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Lessons with Caruso

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Joined: 10 Jun 2002
Posts: 111

PostPosted: Mon Jul 01, 2002 8:25 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

For those of you who did have the opportunity to study with the man himself: What kind of things went on in his lessons? Was it basically you playing the weekly routine and him commenting on your performance? I've often heard that Caruso would alter exercises or create new ones on the spot, depending on the needs of the students. Any anecdotes?
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Carmine Caruso Forum Moderator

Joined: 11 Nov 2001
Posts: 2865

PostPosted: Mon Jul 01, 2002 9:42 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

One time Herb Alpert's wife called, another time Alan Rubin was in for a lesson and another time I was sitting next to Jon Faddis, waiting my turn. The room which had belonged to his brother Jimmy (who did business there) was not big and could get crowded very easily with 5 or 6 people waiting. The back up would occur because no matter how long your lesson was scheduled, Carmine took as much time as he felt necessary for that given day. I always scheduled 30 minute lessons and was in the chair for an hour or more at times.

He used to tell me not to experiment with mouthpieces for at least a couple of years, until things had settled in, and yet one time he was trying out 6 or more mouthpieces with a student. When the student left Carmine explained that the student had a sensitive nerve in his top lip that was preventing him from being able to play comfortably. I would bet most teachers would tell the kid to take up drums or guitar. But not Carmine. This guy wanted to be a trumpet player and Carmine was experimenting with different mouthpieces to see if they all had the same effect on the sensitive nerve. I never found out how it got resolved, but it showed that Carmine believed he could find a way, some way, to overcome even this nerve obstacle and to get this student playing.

When I studied with Carmine, from 73 to 77, I think he had his exercises pretty well formulated by that time. They didn't vary a lot between me and the others that made the hike down from Boston. He would definitely focus on different things with different players, but I didn't see a huge difference in the stuff that we all worked on that eventually became basically the contents of MCFB in 1979.

I'll think about this some more.
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Jerry Freedman
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Joined: 29 Jan 2002
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Location: Burlington, Massachusetts

PostPosted: Tue Jul 02, 2002 6:48 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Geez, Charly I was making the trek from Boston ( actually Framingham) in those days. We should have got together. We used to go down early Saturday mornings and park live right infront iof the building. Two would go up, one would stay with the car. One of us was very short and he fell asleep in he back seat. I got down just in time to stop a tow truck from carrying him away. I think I remember most the awful green color of the office.
I was after Faddis once but I never saw him play. I have heard that he was dissatisfied with Caruso.

J. Freedman,Jr
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Carmine Caruso Forum Moderator

Joined: 11 Nov 2001
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PostPosted: Tue Jul 02, 2002 11:08 am    Post subject: Reply with quote


I was living in Allston and then Framingham for a few years also. We used to pay to park so we could hit the music stores after the lesson(s). Amazing that we never crossed paths. Many times I had to make the trip solo when no one else was able to make it. Only one time I had to turn back on the Mass Pike during a blizzard; couldn't go over 30 mph.
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Bill Adam/Carmine Caruso Forum Moderator

Joined: 26 Nov 2001
Posts: 5767
Location: Bloomington Indiana

PostPosted: Fri Jul 05, 2002 2:10 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I remember the way that studio felt: the clutter, the ash tray full of mouthpieces, Carmine sitting in that chair magisterial in an old undershirt with those headphones around his neck, the sound of midtown traffic outside.

I started lessons when I was living in Indiana in the mid-70s. My pal, John McNeil, had recently moved to New York and was raving about what Carmine was doing for him. I had to go visit John in NYC (my first time). In the first 18 hours I was there I went straight from LaGuardia to the Village Vanguard and heard Dexter and Woody in the process of recording "Homecoming", saw James Baldwin, Jeff Beck, and Bill Cosby at the Vanguard diggin' Dex, grabbed a few hours of shut-eye, and had my first lesson with Carmine. WOW!!!

