve his students' playing problems. However, HE, the TEACHER would do the analysis and prescribe the solution. The student was told to keep his mind focused on producing a beautiful sound, not knowing the mechanics of what Mr. Adam was doing at the time.

Last night, I watched part of a broadcast of "The Karate Kid". I've always found that movie a good metaphor for Mr. Adam's teachings. The kid goes to a master and wants to learn Karate. The master tells him to "paint the fence", "wax the car", etc. After working diligently, not understanding the reasons his teacher has him doing this, he confronts the master. The teacher says "Show me Paint the Fence" etc. and the kid is able to easily defend an attack. At that point, the light goes on in his head and he realizes that the master has been teaching him and he has developed finely tuned skills while only focusing on simple end results.

I think most Adam students can relate, the frustration and desire to "know what's wrong", but Mr. Adam just telling them to keep doing what they're doing then, years later, the AHA light going on as they realize they're playing very well and all the hard work finally makes sense.

I was at the surprise birthday party held for Mr. Adam when he turned 80. Students spanning over 50 years of his teaching were there. I flew in from Hawaii. Others came from Europe, Australia and Japan. The room was a who's who list of top call trumpeters and Charley Davis said to me "for the first time in their careers, 3rd string trumpeters in New York and Hollywood are getting calls". For all those hundreds people to drop whatever they were doing and fly to Bloomington to celebrate their teacher, well, I think Mr. Adam did a bit more than blow his horn at us.

I have a student now, a senior in high school. I went to his Spring concert Friday night and listened to him play principal in the band then principal in the orchestra on Brahms 2 and the finale to Firebird then play lead in the jazz ensemble. After the concert, I chatted with his band director on how far Max has come. As a freshman, last chair in the 3rd band, or, as the band director said "When he arrived, he couldn't blow his nose". Last year, 1st chair in the 2nd string band with about 10 trumpeters ahead of him and now, as a senior, playing well. I guess "blowing the sound at him" does work after all.

Mark Minasian