Monday Music Quote: Wynton Marsalis

Wynton Marsalis at the Lincoln Center for the ...
Wynton Marsalis at the Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts (Photo credit: Wikipedia)



 "Anything that cannot be defined cannot be taught. If you don't know what something is, then you can't teach it." -- Wynton Marsalis

Wynton Learson Marsalis is a trumpeter, composer, teacher, music educator, and Artistic Director of Jazz at Lincoln Center in New York City, United States.

I think Wynton Marsalis occupies a singular position in popular culture and has to be the most well known jazz musician alive. I recently read an article about him and learned that he received his first trumpet from Al Hirt when he was five or six but really got started playing trumpet at twelve.  

Another key point I recall was that he first learned to play with love and feeling, plus having all the fundamental exercises down. Can you imagine being around eight years old and hanging out with your dad's friends like Dizzy and Art Blakey?

When Wynton was 13 he was in a funk band, The Creators and from then on... he played with a lot of groups, plus school bands. Later on, he attended Julliard to study classical. The rest is history!

What I enjoyed most from the article is Wynton's approach to teaching. He gauge's his methods with the student's interest level. If they're not serious and don't practice, then he would rather just play basketball with them and still like them.

So, the question needs to be asked... How serious are we with our music studies and practicing the piano/keys? As teachers, we're not beating our students over the head with "you have to" approach but rather we're trying to bring them into the feeling of the thing that we're teaching.

I'd like to end with a direct quote from this wonderful musician that I admire greatly.


"Anything that cannot be defined cannot be taught. That's just a fact. If you don't know what something is, then you can't teach it. So the question a band director has to ask himself is, "What will my students get the most use of?" - not "What will my students like? What will be the most beneficial - to learn the history of our people, to learn our culture, to become virtuosic on their instruments or play their instruments in a more individualistic style, to teach them how to play more together and in balance? You have to ask yourself certain key ensemble questions. What music will be most beneficial to my students and their development? Each band director should ask that question and also do the research, themselves, in order to figure out what's available for their students."
You may be interested in these music resources:

Jazz101
Jazz201
Jazz Intensive Training Center

*affiliate links in post*

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 "Jazz washes away the dust of every day life." -- Art Blakey

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