You are Here: Archived Articles and Videos » Brass » Breaking Bad Habits

Share with:

Breaking Bad Habits


Arnold Jacobs

» Play Video

Ever been in the situation of correcting a bad habit with a student or yourself? Of course, this happens every day! Not habits that are addictive such as alcohol or smoking but small problems such as holding the horn correctly, breathing and other elements of playing a musical instrument.

How to break a bad habit was a common question for Mr. Jacobs. While working with the "President's Own," the United States Marine Band, a member of the saxophone section asked Mr. Jacobs how to work to correct bad habits with his students.

As Mr. Jacobs says, "Once we learn a habit, we cannot unlearn it . . . Trying to fight a bad habit only reinforces it . . . Instead we should replace a bad habit with a new habit, eventually the bad habit will disappear."


Brian Frederiksen had a long relationship with Mr. Jacobs, first as a tuba student then his assistant traveling with him for masterclasses. In 1996, he wrote Arnold Jacobs: Song and Wind. Today he is continuing the Jacobs tradition with a presentation, Arnold Jacobs Almost Live and with WindSong Press (

For More information on Mr. Jacobs please see


Arnold Jacobs was born in Philadelphia on June 11, 1915 but raised in California. The product of a musical family, he credits his mother, a keyboard artist, for his initial inspiration in music, and spent a good part of his youth progressing from bugle to trumpet to trombone and finally to tuba. He entered Philadelphia's Curtis Institute of Music as a fifteen-year-old on a scholarship and continued to major in tuba.

After his graduation from Curtis in 1936, he played two seasons in the Indianapolis Symphony under Fabien Sevitzky. From 1939 until 1944 he was the tubist of the Pittsburgh Symphony under Fritz Reiner. In 1941 Mr. Jacobs toured the country with Leopold Stokowski and the All-American Youth Orchestra. His was a member of the Chicago Symphony from 1944 until his retirement in 1988.

During his forty-four year tenure with the Chicago Symphony, he took temporary leave in the spring of 1949 to tour England and Scotland with the Philadelphia Orchestra. He was on the faculty of Western State College's Music Camp at Gunnison, Colorado during the early 1960's. In June 1962, he had the honor of being the first tuba player invited to play at the Casals Festival in Puerto Rico. Mr. Jacobs, along with colleagues from the CSO were part of the famous 1968 recording of Gabrieli's music with members of the Philadelphia and Cleveland Orchestras. He was also a founding member of the Chicago Symphony Brass Quintet, appeared as a soloist with the CSO on several occasions, and recorded the Vaughan Williams Concerto for Bass Tuba and Orchestra with Daniel Barenboim conducting the Chicago Symphony.

Mr. Jacobs had the reputation as both the master performer and master teacher. He taught tuba at the Northwestern University School of Music and all wind instruments in his private studio. He was one of the most sought teachers in the world, specializing in respiratory and motivational applications for brass and woodwind instruments and voice. His students include many in orchestras and university faculties around the world.

Mr. Jacobs has given lectures and clinics throughout the world. During the CSO's 1977 and 1985 Japanese tours, Mr. Jacobs presented clinics in Tokyo. In January 1978, he lectured at Chicago's Michael Reese Hospital about playing wind instruments for the therapeutic treatment of asthma in children. He presented masterclasses at Northwestern University a week each summer from 1980-1998. The Second International Brass Congress presented its highest award to him prior to his lecture to them in 1984. In 1991 he presented a clinic for the United States Marine Band in Washington D.C. Mr. Jacobs presented masterclasses as part of the Hearst Scholar program at the University of Northern Iowa and the Housewright Chair at Florida State University.

The Midwest Clinic presented Mr. Jacobs their highest award, the Medal of Honor in 1985. In 1994, The Chicago Federation of Musicians awarded him for Lifetime Achievement at the first Living Art of Music awards.

During his eightieth birthday celebration in 1995, he presented a lecture to the International Brassfest at Indiana University and the International Tuba-Euphonium Conference at Northwestern University. Northwestern's School of Music presented him the first Legends of Teaching award. Mayor Richard M. Daley proclaimed June 25, 1995 as Arnold Jacobs Day in the City of Chicago.

Mr. Jacobs was given an honorary Doctor of Music degrees from the VanderCook School of Music in 1986 and DePaul University in June of 1995.

The late Sir Georg Solti praised Jacobs, "Through his unstinting support and encouragement of generations of brass players the world over, he has justifiably become a legend in his own lifetime."

Share with: