I TRY TO FATHOM THE SECRET

When I reached home that night my mind was so filled with the cornet solo and the way in which it was played that I could not sleep. Half the night I argued with myself as to how it was possible to play so difficult a solo with such ease and grace, and finally came to the conclusion that Mr. Rogers must have some new system of cornet playing. As I was all but crazy with a desire to find out how he had acquired such an embouchure and wonderful endurance, when I took up my cornet the next day for practice I ried to see if by any possible means I could produce those high notes without straining for them, but of course I completely failed. I blew hard and strained until I felt as if my eyes would pop out of their sockets, but without results. Then I reasoned that if one person could do a certain thing easily so could another, but the point was how to go about doing it.

A little later on I attended a second concert and tried to get close to the bandstand, but as the platform was elevated about twelve feet from the ground there was no chance to get near enough to observe closely the manner or method of Mr. Rogers' art, I waited a few weeks for a better opportunity of getting close enough to the man to try and find out his secret of natural cornet playing, and during the interval of waiting, tried all sorts of ways to play easily, but without avail; the more I experimented,the worse I played and the madder I became! At last the Opera House opened and I bought a ticket for the first show with a seat in the front row near the cornet player. From the time the orchestra entered to play the opening overture and up to the end of the show, whenever Mr. Rogers was playing I leaned forward in my seat and watched him as a revenue officer might watch a liquor "suspect". I can't remember anything about the show itself, for my thinking faculties were concentrated in trying to reason out ow cornet playing could be made so easy as Mr. Rogers had proved by his own playing.

After the show was over I walked along to think about it, and finally determined to try to imitate this "wonder". The next morning after breakfast I took my cornet to my room and commenced to experiment, but the more I blew the harder it became for me. Then I stood before the mirror and tried to adjust the mouthpiece to my lips the same as I had observed Rogers do the night before, placing just a little of it on the upper lip with more on the lower lip and drawing the latter in slightly over the teeth, but not a tone came out of the cornet! I tried it again and again with no better results, and then I did actually get mad. I kept up this experimenting all that day, and the following night bought another front seat ticket for the some show. On this night Rogers played a cornet solo between the acts, not standing up before the audience but remaining seated. The selection was Hartman's Carnival of Venice, and-well, perhaps I did not watch him as he played it!The next morning I tried the same way of playing as on the previous day, only changing the position of the mouthpiece against my lips, and again struggled to produce tones. The only result being that I found myself worse off than before, and by the end of that week I could play neither in the old way nor in the new. This was so discouraging that I nearly arrived at a point of giving up the whole thing in disgust. Fortunately for me, however, I had been born with a goodly amount of perseverance and obstinac in my make-up and stuck to the game- although not without admitting to myself that if it was necessary to play the cornet in the old way and suffer with the some strains and headaches as before, perhaps it might be as well if not better to discard playing altogether. However l kept at it for another three-week period of struggle.

One day I picked up the instrument for the usual practice and imagine if you can my surprise and almost bewilderment when the first tone I produced with ease was the formidable high C! It was almost startling, but I tried it once more and for the second time produced this heretofore all but impossible tone. Now the whole secret was out, only there really wasn't any secret about it! I had used only a little pressure of the mouthpiece on my lips and so allowed them to vibrate naturally, instead of pressing aainst them with so great force that all lip-vibration was stopped and tone would not come from the cornet. It then dawned upon my mind that, always when trying to reach a high note I had been pressing the mouthpiece so hard on the lips that it kept them from vibrating at all. I had been like a man trying to walk with his legs bound firmly together!

Starting for the third time with the high C, I began to run down the scale and watch for results. At first a few tones sounded, then there was no further response. Slightly relaxing my lower lip, I repeated this for a few times until I was able to reach down to middle G on the second line of the staff, but not a tone lower! I laughed at myself and thought: "Well, if it is so difficult for me to play low tones then I must practice low tones, which I proceeded to do. It did not tire me at all, but I took goo care not to keep it up for too long at a time. Think! I had journeyed all the way from Toronto to Indianapolis to stumble against this easier way of playing through, seeing it marvelously demonstrated by Walter B. Rogers, a young player not much older than myself!

I now started in earnest to begin the mastery of what to me was a new art. I began to relax my lips when playing, instead of pinching them together and pressing the mouthpiece against them with force, and very shortly I could produce C on the ledger line below the staff easily. After that I kept on working hard, but in a sensible way, reasoning out each problem as it came up, and before another month had passed could play fairly well again, and so much easier! The lesson involved in this is: If you find yo have the right idea according to your own characteristics, work on it from the very beginning and build up slowly from the foundation.