The Art of Brass Playing
Gene Anderson - Superstition Mountain Rotary
Gene Anderson learned to play the tuba before he ever really understood how to play the tuba.  Sound confusing – not really.
As a young man believing he knew how to play the tuba, Gene thought he should take a more advanced lesson or two. Thinking he could demonstrate his skills, Gene took his first “advanced” lesson with Arnold Jacobs, master teacher and principal tuba player for the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. What he learned on the first lesson was enlightening and devastating. He really did not know anything about the art of playing the tuba!
Gene described his first lesson in detail. He’d lugged his tuba more than a hundred miles but Jacobs was not interested is listening to Gene’s attempt to impress the master. Jacobs had his own agenda … and the tuba was not in it.
Jacobs first wanted to know if Gene’s lung capacity was adequate so he had Gene blow air into a plastic bag to measure lung capacity. Then came the tests. There was the exercise of blowing into a tube to control the position of a ping pong ball floating on a column of air. Another was keeping a piece a paper fixed to a wall for a fixed amount of time by blowing on it. The tests would reveal if Gene could really control his breath. Without mastering these skills Gene’s aspirations of becoming a truly accomplished tuba player would be for naught.
Next was the analysis of Gene’s facial muscles, his mouth, his teeth and his lips. An embouchure was used to see if Gene could achieve the proper balance between the upper and lower lips. It also revealed whether the correct position of the upper and lower teeth was being achieved. The upper and lower teeth need to be lined up evenly to create a flat surface when positioning the mouthpiece of a brass instrument.
Finally Jacobs asked Gene to play the selection he had chosen for the lesson so Gene reached for his tuba.  Not so fast Gene!  Just the mouthpiece Gene!  So without the tuba and just the mouthpiece Gene tried to play his musical selection. There was a problem. The music coming from Gene’s head and lips was not good enough … and pushing that music through a tuba was not going to make it any better. Arnold Jacobs knew that Gene had to understand the following truth …
The musical instrument in your head
Is more important than the musical instrument in your hand
For Gene, learning to play a musical selection without the tuba was an awakening which led to mastering The Art of Brass Playing and a long successful career in music.
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