Pain Relief Beyond Belief





From Blakey to Brown, Como to Costa, Eckstine to Eldridge, Galbraith to Garner, Harris to Hines, Horne to Hyman, Jamal to Jefferson, Kelly to Klook; Mancini to Marmarosa, May to Mitchell, Negri to Nestico, Parlan to Ponder, Reed to Ruther, Strayhorn to Sullivan, Turk to Turrentine, Wade to Williams… the forthcoming publication Treasury of Pittsburgh Jazz Connections by Dr. Nelson Harrison and Dr. Ralph Proctor, Jr. will document the legacy of one of the world’s greatest jazz capitals.


Do you want to know who Dizzy Gillespie  idolized? Did you ever wonder who inspired Kenny Clarke and Art Blakey? Who was the pianist that mentored Monk, Bud Powell, Tad Dameron, Elmo Hope, Sarah Vaughan and Mel Torme? Who was Art Tatum’s idol and Nat Cole’s mentor? What musical quartet pioneered the concept adopted later by the Modern Jazz Quartet? Were you ever curious to know who taught saxophone to Stanley Turrentine or who taught piano to Ahmad Jamal? What community music school trained Robert McFerrin, Sr. for his history-making debut with the Metropolitan Opera? What virtually unknown pianist was a significant influence on young John Coltrane, Shirley Scott, McCoy Tyner, Bobby Timmons and Ray Bryant when he moved to Philadelphia from Pittsburgh in the 1940s?  Would you be surprised to know that Erroll Garner attended classes at the Julliard School of Music in New York and was at the top of his class in writing and arranging proficiency?


Some answers  can be gleaned from the postings on the Pittsburgh Jazz Network.


For almost 100 years the Pittsburgh region has been a metacenter of jazz originality that is second to no other in the history of jazz.  One of the best kept secrets in jazz folklore, the Pittsburgh Jazz Legacy has heretofore remained mythical.  We have dubbed it “the greatest story never told” since it has not been represented in writing before now in such a way as to be accessible to anyone seeking to know more about it.  When it was happening, little did we know how priceless the memories would become when the times were gone.


Today jazz is still king in Pittsburgh, with events, performances and activities happening all the time. The Pittsburgh Jazz Network is dedicated to celebrating and showcasing the places, artists and fans that carry on the legacy of Pittsburgh's jazz heritage.






Duke Ellington is first African-American and the first musician to solo on U.S. circulating coin



       In Her Own Words

This interview was sent to me by Kevin McManus, who edited it down I guess from a recording of the interview. I did another once over and here it is! Hope you enjoy it as much as I have. I don't know the exact year of the interview - suffice it to say it was in the last 10-15 years. Thanks to Jim, Nelson and Kevin - Great job! JP:

I think it would be good to talk first about your roots, where you were born and raised, who your teachers were and about your early playing.

MS: That's fine. I was born in Wilmerding, a little town outside of Pittsburgh. That's where the Westinghouse Air Brake Manufacturing Company is located. I went to school there, to Turtle Creek High School. My brother, Edwin was going to Carnegie Tech University Music School, which is now Carnegie-Mellon University and I had a sister in college also. I went there (Carnegie Tech) just to take some courses because my Dad couldn't afford all of us going to school at the same time. It was expensive. So I took trombone lessons from Ottavio Ferarra who was teaching trombone at Carnegie Tech at the time. He was an excellent, thorough teacher. He was also a former member of the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra.

JP: When was he in the orchestra? MS: In the early 20's. He was getting up in years and planning to retire. I studied conducting with Karl Kritz, associate conductor of the Pittsburgh Symphony and conductor of the Civic Light Opera, and with Dr. O'Brien, the director of the orchestra at Carnegie Tech. I studied piano and solfege for two years.

JP: So you basically took the full music education course but without the degree.

MS: Yes. Once I started to play I got so busy I didn't have time to go back to school anymore. Around 1928 they engaged staff bands and I was a staff trombonist for about 10 years.


MS: Right. When that started to slow down, I was engaged as the first trombonist with the Stanley Theater Presentation Orchestra.

JP: What were they doing? Variety shows?

