An Interview With Vincent Penzarella…

Another great interview from TPTV. Through a series of interviews with many of his former students, TubaPeopleTV (TPTV) is dedicated to highlighting the pedagogy and professional stature of longtime Chicago Symphony Principal Tubist and master pedagog, Arnold Jacobs.


Click here to check out the many great interviews on this site

Retired NY Philharmonic trumpeter, Vincent Penzarella went to Mr. Jacobs’ studio in 1958 after having a very severe accident resulting in serious damage to his embouchure. “He brought me back from the dead” Penzarella said about Jacobs. For the first thirteen months Penzarella could not get a sound with his lips. Jacobs demonstrated tremendous ingenuity and patience as he guided Penzarella to a point at which he could again play at the professional level. Song (music) was always first, no matter how many gadgets were being used in a lesson. Developing the sound of the trumpet in his mind was key to getting the lips to respond. The “present negative.” If you are playing great “hear it better.” Jake’s order of importance: 90% music, 9% air, 1% lip. “You’re trying too hard.” Breathing bag exercises are discussed. Ho in and tOH out.

The Great Arnold Jacobs

Penzarella discusses the re-training process Jacobs exposed him with regard to being able to vocalize Ho and tOH. Sit in a standing position when playing. Listen in your mind as a listener while playing (rather than listening to yourself while playing). Don’t try to fix what is wrong, but establish in your mind what is right. Believe that what you’re doing is right. Be an actor. The three things that Jacobs impressed upon Penzarella were 1) the first teacher has to be the music, 2) the second teacher has to be the brain in order to coordinate what the multiple functions that the body must do, 3) the last teacher has to be the tape recorder because it never lies. Jacobs knew not only about the system of respiration, but also about the mind of each of his students.

Penzarella notes that about 99% of the students he works with are working harder in terms of physical effort and air pressure inside the body than is necessary. He uses sound to teach the right direction. Go for the cause (sound) rather than the effect (effort). Use techniques of imagination to guide the musical product desired. Jacobs had several points for breathing, 1) weakness is your friend, 2) breathe to expand, don’t expand to breathe, 3) the end of your inhalation is the start of your exhalation with the least amount of hesitation.


Penzarella compares his lessons between Jacobs and Herseth: Jacobs – Here is everything I have for you, and I hope you can use it and feed off it. Herseth – Was more sheltered and less open in his approach with students. Charlier #2 lesson story. Parsifal lesson story. Herseth saw one sound as another sound. He didn’t think of them as high or low. Your body is much more relaxed if your brain is relaxed. “Jacobs taught me to get to that point where my body would be a mirror of my mind.”


Penzarella talks about his time playing 2nd trumpet with John Ware, and then Phil Smith in the NY Philarmonic. Jacobs summarization – VP went to Jacobs after a period of intense physical and emotional trauma. Jacobs gave him hope, put him at ease, and helped VP to begin conceiving great excellence in his thoughts and then imitating those thoughts through his trumpet. “Have fun!” “Notes don’t matter, go for music, and you’ll get the notes. If you go for notes, you may not get the music.”

About brendanball

Professional Trumpeter: Soloist, Orchestra Player, Chamber Music, Contemporary Music & Education.
This entry was posted in The Brass Section. Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s