Thomas Stevens

The Schlossberg School-Four Quotables

  • For Trumpeters Only

Four Quotables from Prominent Students of Max Schlossberg (plus a few comments)

Quotable I: (in paraphrase) Schlossberg’s written exercises were not particularly original. Their true value lay in how Professor Schlossberg wanted them to be played rather than how they were written-Nathan Prager, former Schlossberg student/colleague, and member of the New York Philharmonic, at a clinic on Schlossberg materials organized by one of his regular students for a small group of student colleagues (NYC, 1961) Individual Student Participation Fee: $5.00 US!

Quotable II: (in paraphrase) There could be three or four Schlossberg books, and they might not all be the same, but they could all be authentic because “Schlossberg was always changing things for his students”(verbatim quote underlined here)-James Stamp, former Schlossberg student, in response to a question from the legendary French trumpeter and professor at the Paris Conservatory, Pierre Thibaud, concerning the usual rumors regarding the provenance of Schlossberg’s published Daily Drills and Technical Studies (Moudon, Switzerland, 1978)

Quotable III: (in paraphrase) Schlossberg’s exercises are misunderstood by many trumpeters because the published “Daily Drills” have been erroneously presented and interpreted as representing Schlossberg’s studies as exercises to be played as written, when in fact, the majority of Schlossberg materials in the “Daily Drills” were basic exercises and drills Schlossberg would frequently modify for his students. They were not always played the same way- Louis Davidson (Former Principal, The Cleveland Orchestra/Professor, Oberlin Conservatory/Indiana University, and commonly acknowledged as having been one of Schlossberg’s favorite students), during an impromptu gathering at the National Trumpet Symposium (Denver, Colorado, 1973)

Quotable IV:Schlossberg had me play that thing much slower and softer”-former Schlossberg student, Maestro John Barnett, speaking from the conductor’s podium prior to a rehearsal of the Los Angeles Guild Opera, when he heard this writer playing a Schlossberg drill while warming-up (Los Angeles, California, 1968) Mr. Barnett further commented that he was not suggesting I should play it as he had been instructed because there was no right or wrong way to play Schlossberg’s drills, which were often edited for his students.


A Few Comments

During a ten-year period (1958-68), two of my three primary trumpet teachers, James Stamp-Los Angeles, and William Vacchiano-New York City (the third being Lester Remsen-Los Angeles), were former students of Max Schlossberg. Additionally, in 1961, there were two lessons each with former Schlossberg students, Harry Glantz-Peekskill, New York, and Nathan Prager-New York City.

The above-mentioned four teachers were among Schlossberg’s most accomplished students, with three of them having become his colleagues in the New York Philharmonic following their studies with him. Ironically, while their personal knowledge of Schlossberg’s teaching concepts and principles was probably without equal, they did not include Schlossberg studies, per se, in their teaching, although they would occasionally, and in a curiously matter-of-fact manner, refer to Schlossberg concepts or prescribe “Schlossberg-types” of technical exercises during lessons. These outstanding player/teachers were superb musicians, and as is usually the case with such instrumentalists, technical drills like Schlossberg’s were regarded as necessary evils to be treated and routinely practiced solely as “means” of acquiring the requisite technical skills to achieve one’s musical aspirations. The exercises did not represent isolated technical goals in and of themselves, the latter being an all too common phenomenon in the world of instrumental music.

At this point in history there are no living experts on Schlossberg’s actual, day-to-day teaching methods. Indeed, in this writer’s opinion, any present day claims of expertise on such matters-Schlossberg would be presumptively inappropriate and inexcusably arrogant. There has been excellent and exhaustive research done on his personal and professional history and the musical materials he left behind (at least those in the readily accessible archives1). Those considerations have provided us with the “who” and the “what” of Schlossberg, but they have not addressed the “how.” If we were to unconditionally accept the points made in the four Quotables (above), which represent a mere sampling of many similar anecdotal accounts of Schlossberg’s teaching commonly heard during the 1940s through the early 1960s, then it would be fair to suggest, as has been mentioned in a previous post, that to properly understand his work as a teacher, any serious research would require interviews and consultations with a large representative sampling of his pupils, almost all of whom are no longer living, and as many in this writer’s age group are quite aware, even when they were alive they were not always in complete agreement on Schlossberg issues-to the point of contradicting their own personal statements and recollections from time to time2.

As noted in an earlier post, Leonard Bernstein once stated in a conducting master-class, ca. 1981 ……["there are no answers in music, only questions"].......

And there is an “oldie but goodie” admonition in the study of music performance practices that if any teacher presents (unquestioned) definitive answers to anything, one should look around, locate the nearest EXIT sign, head in its direction, and never return.

And then there is this personal favorite unattributed aphorism, offered here as a Quotable: If you believe and do 50% of everything you are told by your teachers, you are a good student and consequently will find success: If you believe and do 100% of everything you are told by your teachers, you need a psychiatrist.

1 For many years there have been rumored accounts concerning the existence of mini-collections of Schlossberg exercises being in the possession of his former students. This writer has seen two such collections, and although copies of neither of them is currently in my possession, Håkan Hardenberger, Markus Stockhausen, Malcolm McNab, and Yamaha’s Bob Malone have photocopies of James Stamp’s original Schlossberg notebook.

2 When revisiting certain issues with Stamp and Vacchiano (1969-70) when compiling a notebook of Schlossberg-types of materials my teachers had given me years earlier, their statements/recollections re: issues-Schlossberg were not as clear as they had been in previous years, a circumstance that at the time I attributed to the vagaries of the ageing process on human memory function. This is the primary reason I believe it has been decades since valid interviews with a representative sampling of Schlossberg students would be possible. A secondary reason is that both of these gentlemen, who had expressed reservations re: some of Schlossberg’s concepts during my student days (which were during their prime teaching years), had become overly gracious, almost reverential, of Schlossberg’s work in their later years, which I found disconcerting. To paraphrase a sarcastic and cynical quip from one of my colleagues who had a similarly frustrating experience with an aging former member of the Schlossberg fraternity, maybe they expected to be seeing Schlossberg again soon and wanted to be in good standing with him!

After Schlossberg

The Schlossberg School-Four Quotables