On June 11, 2015, we celebrate the centennial of Arnold Jacobs, former longtime principal tuba of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra.

Arnold Jacobs

Jacobs was born in Philadelphia and was raised in California. The product of a musical family, he credited his mother, a keyboard artist, for his original inspiration in music and spent a good part of his youth progressing from bugle to trumpet to trombone and finally to tuba. Jacobs entered Philadelphia’s Curtis Institute of Music as a fifteen-year-old on scholarship, where he studied with Philip Donatelli and Fritz Reiner.

After his graduation from Curtis in 1936, Jacobs played two seasons in the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra under Fabien Sevitsky. From 1939 to 1944 he was the tubist of the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra under Reiner. In 1941 Jacobs toured the country with Leopold Stokowski and the All-American Youth Orchestra.

At the invitation of music director Désiré Defauw, he joined the Chicago Symphony Orchestra in 1944 and remained a member until his retirement in 1988. He appeared as soloist with the Orchestra on numerous occasions, recording Vaughan Williams’s Tuba Concerto in 1977 for Deutsche Grammophon with Daniel Barenboim conducting (re-released in 2003 on The Chicago Principal). Jacobs also was a founding member of the Chicago Symphony Brass Quintet, and along with his CSO colleagues, was part of the famous 1968 recording of The Antiphonal Music of Gabrieli with members of the Philadelphia and Cleveland orchestras.

Sir Georg Solti congratulates Jacobs following his retirement ceremony on September 29, 1988

Sir Georg Solti congratulates Jacobs following his retirement ceremony on September 29, 1988

Internationally recognized as an educator, Jacobs taught tuba at Northwestern University for more than twenty years and gave master classes and lectured at clinics all over the world. He was especially known for his ability to motivate and inspire not only brass but also woodwind players and singers by teaching new breathing techniques, and many considered him the greatest tubist in the world.

Arnold Jacobs: The Legacy of a Master, a series of writings collected by M. Dee Stewart, was published in 1987 by The Instrumentalist Publishing Company, and Arnold Jacobs: Song and Wind, by his assistant Brian Frederiksen, was published in 1996 by WindSong Press.

Jacobs’s honors included the highest award from the second International Brass Congress in 1984 and honorary doctor of music degrees from VanderCook College of Music and DePaul University. In 1994 the Chicago Federation of Musicians awarded him for Lifetime Achievement at the first Living Art of Music Award Ceremony. Mayor Richard M. Daley proclaimed June 25, 1995, “Arnold Jacobs Day in Chicago” as part of the celebration of his eightieth birthday. Along with Gizella, his wife of over sixty years, he was an active member of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra Alumni Association. Jacobs last appeared onstage at Orchestra Hall on June 7, 1998, appearing with members of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and guests, at a special concert celebrating the fiftieth anniversary of principal trumpet Adolph Herseth.

Jacobs died on October 7, 1998, at the age of 83, and on December 17, a special memorial program was given at Orchestra Hall. Performers included current and former members of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra along with brass players from the Lyric Opera of Chicago Orchestra, Northwestern University, DePaul University, Roosevelt University, and the VanderCook College of Music, all led by Daniel Barenboim.

In May 2001, the Chicago Symphony Orchestra Association announced that its principal tuba chair had been generously endowed in honor of Jacobs. The Arnold Jacobs Chair, endowed by Christine Querfeld, currently is occupied by Gene Pokorny.

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