MS: They were doing all types of shows -- from Europe and from all over the country. These attractions were very popular at that time. I was in the house band. We played in the pit. Some weeks all we had to do was play the overture, the newsreel, a couple of calls and the exit music. That was it. Then other weeks we'd work much harder.

JP: How many shows a day?

MS: Well, we did four; five on Saturday. Then they would send us to Steubenville, Ohio on Sundays. We worked seven days a week, but the staff radio band was a very good job. You only worked a three or four hours a day and were always done by eight or nine o’clock; you could play a good deal of the outside work. We played the ice shows; we played everything that came by. The contractors knew they could depend on the staff musicians. There was a good bit of work at that time. That was after the Depression; the factories started opening up and people started to work which created more work for musicians and entertainment. Hotels employed musicians, night clubs had full time musicians, and dance bands were playing for dances.

JP: Were you active as a player during the Depression?

MS: No, I was still in school. But I knew what he depression was. I caught the tail end of it. I was playing the Pitt Theater on Penn Avenue in Pittsburgh -- it was just a little theater. I tell the young fellows -- the students I went to school with used to come downtown. They knew where the back stage door was. They'd say, "Could you loan me a dime so I can get something to eat." I'd take them out and buy them a dinner or whatever. I felt sorry for them. It was tough. People would have their electricity turned off because they couldn't pay the bill. A lot of people lived by candlelight. At that time the railroads were thriving. People would hop a railroad car with a burlap sack and get coal so they could heat the house. It was very hard on the folks with families. But, you could see a show in the afternoon for 35 cents -- a movie and a stage show.

JP: So the Pitt Theater was your first professional job? MS: Yes. We had a ten piece orchestra. It was fun. That's what I wish were going on now. You get a start there and you work your way up. But that just doesn't happen anymore. JP: So how did you get the job at KDKA?

MS: I auditioned for it. I think the reason I got the job was that my Dad warned me to be “tops”. He was a stickler. He said you must be able to do everything well if you expect to get into music. If you can only do one thing and you get called to do something else -- something that you can't do -- you’re out! I was able to do ballads; I was able to play the heavy music.

JP: Your father was a brass player?

MS: Oh yes. A marvelous trumpet player.

JP: But you actually started playing the violin...

MS: That's what I started on. My Dad gave us all a good start. As a violinist, I won the Western State Championship when I was in high school. The reason I wanted to play trombone was that most of the trombone players in the Turtle Creek High School Band, at that time, were weak. We had an old trombone at home and of course my brother had to study a little of each instrument at Carnegie Tech just like they do here [Duquesne University]. Eddie was familiar with the trombone positions so I asked him to show me a few. As I fooled with it, I got to like it. My Dad caught me practicing trombone a couple of times and he wasn't happy. "You're going to be a violinist, you know!" I used to practice when he wasn't home. Finally my brother said to him, "He likes that instrument. Why don't you let him go with it?" But Dad said, "First of all, we want to find out if he has the ear for it." Dad called the trombone an "ear instrument". He asked me to play a G major scale, two octaves. When I got up to the second octave and played high F#, he stopped me and asked why I played that position higher than the regular third position. I said, “It sounds flat to me if I play it in the regular third position.” The next note, as you know, is a high G. When I played that one, he stopped me again. “Why do you play it there?” Again I explained, “It sounds flat if I don't.” My Dad looked over at my brother and said, “I think he has the ear for the trombone.” He took me downtown and he bought me an Olds trombone. Most of the professionals played the Olds trombone at that time. The tuning was in the slide like some of the old bass trombones; you never tuned back here. It was an awfully heavy horn, you know, all the weight up front. You could always tell the trombone players that were working because their middle finger would always swell up from the weight of the horn. As a musician, I had a good career. I worked steady for over forty years. I could have kept going another five years but I got so busy when I started teaching at Duquesne, I couldn't take off work. I also played at the Nixon Theater -- musicals were all they booked. There were matinees every Wednesday and Saturday. I couldn't take off every Wednesday and Saturday so I had to make a decision to give up the some of the playing. It was a difficult choice, but it turned out to be the right decision because shortly after that everything started to slow down. After World War II, the Stanley Theater started to have spot shows. Instead of doing four a month, they did two. The next month, maybe one, then the following month, nothing. I saw the handwriting on the wall and thought to myself, even though I can still play, I had better get something to depend on. Holding the job at Duquesne, I could still play some of the engagements that did not interfere with the University. The other musicians that I worked with had to get jobs outside of music. I was still able to do what I like best -- playing and teaching.

JP: While we're talking about playing shows, the last time we were together you told a story about a plastic cup ...

MS: Oh yes. We had a little plastic cup and we put a price on mistakes. So if you made a bad mistake it would cost you more but a slight error would cost you a quarter. At the end, we'd have a little party. It was fun. We got to meet a lot of fine musicians that came through with the big bands -- Tommy Dorsey, Jack Teagarten, Glenn Miller, Tom Pederson, Lloyd Ulyate, Joe Howard, Paul Tanner, George Roberts, Ed Kusby and Buddy Morrow -- all those big players.

JP: So you got to know Tommy Dorsey.

MS: Oh yes. We hit it off, right off the bat. I'll tell you how I got to know Tommy. I told you we played in the pit orchestra. One particular week there was a lot of work for the trombone. So after we played the overture the pit would come up (like Radio City Music Hall) and the band would stand up and take a bow. We'd sit down and the conductor would press the button to lower the pit. There were two fanfare calls we played. The one you probably heard many times [sings], "The eyes, the ears, the world." Then there would be a drum roll, and we'd play the second call which was advertising what was coming in the next week [sings]. I had a low A-flat to play and from doing that every day I had a solid A-flat. Tommy was upstairs getting dressed to come down and do his performance with his band. We played about ten minutes before Tommy s group came on. So when the fellow who ran the elevator went up to get him, Tommy said “Boy, that's some trombone section down there.” The elevator operator said, “That's not a trombone section; that's just one trombonist.” Tommy said, “You're kidding!” Tommy began playing his theme song. We would have to sit in the pit, just in case something went wrong. If a fuse would blow, the pit band would have to play until the electricians replaced it. Anyway, he played his theme song and looked down and said, "Mr. Trombone Player, I want to see you after the show." At that point I didn't know him, but I was anxious to meet him because he played so well. We got to be the greatest of friends. He wanted to know what kind of horn I was playing. It was a Bach 36. We had lockers down in our quarters so I took my horn out of the locker and he put his mouthpiece in and played. It was wonderful, just beautiful. JP: Would you get together when he came through Pittsburgh?

MS: Yes. If he had time we would play duets and different trombone literature. A lot of musicians thought all he did was play dance music. Even though he hadn't read these clefs for a long time, he never missed anything. He was a staff trombonist. When you played in a staff orchestra, you had to be a good musician. You open the book and play. You don't have time to go home and study it. You had to be an excellent reader and musician.

JP: When Tommy Dorsey became popular, the playing style must have changed.

MS: That's right. Because until that time, the trombone parts were different. If you had an eight bar solo, that was something else. When Tommy Dorsey started playing 32 bar solos, everybody started to lean towards that style. For studios and recordings it was what the better contractors and conductors wanted from you.

JP: What in his playing changed the way a melody was performed?

MS: Phrasing, control and legato. Especially the legato. It was so smooth; the connections were so perfect and musical.

JP: So did this change your playing?

MS: I wouldn't say I was playing exactly like him -- there was only one Tommy Dorsey. But my Dad always used to say that one note has to melt into the other one, so that you couldn't tell where the one left off and the next one started. Slide coordination was important. Get good connections and real smooth. I had a good start on the legato because my Dad always said, “Make it sound like a valve instrument.” I tried to emulate Tommy Dorsey’s style of legato phrasing and playing. It was an art in itself.

JP: Did other players around you play that way too.

MS: Not too many of them. The legato wasn’t well developed at that time.

JP: How about Simone Mantia?

