Jerome Callet

A lot of players today have never heard of Jerome (Jerry) Callet, which is a shame. Jerry is one of the great innovators in the history of the instrument. He's known as a high note artist, a teacher, and a manufacturer of superb trumpets.

Jerry is a marvel. Critics say that as a trumpet player, his tone sounds a little "different" and he lacks some of the nuances needed to be labeled as "musical." However, he has incredible range, and is capable of playing melodies between double and triple high C.

Just watching him play is an experience. At a clinic several years ago, I observed him - first thing in the morning - pull out his horn and "warm up" by playing a two octave F scale, from first space F up to F above high C, up and back down. Visually, he appeared to be using less effort than the average player does when playing low C!

As a teacher, he has authored somewhat controversial books like "Trumpet Yoga" and "Superchops" - controversial, because his theories contradict conventional trumpet development belief systems.

Because of his theories, he has received much criticism, especially from music educators. The bulk of it is unfair. Truth has a way of stirring things up and shaking the status quo.

My feeling is that Jerry is a brilliant innovator, but a relatively inefficient teacher. His approach is hit and miss. Even though he understands the basic mechanics of the instrument like no one else, translating those principles into practical, repeatable exercises is not his strong point. Too many students try his methods and fall by the wayside.

However, on the whole, his positive contributions far outweigh his weaknesses. I admire his courage. Further, I give him full credit for waking me up to better ways of approaching embouchure development.

Plus, his trumpet designs have been amazing, acclaimed by players worldwide. Several years ago he retired from the horn manufacturing business, but has now returned with his "Sima" trumpet, manufactured by Kanstul. He continues to make mouthpieces.

You can find more about Jerry at his web site. He is pushing 80 now and still going strong.

Carmine Caruso

The Caruso method is unique. Caruso observed profundity in things that everybody else took for granted, and magically used those simple observations to help a large number of players with broken down embouchures restore and improve their abilities.

I first looked inside the Caruso book, "Musical Calisthenics for Brass," (MCFB) back in August, 2001. Other than noticing a few clever analogies, my main reaction was, where's the beef? There was a short introductory section, followed by some lightweight "Four rules," - beat your foot, keep mouthpiece on lips, keep airstream steady, breathe through nose - followed by some exercises, with a little text thrown in here and there, and some biographical notes (heartfelt) at the end.

It seemed to clearly be one of those "duh" books that most players would look at once and never open again.

Enter Charly Raymond, who I had developed a friendship with via the Trumpet Herald forum. He had earlier berated me - privately - for not including Mr. Caruso in my Reviews page, saying that I hadn't given Caruso any credit for influencing the thinking in my book. His words surprised me, as I had never read Caruso, and was totally unfamiliar with his pedagogy. But Charly was so sure of the similarities between methods, that I got interested and did some homework (similar to what I did when I learned about Ghitalla, but that story will have to wait for now).

Anyway, when I asked about MCFB, Charly pointed out that I was glossing over what was actually the ESSENCE of the method: The Four rules, more specifically, the first rule, which had to do with keeping time.

Charly, a long-time Caruso student, explained.

"When I first studied with Carmine, I asked him which or the four rules was the most important. He immediately said 'timing.' It took me a couple of years to understand what he meant. When practicing, his order was 'Don't think.' Don't think about your lips, the air, the diaphragm, the corners, the tongue - nothing. Except one thing. He allowed you to think about your foot and concentrate on your timing. He believed that muscles become conditioned faster by subjecting the demand being placed on them to time."

Now, this was very interesting! From my perspective, what Caruso figured out was a way to use our common ordinary rhythmic sense - foot tapping and counting - to bypass the "thinking mind," with all of it's fears and biases, and instead go directly into the unconscious mind. In theory, you become a slave to the rhythm of a precise footbeat, as your body is constantly prompted at each split second to automatically make the coordinated adjustments necessary to complete the task (play the horn). There is no time to think - or freeze, or worry - as maintaining the rhythm forces you to act.

The idea of accessing more unconscious mind response to speed up learning is nothing new. Actually, most embouchure development methods head in this direction, including my own. It is generally accepted that the unconscious mind is akin to a natural body intelligence which already knows how to do everything, but is constantly thwarted or distorted by the filters of the conscious mind.

More about the unconscious mind and filters in a future essay.

To me, the most powerful effect of his process was how it dissolves fear. Fear is the great multiplier of embouchure problems. What Caruso did was create a procedure - both in his personality and in the exercise process - where there was simply no room for fear. By focusing on rhythm only, and by doing the calisthenic exercises as prescribed, without expectation of results or thoughts of embouchure manipulation, his students were forced to be in the moment, dealing with the immediate situation.

How important is this? Almost every email question I receive is based on fear. Since my book is pretty self explanatory, and most players can do the exercises accurately, I've found that my main email role is to hold a players hand, and reassure him or her that all is well, especially when tweaking the lip position. Players tend to fear ANY experimentation, because they've heard so many times that "so and so" is bad, or that "so and so" will harm you. For many players, the fear then becomes a self fulfilling prophecy.

Caruso knew this. So, he created very effective exercises and discovered an equally effective way to bypass the psychological barriers of common, everyday fear, thereby allowing the exercises to do their work.

By the way - although Caruso attempted to de-emphasize thinking about embouchure, he was very much a lip position guy. His belief about the mechanics and relative importance of the lips was parallel to ideas presented in "The Balanced Embouchure."

I want to thank Charly Raymond for opening my eyes to the greatness of Mr. Caruso. I recommend the book, although the organization of it is somewhat vague, as in not knowing when to change exercises, how long to spend on each, what order to do them in, etc.. To get around that problem, simply check out the Caruso forum on the Trumpet Herald, here.