Thomas Stevens

My Schlossberg Seven

  • For Trumpeters Only

It Would Be Fair to Assume They Are The Real Thing.

Quotable: “The only thing new under the sun is the history you don’t know.” - Harry S. Truman, 33rd President of the United States

Recently, while researching materials to be included in a James Stamp publishing project, I selected seven “Max Schlossberg” exercises from a personal notebook, a compilation of Schlossberg, or Schlossberg-types of drills and exercises given to me by various Schlossberg students and colleagues during formal trumpet studies in Los Angeles and New York (1958-68). The seven studies specifically chosen for inclusion in the Stamp project were from James Stamp (1) and William Vacchiano (6). I know very little about Schlossberg beyond his basic teaching philosophy, practices, and studies as they were presented to me by some of his leading students, including the two aforementioned professors, as well as having participated in a few coaching sessions with other prominent members of the Schlossberg fraternity.

Most of the studies in my collection are similar to the usual Schlossberg-types of drills that have been in circulation within the trumpet community for over a half-century, including those in the published Daily Drills and Technical Studies (ed. Freistadt). My seven drills/exercises* are different from those; nevertheless, they are apparently vintage Schlossberg material.

The one recollection-in-common with virtually all of Schlossberg's former students was that the teacher of record had an uncanny ability to analyze student’s technical problems and would spontaneously compose original (or adapt the work of others?) drills or exercises, often times on little scraps of music manuscript paper, which were intended to directly address such problems. According to Mr. “V,” many of these vignettes were handed down with very specific performance instructions, which is worth noting because the directions for practicing four of “my” seven, specifically those designed to help one develop the requisite embouchure resiliency to play soft and/or in the low register following powerful fortissimo passages (a lifelong liability for this trumpeter) are/were counterintuitive and contrary to how most musicians would instinctively play them if they were approached outside the context of the Schlossberg experience or legacy. It is also quite clear that Schlossberg delivered those exercises in a rather spontaneous manner, judging from the number of Schlossberg drills other trumpeters have shown me over the years, primarily during the 1950s-early 70s: Some of those exercises were the same, some were the same but different** (using Leonard Bernstein’s well-known descriptive phrase), and some were things I had never seen before (e.g. "my seven") or ever again. What has been particularly interesting to me is that none of “my” seven, as well as some others in my collection, were included in the published Daily Drills.

Are these unpublished Schlossberg drills truly original? Are they Schlossberg exercises edited or modified by others (i.e. Schlossberg-Vacchiano)? Or are they simply traditional items of undetermined origin in the trumpet liturgy that have been passed from generation to generation and erroneously ascribed to the teacher of record? I haven’t a clue, and no one will ever find the definitive answers to these questions because to do so would require interviewing a representative sampling of Schlossberg students, which, for obvious reasons, would today represent a physical impossibility (and probably since the late 1970s if one factors in the variable of mental acuity and the aging process, not to mention the fact some of those sources would contradict their own recollections from time to time).

All of which is interesting, but not particularly relevant today, save for the fact certain of those drills, particularly those designed to address special technical problems, really worked, and during the past few decades I have heard numerous students who obviously could have used them had they been available.

As my old friend and colleague, the tuba virtuoso Roger Bobo, often mused when confronted with similar situations, offered here as a Quotable: “There’s a master’s [degree] thesis in there somewhere.”


*Eventually, four of these seven exercises were included in the publication and attributed to the “Schlossberg School" because they are definitely related to Schlossberg and/or some person(s) in the Schlossberg food chain (possibly including his own teachers). Since they had never been published, and, further, since the persons who passed them on to me are long gone from this world, it would be almost impossible to establish their provenance; hence, the decision to invoke the Schlossberg School attribution, a term I first heard used during the 1960s.

** The two musical examples (below) illustrate this point: In 1959, James Stamp gave me a technical study he said Schlossberg had given him. Four years later Vacchiano gave me a version of the same study he said Schlossberg had given him, scribbling, à la Schlossberg, its first measure on the inner cover of my H. Chavanne book! Many years later, Joseph Alessi II showed me a third version that looked very much like Vacchiano’s.