MS: What happened there -- in the very early 30's Conn came out with the Conn Conqueror model trombone. It had the streamlined bars on it and no steel ring in the bell. I had my studio on Penn Avenue in Pittsburgh. Across the street was the Conn music store. There was a musician by the name of Caputo there. He played euphonium. I did a lot of work with him. The Conn Company brought the famous euphonium artist and trombonist, Simone Mantia to Pittsburgh. They had a new euphonium that he wanted to demonstrate; and he also demonstrated the Conn trombone. So they invited all the musicians from our union, trombone players or anyone else that wanted to come. They had a viewing of these instruments. Caputo told Mantia about me. “You know,” he said, “there's a young fellow down here, I work with him; he's quite good. You ought to meet him.” So he introduced us. I told him about my studio across the street. It was quiet there and nobody would bother us. That's where we got together and I played a lot of things for him. He made suggestions about the interpretation of the music, the solos and the tempos. I then made arrangements to take some lessons with Mr. Mantia in New York when it was convenient.

JP: Did you spend any time on the road?

MS: I did, but not as much as some other musicians. My brother and I played the World's Fair; we were in that orchestra for six months or so. This was in Cleveland, Detroit and Chicago. It was a good job, very hard. We played three sessions a day, a broadcast, played for dancing, played for shows. It was tough.

JP: When did you start taking students?

MS: Well, when I started to play at the Warner Bros./Stanley Theater, I did a lot of solo work. I guess some of the people in the audience thought they'd like to have their son or daughter study with me. So I started to get calls. And there was a friend of mine who played trumpet with whom I shared a little studio. It was a good start. That's how I began my teaching, in 1936.

JP: When you began, were you teaching the way you were taught by your father or using materials you developed from your experience?

MS: The way I was taught. My Dad gave all of us a very good start. He always dwelled on the fundamentals. That's what I tried to do. Then later on books started to come out which I didn't have when I started. The book that everyone used was the Imperial Method. That was a very difficult book for beginners. Right off the bat they had you playing in alternate positions. If you didn't have the ear, it was hard. A lot of students started in that book but they became discouraged. That method started with exercises in first position, then second, then third. By the time you got to fifth you're playing B-flats in sharp 5 and D-flats in slightly flat fifth; and you've got to hear it out there. And sixth and seventh positions are even more difficult for beginners. But if you wanted it badly enough, you stayed with it until you mastered it. This method has been revised by Henry Smith III. I think you can still buy it. You see the books that are available today. There is the Cimera-Hovey Book 1, the Breeze-Easy Method, the Walter Beeler Method, Rubank and Rubank supplementary, Pro-Art, and Yamaha to get a youngster started.

JP: Your teaching stresses the fundamentals.

MS: Absolutely. I find a lot of students who do not study like we did. We took it seriously. They decide six months or a year before they graduate from high school that they'll go into music. They start to study but it's too late. A lot of them get on the wrong track. The embouchure's wrong, the tonguing is incorrect, the ear's not developed the way it should be -- because the trombone is an ear instrument. So one must start with the fundamentals! Most of the students can be corrected. If not, they are turned down.

JP: Do you find that it's difficult to get beginning players to choose the trombone?

MS: Yes. My daughter, who is head of the Fine Arts Department for the South Park Area Schools, says that it's really difficult to get trombones especially when they find out about the practicing it requires. The trend today is just to play in school. There isn’t much practicing at home over the weekend.

JP: So the kids want to play the "easy" instruments.

MS: Yes. Trombone is difficult; a lot like French horn.

JP: Let's go over your lesson routine. You start the student with long tones, then lip slurs, Rochut, clef studies, scales, Arban’s for technique, intervals, legato tonguing, sight reading and excerpts.

MS: That's it. That's exactly it. Work on tone, long tones, attacks, sight reading, some solos, excerpts, clef studies, major and minor scales in all keys, technique and endurance. A lot depends on the teacher to have a well-balanced routine. You see, you're doing a little bit of everything. Whereas, if you just practice scales and nothing else, then if you have to play something that’s smooth and connected, the deficiencies will show up in the student’s playing immediately. You're in trouble already because you didn't work on a particular technique. Sometimes you have to write out material to suit the student’s needs. Maybe he has a weakness that the others do not have. And maybe he's strong on things the others are not. Maybe his tonguing is bad. So you have to write an exercise for addressing the students' deficiencies.

JP: I think we should mention some of the materials you use. I remember Stacy's Successful Studies, which is a very difficult book to find.

