From: "Peter A. Sokolowski" <>
Date: Wed, 21 May 1997 12:36:26 +0000
Subject: lesson with MVC part I (long)

Hi folks--

A few have requested that I give more details about my lesson with Mark Van Cleave, so I will do so for the sake of others who may be in a similar point in development and looking to improve (as I am).

Part I will cover my background so folks can follow what I say about the lesson in Part II with the proper context.

This requires a bit about where my playing is.  I am an enthusiastic amateur/semi-pro, and probably make around $2,000 a year playing trumpet in big bands (my real love), concert/marching groups, and church stuff.  I had wanted to be a music major when I entered college in 1988 (I had played in district and all-state groups), but the previous fall I injured my top lip from overplaying (too much pressure) and it would swell if I even *thought* about playing for a good six months.

My hopes of studying music dashed, I expressed my love of music as a listener/collector/discographer and ended up being the jazz director for a public radio station during school.  In addition to radio shows, I founded and produced a successful (and still vibrant) jazz concert series at UMass-Amherst and wrote about the music for University publications. I've also done some producing and on-air stuff for the local NPR affiliate. I digress.

I called Jerry Callet and had some lessons to start over.  This was obviously arduous and time consuming, but I guess I was motivated (cf. the Claude Gordon quote which someone uses as a signature).  I knew all the music majors and practiced in their building, but could not study with the professor of trumpet--I was lucky enough to study for one year with his excellent TA, but since 1990 I have really had no regular instruction.

My development was obviously influenced by Callet (corners moving in/bottom lip over top teeth/tongue through the teeth) and I decided to approach range and general playing through flexibility (as opposed to the Clarke/Arban approach of playing excercises and wondering if they're doing any good.  I've seen literally dozens of trumpet majors retain stiffness and stuffiness by hoping that brainless repetition of Clarke's will be the panacea).

I got to the point where I had good flexibility and good range (F's and G's) and good endurance, but not much power, and a couple of annoying "breaks" in my register (emouchure shifts).  This is about where I was when I started on TPIN in early '95.

My philosophy has developed considerably, and since I've been autodidactic I have no qualms about giving credit to TPIN to some of the more fruitful ideas that I am currently espousing.  Firstly, Clyde's "silent whistle" approach has helped me conceptualize the function of the embouchure.  Eddie Lewis' notion that good range comes from good *trumpet* playing, not the other way around, is also central to my practice habits.  Finally, as I was a flexibility nut, Mark Van Cleave's notion of "low loud, high softer" for lip slurs was a revelation and a brilliant discovery.  Also, following the advice of all on TPIN, I have recently started with a superb private (NEC-trained legit) teacher and bought a new horn, both of which have helped me enormously.

Since this is where I was and what I was working on when I met MVC, I knew (and I was right) that we were more or less on the same page philosophically.  I had developed, albeit more slowly, exactly as he had without knowing it (or knowing about his method)--his words, not mine.  I haven't seen Callet in years (and have no real desire to), yet MVC told me that I have a "picture perfect" Callet embouchure (BTW--I no longer tongue through my teeth, but the rest of my chops were "set" by Callet).

Part II will cover the lesson and advice from MVC.


Northampton, MA/Boston, MA