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Advice from Yamaha Master Educator Larry Gookin

Say Something

When I was 15, my high school band director, Don Lawrence, told me to “say something” when I was playing a trombone solo with the jazz band.

That simple comment has remained at the foundation of my career in music as a conductor, performer and educator.

To “say something” implies there is more to music than playing what’s on the page. A performer must discover the emotional content of the composition and interject his or her own personal feelings into the performance in order to “say something.”

There are numerous published books dealing with emotion and meaning in music and the art of expressive performance. Recently, I’ve enjoyed reading two books by David Whitwell — “The Art of Musical Conducting” and “American Music Education: The Enigma and the Solution.” Both support the belief that music is the language of emotions.

If as music educators we believe this to be true, then our selection of literature, rehearsal priorities and educational purpose will take on a unique direction, one that will make a profound difference in the lives of our students, just as it did mine when I was 15.

This article originally appeared in the 2017 V2 issue of Yamaha SupportED. To see more back issues, find out about Yamaha resources for music educators, or sign up to be notified when the next issue is available, click here.