MS: That’s out of print but I understand they are going to start printing it again. Stacy was a trombone player himself. He played with the Chicago Marine Band and was frequently a soloist with all the top brass bands at that time.

JP: It is a book of fairly advanced flexibility exercises, technical studies and etudes.

MS: Right. It's a good book, a very good book. I know in all my years it helped every student if they worked for perfection. Also the Charles Colin Advanced Flexibility and Walter Smith Flexibility books.

JP: How about the Rochut books?

MS: All three volumes are excellent material for the trombone. You get to improve breathing, develop tone quality and legato, and promote artistic phrasing. It’s very musical. The key signatures change so you don t play in one key all of the time. No one should be without the three Rochut volumes.

JP: With Arban's, you touch on all the major sections of the book.

MS: That's right. The scales, intervals, preparatory drills for trills, different time signatures, as well as tonguing, double tonguing, and technique development.

JP: That gets us to the way you approach multiple tonguing, and flexibility, which requires enslaving yourself to the metronome.

MS: Of course at first, when the student starts, you practice very slowly so that you develop even tonguing on the double and triple; so that the “Tu” and “Ku” are even in length and in volume. Master that slowly, and then little by little you start to use the metronome. That's the way I do it. A lot of students do it slowly for a week or so, and then they want to do it fast. Usually it's not done right. You've got to practice at all tempos to be able to use double and triple tonguing because you can only go so far with single tonguing. After that you have to revert to double or triple tonguing. That's the way to do it. Use the metronome.

JP: As the trombone style changed over the years, did you find a need to change your teaching?

MS: As long as the student has good fundamentals and good teaching they can adapt, especially if they have a good ear. If you wanted to play like Urbie Green, you had to have range and a nice sound and get all over the horn. So working on techniques that enable you to do that is the best approach. If you had a good start, you could adapt. I have students on the west coast, and they were able to handle the studio work with persons such as Sammy Nestico, Bill Tole, Grover Mitchell and Tommy King. Tommy King has since passed away.

JP: The way you teach sight-reading is unique. Before playing the exercise you have the student read the letter name of the notes in rhythm.

MS: My Dad used to make us do that. We used to always say, "Nobody else has to do this." He would say, "Never mind, do it.!" Boy am I glad he made us do it. It was one of his own ideas. He graduated from the Vienna Conservatory. He was a very fine musician. He insisted that if you want to be a good sight-reader, you have to do it this way -- another form of solfege, but using letter names. You are able to read much faster and with greater accuracy. That's a proven fact. If you get a new piece of music and you detect a complicated rhythm, you can figure out right away where the beats fall. Then it’s easy to understand and you are able to play right through it. Another thing I like to stress when we play the warm-up exercise is this. We take the same exercise and play attacks on them; short notes. That builds up accuracy, especially in the high register. We expand the range of tones up to high F. Then the student can play the high register notes with accuracy. Some have trouble in the lower register, some have trouble in the middle, and others have trouble in the high, but this exercise will help to develop accuracy of attack.

JP: Going back into the past, I remember one time you sent me packing because I wasn't ready for my lesson.

MS: You always came prepared but that one time, I don't know what happened.

JP: There's an aspect to that sternness in the teaching that helps later on when you are in high pressure playing situations.

MS: Absolutely. One has to develop confidence. Over the years of practicing all the different aspects of playing, you develop confidence.

JP: Does some of that aspect of your teaching style come also from your upbringing and your father?

MS: Yes. He was stern but he was fair. He corrected you because he wanted you do it well. He wanted to teach you to understand that if you wanted to get it perfected, you had to break it down and work on it until you mastered it. That's the way it was. And the older instructors that I had -- if you made several mistakes in an exercise -- you stayed on it for another two or three weeks till you mastered it. If you do that with young students today, the parents call and say, "Johnny's been on that for two weeks; three weeks." I know; and he's going to be on it for two or three more if he doesn’t master it.

JP: How do you use the trombone choir as a teaching tool?

