Arnold Jacobs and Mindfulness – ep. 11

Arnold Jacobs

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I’m so excited to finally present this episode. This episode was written, recorded, and finished in January, ready before I had released any episodes, so I’ve been waiting a long time!

I discuss this in the episode itself, but I’ve been trained my whole trumpet life in the teaching of Arnold Jacobs, whether I knew I was or not. I learned the trumpet works best when we have a very strong concept of sound and we aim to create that sound, letting all the little things take care of themselves. From this perspective, playing an instrument becomes significantly more engaging as well. Instead of just going through the motions of executing tasks on the instrument, we become artists that are creating a musical product. I find myself much more invested in the outcome of my own playing after fully diving into this concept. Beyond my own experience, Jacobs teaching has extended so far and so wide, that I don’t think it’s a stretch to say he’s more known for his teaching than his exceptional career in the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. To see the amount of influence he had on the brass world is humbling and inspiring for me. I hope to be able to pass on the love and passion his teaching has infused into my playing to others so they can enjoy the many benefits of it as well!

This episode is mostly about using Arnold Jacobs’ approach to get into a great mindset for performance. I’ve used his methods to be able to focus in on my concept and to remove distraction or worry from my mental space, which I believe has been very helpful in creating a compelling product for people to hear. Although I have been learning these concepts my entire trumpet career, I don’t think I truly understood what they meant until I began to understand my own path with the practice of mindfulness.

When I was 25, I was engaged to a woman named Jenny. Just like many other relationships, we had our ups and downs. I remember the downs feeling really down though. So down that my mind would start going down rabbit holes it didn’t need to go down. I would start believing things that weren’t true just because I felt like I could somehow rationalize it. When we broke up, I was left quite confused. I had trouble sleeping, my mind was just racing and I couldn’t shut it off. One night, I spoke to my friend Blake and he recommended I watch this video¬†(that video is the first of four parts. It’s kind of dated, but the information is amazing). That was my first introduction into finally being able to see things a little more clearly and understand how I was contributing to the problems in my relationship. The next resource he recommended was The Power of Now, by Eckhart Tolle. Reading this book would ultimately change my life. To really embrace the practice of mindfulness as he explains in that book finally allowed me to learn to quiet my mind and be in a state of peace more often. That was years ago, and my understanding of it has changed drastically. I’m so thankful for these resources, as they ultimately have helped me understand my Christian faith in a much more profound way. I cannot recommend those resources enough to anyone and everyone. It’s not religious by nature, but that’s what I took from it.

So, how did this change my life? It’s pretty simple actually. I first let go of the past. Good and bad things happen all the time. While we can and should learn from those experiences, those experiences should not define us. All too often it’s easy to think if bad things happen to you while you perform, bad things will always happen to you when you perform. Conversely, and I’ve experienced this myself, if you experience a lot of success, and begin to think you will ALWAYS experience success, that first failure will be crushing. Another thing I learned is not to worry about the future. When the future gets here, it will be the present, and we can deal with it then. My mom always says “We’ll cross that bridge when we get to it”. And it’s very true. Anxiety about future events gets us nowhere. All we can do is make choices right here in this moment. And if we aren’t defined by the past, we can make ANY choice we want to make. It’s quite freeing actually. Focus on the present moment has made such a profound difference on my perspective and quality of life.

If we then take those concepts, and apply them to performing, they work equally as well. It’s quite common to miss a note in a performance situation. Many people will then focus on that missed note, and wonder if people think they aren’t a good player, or some other judgement they might have for them. The problem is that the performance is still going on, and all the notes they play while thinking about that missed note (the past) are still happening. This will never allow us to be our best and most compelling version of ourselves possible. The same with worry about a difficult passage that is coming up in the music. Worrying about how hard it is 32 bars in advance is not going to help you play it, and it will only cause for less than committed playing in the moment you are currently in.

I hope that makes a little more sense of how my experiences with the practice of mindfulness led me to a fuller understanding of the concepts that Arnold Jacobs taught.

Here’s a Spotify playlist of some recordings Arnold Jacobs sounds great on. The whole brass section is amazing.

Arnold Jacobs and Mindfulness – ep. 11

Until next time,

Ryan