To The Editor:
In the latest issue of TL/BA Journal, I was quite taken by the commentary of Frank Byrne on the making of the CD Portrait Of An Artist, and how to listen to it and appreciate it. The music world owes Frank a great debt of gratitude for his perseverence in producing this truly remarkable testament to the late Arnold Jacobs.
While some would take issue with Byrne calling Arnold Jacobs the greatest tubist of the 20th Century, and with equal respect to Bill Bell and the others, it is time that Arnold Jacobs was so recognized. It is also sad that there are so many who only recognize him as solely a proponent of loud playing. To take that view only underscores that fact that most have never critically listened to the many recordings on which his singing sound supported and enhanced, but never intmded. Byrne makes note of Jacobs’s sound coming through on the old Reiner recordings when only a single microphone was used. Jacobs bought a belhfront Holton, but when Reiner saw it said, “That belongs in a band,” and off the stage it went. One time we were discussing the recording of Strauss’s Symphonia Domestica. The last three notes come through like no others. Jacobs confided to me that Reiner wanted more and more sound, so, “I finally stood up and pointed my bell right at the mic, and Reiner loved the playback,” Jacobs said.
One thing that might bother some who never knew Arnold Jacobs, or who took only a lesson or two, is the seeming stilted way he speaks in the segment recorded in his basement. At one time early in his career, he sang in a vocal ensemble at a radio station, and subsequently became a part-time announcer at the station. Whenever he got in front of a microphone, he often spoke in the stylized manner common to radio announcers of the 1930s. One only has to listen to a newscaster of that era such as H. B. Kaltenbome or Walter Winchel to hear the inflections.
Those who never knew Arnold Jacobs will never know of his kindness and humanity. I recall a clinic he gave in Cedar Rapids, Iowa in 1962 or 1963, where he was asked about the fourth and fifth valves on his York tuba. He gave a very lucid explanation, after which a band director in the audience was heard to mutter, “I’m a three-valve man, and proud of it. Those other valves are just a frill.” Arnold smiled and gave a tonal explanation of the tuning possibilities and problems the fourth and fifth valves solved, never once alluding to his critic’s remarks. Others would have thrown down the gauntlet to the ill-informed individual and publicly excoriated him: Arnold didn’t.
Frank Byrne spoke of Arnold Jacobs’s love of music, but I believe that his love extended far beyond that. He loved people, and especially his students. I recall a lesson in which I could do nothing right. In his view, I was beginning to “arrive” as a player, and after being severely criticized for virtually every note, he concluded our lesson with, “I’m sorry I was so rough on you, but I’ve got to prepare you for the likes of Fritz Reiner.” I wasn’t troubled with his criticism, but he was and wanted me to know. When something went well in a lesson and later on the stage of Orchestra Hall and elsewhere, his joy at my success seemingly exceeded my own. He was the gentlest gentleman I’ve ever known.
Arnold Jacobs’s last years were anything but golden. His vision was failing, he had difficulty walking, he hurt everywhere, yet his passion for his student had the same fire it did decades earlier. He lamented his inability to still play, yet when the mouthpiece touched his lips. the same marvelous sound came out the bell.
A familiar passage from The Bible ends, “The greatest of these is love,” and when I think of Arnold Jacobs I think of love: the love of his art and for his fellow man.
John M. Taylor
To The Editor:
I was surprised by the revisionist ballot for officers I recently received. TUBA was founded in 1968 by Robert Ryker, not in1973 as the ballot states. By 1972, it was evident that Ryker could not alone handle the burgeoning membership. A meeting, chaired by Harvey Phillips and attended by Arnold Jacobs and about 25 or 30 other members, was held in 1972 at the Midwest Band Clinic at the Sherman House Hotel in Chicago. At that meeting, Phillips was elected president, and by early 1973 under his guidance, the organization took on much of its current shape.
To the Editor:
Per the “Just for the Fun of It” column in the spring issue of the Journal, I agree with your concept of the community band, but in my area (Waterloo-Cedar Falls, Iowa) there is virtually no place for an amateur to play. The “community” bands are seated about 95% by “vested” players, professional musicians, music educators/professors, and university performance majors. Hence, there is no place for an amateur euphoniumist or tubist, because we’re talking about 3-4 of the former, and perhaps 5-6 of the latter in the entire county band programs. Positions are supposedly chosen by audition, and for an amateur who plays well in groups but not in an auditionsetting, there is no hope.
Thankfully, our area has a New Horizons Band, a concept started, I believe, at Eastman School of Music/ University of Rochester for people aged 50+ who
1) have never played an instrument but want to start
2) want to start playing again after years of not being able to
3) want to learn a different instrument.
This is a perfect amateur setting for people close to the age “requirement” (I’m a year or two short, but no one is checking my ID). This leaves a huge gap, though, for amateurs between high school and age 50.
I’m wondering how many real community bands are out there, and how many others are really places for professionals to play throughout the summer.
Jean K. Potratz
UNI New Horizons Band
(Janesville has no community band)