Bill Moriarity: trumpet player and former President of AFM Local 802 Musicians Union in NYC. Close friend, student, and co-author of Roy Steven’s book, Embouchure Self-Analysis
I studied with Roy for 15 years or so beginning in 1966 and know that I spent more time in his various studios than any other trumpet player. He allowed me to use the room to practice when it was not being otherwise used, he asked me to edit and compile what became the complete text of his principles and techniques (published originally in 1971 and re-edited and newly published in 2006) and, finally, had me take a few of the students during the last years before his death in 1988. For a ten year period from the mid-70’s to the mid-80’s, I had the pleasure of working with him on a semi-regular basis with the New York bandleader Tony Martell. As a working musician he understood the difficulties of getting through long, hard jobs and always showed great patience and creativity in his efforts at helping other musicians. He was a great ballad player and always fun to be with.
In reading through some of what has been written about him recently, it has occurred to me that much of his teaching is being misunderstood.
What he tried to communicate was the various elements necessary to the creation of sound on a brass instrument. These elements in their most fundamental form were:
(1) That the sound was created by the air column in the tubular instrument vibrating and thereby creating sound waves which “emanate and radiate in all directions” and which are received by our hearing apparatus.
(2) That to vibrate the air column we push – blow – force air past a part of our lips which has been isolated by the rim of the tubular instrument’s mouthpiece cup, which lip vibration, in turn causes the air column to vibrate at a similar rate frequency.
(3) That it follows from the above understanding that the lips, to vibrate, must actually receive the air, that is the air must not be blocked by the teeth, and that the lips must be in a position whereby they are closed enough to vibrate one against the other yet not so closed as to prevent displacement of the air.
The exercises that Bill Costello developed and that Roy used in all his teaching were to serve two purposes of equal importance. The first was to create the muscular strength and habits to accomplish the very difficult requirements of number 3; the second was to serve as a test of whether or not the above principles were being upheld.
Roy himself wrote “the answers to problems do not lie in playing exercises. Problems must be resolved first in order to benefit from playing exercises.” This statement is as applicable to the Stevens-Costello exercises as to other exercises.
It is here that I think a great many players have trouble. Doing the exercises – the palm, the climbs, the arpeggiated chords – without a full understanding of the principles involved and absent a constant evaluation and analyzation of your physical actions is taking on only half the battle and may only lead to frustration. And, of course, learning to be able to evaluate and analyze is a study in itself. But, if we were looking for something easy we would have put these horns down long ago.
Paul Bogosian: lead trumpet player with Don Ellis, Lionel Hampton and Count Basie. Band Director West Point Academy
I studied with Roy Stevens approximately for 10 years, beginning cira 1962. Through Roy Stevens, I was introduced to Don Ellis when Don showed up one day for a lesson with Roy while I was sitting in the ‘hot seat’ receiving a lesson from Roy Stevens. Don Ellis listened, and next thing I knew, I was on an airplane from New York City to Los Angeles with with Don Ellis who hired me to join his band,…. thanks to Roy Stevens (1971).
Roy had the patience of a ‘Saint’. I recall grasping the embouchure system in about two years of time, however, I stayed with Roy 8 more years; the reason being is that Roy became a trusted friend, and mentor. I felt comfortable being around him and he encouraged me to practice hard.
I eventually drifted away from studies with any and all teachers of brass,… and went on from there….yes,along the way,there were issues regarding mouthpieces and equipment changes I preferred,but overall, Roy Stevens made his mark with so many trumpeters,and as the years have slipped by after Roy Steven’s death, some of his students have come back….to say Thank You to Roy. We’ll never see this experience again. There is no sight like hindsight.