Time for a checkup, I thought. I've been “coming back” for a year and a half now after a 32 year break from the trumpet and thought it was time to get professional help, to see if I was on track, to see where I should go next. During my time on TPIN, I'd been most impressed with Joanne’s patience and kindness not to mention with her depth of knowledge, her generosity and the independent testimonials as to her musical prowess. So I decided to try for an appointment with the ChopDoc.
My wife’s family lives on Cape Cod, just down the road from Jeanne I thought. We were long overdue for a family visit, so what better time to contact Jeanne. A 3 hour lesson seemed about right - I contacted Jeanne and that was fine with her. Jeanne reserved 2-5 in an afternoon for me, warning me that she'd have to cut it off to get ready for a big-band rehearsal. All was set.
The day came, I left plenty of time to allow for getting lost in finding
her place. Little did I know that a piece of an overpass had fallen
onto the roadbed of route 3 stopping traffic. I attached myself to
the end of the backup about halfway between the Sagamore bridge and Boston.
Only then did I turn on the radio to hear that an alternate route was suggested.
I got off Rt 3 to take that route just to find another endless jam.
With the help of a map, I navigated 20 or so miles around the whole mess
and 15 minutes before I was due to arrive, finally found a working pay
phone. I got her answering machine. Great! She is on such a
tight schedule that she
isn't home yet. She’s probably rushing to get home and here I am, still south of Boston. I explained what had happened and where I was.
Her directions were perfect and the rest of the route was clear, but I did arrive 45 minutes late, frazzled from the journey, nervous about meeting her, especially after throwing a monkey wrench into her schedule. Jeanne couldn't have been nicer. She welcomed me as if I were a long lost friend and didn't seem to mind my tardiness. It was perfect, because it gave her some time to rest, she said. We didn't wrap things up until after 6 - it was me that got nervous about her being late for her rehearsal - she didn't mention the rehearsal until after we finished the lesson, in fact, after she gave me a tour of the house.
She put me right at ease. I had brought along my Meha Bb and my Getzen cornet which she put to the test. She got sounds out of them that I could only dream of. We talked at length about what I had done more than what I wanted to do. Then she asked me to warm up.
As I started the Jeanne Pocius Warm-ups she studied my face intensely, then stopped me. From this point on, she began to direct me through an embouchure change. I had been through one change when I was at Hartt College that took 10 weeks to complete. It had been devastating to my confidence. I didn't relish going through that again. I was somewhat disappointed as she asked me to reshape my mouth, put the mouthpiece to my lips and play an F. Didn't sound good. Tweak, tweak, tweak. Again. Sounded better. Tweak, tweak. Much better. OK, up the scale, mmmm. Again - wow. I can't even feel it. I mean it is just coming out with NO EFFORT on my part. Is this for real? She said that I'd find that I can play a lot longer this way. In fact, that I'd find that my strength will increase as I play.
I got to the second line of her marcato warm-up exercise c-c-c-c-c-g-c. I didn't believe what I heard. “Surprised yourself didn't you?” she smiled. “You should have seen your face.” Guess I visibly reacted to what I heard coming out of my horn. So strong, solid, clear and with so little effort. Yes, I had surprised myself. This was all it took for an embouchure change? Maybe the hard part is turning the setup into habit, but the setup worked after only minutes.
She didn't like the way I held the horn - another change. Hmmm, NO EFFORT. The horn just sort of floats there. This change didn't kick in as quickly. Throughout the lesson, I kept picking up the horn the old way. It did take the whole 3 hours to make that seem more natural.
Cheeks too tight, relax. Well, one thing led to another and it wasn't long before I was really surprising myself. My tone deepened, richened - she kept asking me how it felt. I kept saying something dumb like “different.” It was more like - I can't feel a thing and who is it that is making that wonderful sound - pinch me I must have fallen asleep at the wheel on Rt 3.
The trip back to the folks house included another traffic jam. I was starved and thirsty. I got back well after dinner, it was dark - I dragged myself into the house. I thought I must have looked like something even the cat wouldn't drag in. My wife looked at me and said that it must have been a great lesson for me to be smiling like that. Smiling? You've got to be kidding. Sure enough, the mirror showed me smiling Maybe it was all a nice dream after all.
The next day I tried out what I had learned. WOW was my wife’s reaction. I can't believe the change was her mother’s. Day after day the same. No pain, little effort - lots of good clear tone. My reading improved tremendously because I no longer had to concentrate on hitting the notes, they just came out. Fingers still fumbled but clams became a rarity. I got to practice for 3 weeks before I had the first real test, a concert with the community band. I surprised the others in the trumpet section who kept looking at me as though I were a new guy. My 3rd part in Bugler’s Holiday came off flawlessly - my wife said that for the first time, my tone matched the 1st - the section leader.
My lesson with Jeanne contained a lot more than the embouchure change, but that was the miracle for me. I had told her beforehand that I had a lot of difficulty sight reading. She had me spend the whole lesson sight reading. We ended by playing a number of duets, including some nice jazz things. I went away with a short list of new music to get and a lot of confidence that I've jumped up to the next plateau.
If you find yourself near Boston, and don't make an appointment for a lesson with Jeanne, you will kick yourself when you finally do. A tour of her beautiful house is also a treat you shouldn't resist. And you must ask to hear her Christmas CD. Heavenly.
Thank you Jeanne from the bottom of my heart.
- - Don Nafis