MS: We have warm-up exercises we do before we start the rehearsal. The exercise is like the Remington warm-up exercise. You have a fixed note, say F, then E, back to F, then E-flat and so on. We have them all play this, especially if I get a bunch of new students, so they learn to play in tune with the regulars. Then we play chords -- major and minor chords -- to teach them to listen for the fifth, the third, the root, and so forth. I wrote many exercises for the trombone choir, for a balanced rich sound, good intonation, attacks and releases. I wrote a simple lip slur exercise [sings -- quarter notes -- middle B-flat - F -- low B-flat - F], then we play a Bb major chord and descend in half steps. Then we practice attacks on the downbeat. In the next exercise, the attack is on the upbeat. We practice tonguing together and attacking together for precision. Focusing on good balance, good sound, and good intonation are all part of the lesson. Then we play chorales. There's a book called 42 Chorales for Brass by Philip Gordon which is very good. I use it for new students coming into the group. You can play these chorales just with the trombone and the tuba parts. What I do is use the trumpet book for the first two players so that we get a little bit of the melodic line. I think it's out of print now though.

JP: Your brother wrote a lot of brass ensemble music.

MS: We use it still. He wrote to the limit. And the Duquesne Brass Ensemble played everywhere. That's how the school got its reputation. The brass was it.

JP: Eddie covered the upper brass...

MS: And I covered the low brass.

JP: When did you start teaching at Duquesne.

MS: 1949. At the old school.

JP: Did you start the brass ensemble right away?

MS: No. The group that I started first was a trombone quartet. We had Dan Poupard, Bill Tole, Pete DeArgenzzio and Hugo Magliocco. They were quite good. Later, I added a tuba player. The tuba player was a friend of Bill Tole's and he would always be at the rehearsals waiting for Bill. I got tired of seeing him sit idle so I wrote a couple of parts for him. It sounded really good with the tuba.

JP: Do you change your teaching for bass trombone?

MS: One must develop excellent breath control for the bass trombone because it is such a large instrument. It takes much more energy and air if you want to get a rich, full sound. There are some techniques that have to be worked out. The changes of register require a lot of detailed work.

JP: What different materials do you use?

MS: There are a lot of good bass trombone books out. The Eliezer Aharoni Bass Trombone Method is an excellent and complete method. Some others are: Paul Faulise’s book, the Ostrander book, the Gillis Method, and the Paul Bernard Method from France. Paul Tanner’s and George Roberts’ books are also very fine. Alan Raph and Tommy Pederson, who is in Los Angeles, have written a lot of materials for the bass trombone as well.

JP: I know that you encourage your students to play any and all types of music.

MS: You must be prepared today. The competition is really keen. The only steady work left now are the symphony orchestras and the military bands, if you can get into one of these. It's not like it used to be. You must be tops to get the best work today.

JP: It is a difficult time now for young players.

MS: There’s a lack of full time employment. When I’m talking about employment, I tell people, if you're going to go to New York or the west coast or Nashville, and you want to break in, you better play as well as the person who’s sitting in the first chair. If you don't they'll just pass you up. The competition is very keen. There are many excellent players in the field today. My Dad used to say that you have to make people aware that you can perform well.

JP: What about your military time during World War II. MS: I was in the Merchant Marines on Catalina Island on the west coast. It was a good band, a very good group. JP: How long were you in that band?

MS: Only a short time until the war was over. Most of those players were west coast players from the studios, like Twentieth Century-Fox, Warner Brothers, Republic and Columbia.

JP: What other teaching related activities have you been involved in?

MS: I was a brass consultant for the Yamaha Band Instrument Company.

JP: Were you working on horn design?

MS: Yes. Byron Peebles from the Los Angeles Philharmonic and Frank Rossolino was there; Don Waldrup and Emory Remington's son Dave were there too; and Lloyd Ulyate and Alan Raph. They flew me from Pittsburgh to Los Angeles three or four times and treated us all royally.

JP: What horns did you play through your career?

MS: I played a Bach. When Tommy Dorsey came through and we got to be good friends, he said he was going to send me one of the King trombones he was playing. One day the fellow who ran the elevator said, “There's a big box for you.” It turned out to be a King 2B. But it was too small for the kind of work I was doing. We were playing overtures and symphonies and everything else. I was playing a Bach TRB. So the next time the King representative wanted to know how I liked the horn I told him, “The horn's fine, it's just a little too small for me.” They sent their engineer to talk with me and they built me a .525 bore horn.

