Reprinted from The Instrumentalist – December 1998
by Kevin Kelly
When Arnold Jacobs died on October 7,1998, he left a legacy of concepts and former students that few have equalled. During his lifetime Jacobs drew an endless parade of musicians to his studio, from the obvious tuba players to professional singers and woodwind players. Because he suffered a childhood illness that left him with diminished lung capacity, Jacobs began to study the mechanics of breathing. This soon became a lifetime pursuit that was never an end in itself, just a means to play well without the hinderance of improper breathing habits. Indeed, after extensive instruction on correct breathing, Jacobs would then admonish students to just match the sound in their mind with comments such as “Have Herseth in your head” or “You must have a tape recording in your head of what you want the sound coming out of your horn to be like.”
Descriptions in articles about playing wind instruments generally contain more errors than truths on how to breathe. During the late 1970s The Instrumentalist deleted all such descriptions until it could obtain and print the definitive explanation of what moves air in and out. That article finally appeared in the December 1983 issue in a joint interview with Arnold Jacobs and David Cugell , then director of the pulmonary function laboratory at Northwestern Memorial Hospital in Chicago, Illinois. In memory of Jacobs’ lifetime of achievement as a teacher and performer, we reprint substantial portions of that classic article.
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