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.
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
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
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
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.