Thomas Stevens

Beyond What?

  • For Trumpeters Only

Georges Mager as the source of the specific Vacchiano Rules on which the "....and Beyond " project is based.

As a number of Vacchiano’s former students have recently pointed out (some graciously and others not so graciously), some of the so-called “rules” were absolute nonsense and difficult for serious students to accept (to put it mildly). Agreed! My favorite among that group: In quarter note meters, quarter notes are long, eighth notes short, sixteenths are long, and so on.) Unfortunately, the mere existence and surprisingly unending life cycles of some of that B.S. (only recently someone quoted the quarter-note rule to me!) has detracted from the importance and validity of the serious rules.

It has been mentioned in other venues and posts on this site that the performance practice strictures (“rules”) on which the “and Beyond” project are derived are based on the pedagogical practices of one of Vacchiano’s earliest teachers, Georges Mager of the Boston Symphony Orchestra. These rules have formed the foundation for my own expanded and updated versions of those (19th century) performance practices.

Some Background on Georges Mager. Research done by this writer during the 1970s clearly indicates Mager as the source of these important strictures. Indeed, anecdotal accounts from such prominent Vacchiano students as Armando (“I would never teach like that”) Ghitalla and Mel (“only William should ever be allowed to teach “his” Rules) Broiles, and reviews of the teaching practices of other Paris Conservatory-trained musicians from the same era as Mager, specifically prominent “American” woodwind teachers ( Marcel Tabuteau, Marcel Moyse, et al) whose training paralleled Mager’s-these sources indicate the Mager influence. Virtually all of those musicians articulated many of the very same musical points in their teaching, while not always using the same specific terminology. (During the mid-1970s, I reviewed an audiotape of a Marcel Moyse flute master class, and it had an uncanny similarity to a Vacchiano lesson.) Additionally, as an additional comparator, the fact trumpeters who had studied exclusively with some of Vacchiano’s other professors (i.e. Max Schlossberg et al) did not have an awareness of those Paris strictures further supports the Mager citation.

Incidental Information. According to the late Pierre Thibaud (personal comment following a master class I gave at the Paris Conservatory in 1979), Mager’s training at the Conservatory was unique among trumpeters (even his chief competitor, Eugene Fouveau, was not afforded the same training), since “hard brass” students were considered to be lower class musicians and were not allowed in the artist level performance-oriented solfege courses. At the time, Mager was a double major, viola and cornet-one document states trumpet-so he entered those elite performance solfege courses as a violist. (It is important to note that these performance-oriented solfege classes were not the standard solfeggio/de facto pitch recognition drills taught as so-called ear training segments in music school theory courses).