JP: Did you switch horns for different jobs?

MS: I had an 88H also. I'd switch for the type of work I had to do. I wasn't always in sections where they used small horns. I'd go with them. Now you have a better choice of instruments. In those days your choice was limited.

JP: Do you still play?

MS: A little. I pick it up from time to time to demonstrate for the students. I think that if you take care of yourself you can play quite a few years. Of course you have to take care of your teeth by getting them checked every six months or so.

JP: Explain your views on the teeth and how they relate to playing.

MS: If you notice your better players, nobody seems to have teeth like this (demonstrating, he shows an inverted point with his hands) or laterals sticking out like this. The teeth are like a bridge on a violin. There's a certain curvature and the height has to be right. When a violinist takes an instrument for a new bridge, they measure it down to the thousandths of an inch. It has to be just right. And you have a notch for each string. Now suppose I took a knife and made the bridge a little shorter, that would be like somebody with a closed bite. If I made that bridge a half or quarter of an inch too high, it would be like somebody who has an overbite. There would be a lot of distance between the teeth, then all of the pressure is on the upper lip. It has to be pretty close. I did a clinic at the international trombone conference in Nashville on teeth alignment. After the seminar, I received bags of mail from all over the world.

JP: Do you see this as the way for the mouthpiece to sit in the proper place, using a high point as the center or is it more a means of shaping the air stream as it enters the mouthpiece?

MS: A little of both. You have to have a decent alignment of those teeth. We have a couple of boys here whose teeth are very flat. They get a good sound but their flexibility isn't what it should be. After they have been playing a while, with their teeth being so flat, it cuts off the circulation and they have some problems. That needs to be corrected. There is a new system now called bonding. Before that, the only way you could make a change was by putting braces on the person’s teeth. It's a long procedure and it takes a lot of time to align the teeth properly. But now with this bonding technique, if the dentist is shown where to put the bonding and understand the problem, within a short period of time, you can hear an improvement. Nobody can ever tell me that the teeth don't mean anything.

JP: Do you take a different approach with a student who is heading towards an orchestral position?

MS: I work hard with all of my students. But if they're going to single themselves out to do a certain kind of work, I'll work with them on special things such as tone quality, attacks, releases, reading, interpretation, style and excerpts. I encourage the students to play in civic orchestras for experience.

JP: They would certainly be using larger bore instruments but what about mouthpiece choices?

MS: The mouthpiece size has to be larger for the larger instrument. A lot depends of the thickness and size of the lips in order to make a good recommendation. We can try different sizes until we get the tone quality we want to hear.

JP: You must have always had a great love for the trombone and for your students. Just a personal note, I remember when I started studying with you, you added me to the front of your already full Saturday schedule in order to fit me in.

MS: For Nelson too. Instead of once a week, I'd give him two, on my own time. I want to see him do well. I'm really interested in these people.

NF: Like the trombone choir. It's not on the schedule. Mr. Shiner comes in on him own time and does it.

MS: You do it so the students get experience playing in a group. Now there are so many things going on in the school there's little or no room in the schedule. We rehearse on Fridays late and come in on Sundays. You know, if you really want to do something, you'll find the time, make the time.

JP: Not to get corny, but you have given us, as your students, more than we could have hoped for or expect to return.

MS: I feel that you fellows deserve it. You were sincere and you were motivated. That's what it takes to succeed. I’ve noticed a change in the students lately. They are different. Some are not as serious as the students in the past. It seems that we go through cycles. Sometimes students start too late. They didn't have private lessons and so they didn’t get an early start. They decide to go to music school when they’re seniors. Now it's almost too late. If they pass the entrance audition, I get them in their first year of college and have to almost start them over with the basics.

JP: Well, I guess that about wraps it up. You’ve given us a lot to think about. Thanks very much.

MS: It was my pleasure.

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Comment by Lisa White on November 14, 2015 at 2:12am

Thank You Dr. Nelson Harrison for all of your research.If anyone could locate this information that i was searching for,it would be you. Nice job!   Sincerely, Lisa White

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