Steven R. Cohen
Used with permssion
Copyright 2010, Stephen R. Cohen

I was a student of Joseph Allard circa 1959 through 1962. I was a high school student in Fair Lawn, NJ with aspirations of being a classical clarinetist. I also played alto sax. I took lessons from him at his home which was just a few miles away. At that time I heard he was a great teacher but did not really know how great a teacher he was and how widely known he was.

His methods, as all of you other students of his know were very eclectic. I could not know how influential he would be on me as a 16 or 17-year-old high school student. The emphasis on everything that we do, every movement that we make influences our tone and our music; has greater wisdom than just music training, but in life in general. He made me lie on the floor and showed me specific exercises to improve my diaphragmatic breathing as opposed to shallow upper chest breathing. As you all know he tried to get us to hear the music in our heads before putting an instrument in her mouth.

One week, I spent some time listening to Johnny Hodges. I came in for a saxophone lesson and was (poorly) attempting to play in a Johnny Hodges style. It was the only time I saw Mr. Allard angry. He stopped me, and admonished me, asking what I was doing. I explained that I was trying to play like Johnny Hodges. He spent the rest of the lesson talking about the need to develop one’s own style and not imitate others. There is only one Johnny Hodges, and only one of each of us. He taught me to appreciate the uniqueness of each person and the contributions that we each bring to the world of music and the world in general.

I did have the opportunity to attend Julliard, but I declined. I met many talented people at the auditions. I realized that although I was a skilled high school kid, I did not have much natural talent, and there were others who worked as hard as I did, but with more natural ability. I also saw how few jobs there are in an orchestra and realized that I would not achieve what I wanted to. When I graduated High School in 1962, Stanley Drucker was the Principal Clarinetist with the NY Philharmonic. As I write this in 2010, he is now retiring. I would have spent a career without that vacancy being available.

Instead, I became a psychologist. I quickly found myself teaching people with panic disorder and anxiety, the diaphragmatic breathing techniques I learned from Mr. Allard to help them get more control over their anxiety. His lessons about hearing music in our head before playing it, is similar to the current emphasis in psychology on “mindfulness”. And the appreciation the gifts that each part of our self brings to the word is a universal lesson.

I take joy in the lessons I have learned from Mr. Allard, and the fact that my music teacher has had as profound an influence on my practice of psychology as some of psychology teachers. He has helped many people that he never met, as each of his former students pass on the wisdom we have gleaned from Mr. Allard to many others.

Steven R. Cohen, Ph.D.