I grabbed a couple of lessons with CC every time I could pull the money together to go to NYC again and crash on McNeil's couch (3 or 4 times a year). In 1978 I moved to New York and for the next 2 years I caught a lesson with Carmine about twice a month.

The coolest thing was observing other people's lessons. I heard great trumpet players (like Marvin Stamm & Burt Collins) and I heard middle school kids. I also heard Carmine give lessons to tons of non-trumpet players. I observed tuba, trombone, french horn, violin, oboe, sax, and voice lessons. He had everybody working on about the same thing with only slight modifications to adapt the calisthenics to that particular instrument.

How do you think Michael Brecker got his altissimo so smoothly connected to the rest of the horn? He took some lessons with Carmine at Randy's urging.

The bottom line is that all music is a succession of intervals. CC's calisthenics teach your body to play intervals cleanly and accurately. One plays cleanly on ANY instrument when all of the moving parts move in synchronization. For the violinist it was having left hand finger motions synchronized with right hand bowing. For an organist it means releasing some notes while depressing others and that requires that all of the fingers perform a synchronized dance. For trumpet players, the tongue, lips, breathing muscles, fingers, etc. all must move in a synchronized response to the musical demands.

This is why Carmine's approach was one that worked for every single person who studied with him and gave it a serious chance. He was like the ultimate "systems analyst"!

[ This Message was edited by: PH on 2002-07-06 22:40 ]
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Nick Mondello
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Joined: 25 Oct 2005
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Location: Locust Valley, NY

PostPosted: Tue Jan 30, 2007 10:01 am    Post subject: Carmine Caruso - Anecdotes Reply with quote

I happened to stumble onto this post. It brought back SO many memories of the years I studied with THE MASTER in the 60's and early 70's.

If I recall, Jimmy Caruso, Carmine's brother, had his name on the door.
Jimmy, like Carmine, was a sax player. I think I met him once. The room (505?) was small with TONS of sheet music, newspapers, artifacts, all over the place. Photos on the wall. A window - opened - out onto 46th Street. It was funky and homey at the same time. The student sat across from the Master, who sat Buddha-like in his t-shirt in an old worn living room chair. There was an ash tray present for those who indulged (I did at the time). Extra seats would be there for other students who would observe the magic. At the time, Carmine did not yet wear the headphones. That would come years later. Lessons were $10, later $15.

For some reason, Herb Alpert would frequently call Carmine for a quickie phone lesson during my lesson time. Carmine was SO accomodating telling Herb that "Nick Mondello, a good little trumpet player (how he referred to me) from New York" was in his lesson. That made me feel great and let him off the hook for the "intrusion." Herb, of course would say hello. It was a lesson in a lesson for me. Calls would come in from Italy, Europe, Vegas, you name it.

Other greats would be there for lessons: Marvin Stamm, Victor Paz, et al.
I would ALWAYS stick around before and after my lessons to watch these guys work. Paz would do the 6 notes up to G above high C without flinching. It was SO interesting to watch how Carmine approached their respective goals, chop questions, etc.

Occasionally, Carmine would invite me out to lunch or dinner at the China Song. Lots of his friends would show. The conversations ranged from trumpeting to sports, to life matters. Occasionally, he spoke with my mother when he returned my phone calls. They would get into a whole Italian thing, talking Italian, sharing recipe tips, Itlaian sayings, etc.

Lessons were always filled with metaphors, sayings, visualizations, etc., all meaning to help get the "point" across. If he told me once about "football players and tires," he told me dozens of times. He recommended reading Zen In the Art of Archery and Psycho-Cybernetics. I now regreat not taping my lessons. I still have my notes and assignments written out. Carmine never got angry or dissappointed with me, except once he bristled when I asked him to draw for me an image of "where the tongue should go." "I AM NOT AN ARTIST!," he responded. "The tongue goes where it wants!" His "Just do it!" preceded Nike by decades.

I don't think a day goes by without thinking about Room 505 and Carmine's lessons. Arguably the most influential person on my playing and teaching. I was blessed to be his student.
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