Words to Live By

I have been very fortunate to have kind, generous, and honest teachers in my life. Here are some words from them that I live by everyday.


Everybody has an axe to grind.

The proof is in the pudding.

If it seems too good to be true, it probably is.

(after I played an etude in a lesson) Well, that was terrible, wasn’t it?

You have to stop Tony Parking in the middle of phrases (losing air support and focus in sound).

All you have to do, is count to four.

Don’t think, DO!

You have a choice, you see- you can either do it the way I taught you, or you can bang your head against the wall. The choice is yours.

This is NOT new information!!!

That is what we call, a LIE.

You have to be an actor when you play music.

You are too Canadian. You have to be more American.

You have to play in a way in which it doesn’t sound like a mess, basically.

Do you practice with metronome?

You have to HATE sounding bad.

You have to learn in good taste. You have to learn in a way that you are convinced.

Now you do not have a teacher. You can experiment on your own and be your own player.

Leave and never come back (first teacher, age 12).

You can’t play on reeds like this!

Do you hear the difference?? That is the most important part.

Hearing the difference doesn’t mean anything if you don’t do anything!!!

I want your playing to be refined playing.

You have to use warm air.

You have to use cold air.

You stick out your butt when you play.

Why do you stick out your butt when you play.

In a masterclass form a percussionist- “You should record yourself to see just how much you move. You move a lot.”

Yes, I know.

From an adjudicator (clarinetist): Your sound is not a good sound.

From an adjudicator (non-clarinetist): You are a true artist.

From an adjudicator (clarinetist): Too stuffy.

From an adjudicator (clarinetist): You are sharp on your F#. In fact you are sharp everywhere.


You need to learn pieces that you will actually get asked to play in life.

I do not like his playing.

Do not play in a way that would intimidate the panel in an orchestra audition.

Do not balloon your notes!

Do not play like a doorbell.

Is this reed from like…what… the 60s?

Not terrible.

I think you should go into audio-engineering (at our last lesson together).

I think you should go into administration (at one of last lessons together).

What mouthpiece is that again?

That mouthpiece doesn’t work for you.

Don’t be idealistic.

Your playing needs to be more consistent.

You need RHYTHM in your playing.

Your sound, is not a BAD sound.

Your sound, is not a GOOD sound.

(when asked if I should specialize in something) Do everything.

This is a bad clarinet.

You need a new clarinet.

Your clarinet is holding you back.

How are you playing on this???

If you are not already a soloist, it is too late for you to become a soloist.

Most people will not become orchestra musicians.


Do you like your sound?

Your teacher talked very highly of you to me. I think we will see each other again, I’m sure of it.

Do you like the way you just played that?

How do you articulate that?

You have to take ALL the auditions.

When is this audition again?

Teacher: How was the audition?
Me: It was alright. I think I learned a lot.
Teacher: Well, that’s almost the point.

You should aim to sound like a BMW, not a beat-up old Beatle.

It was very late for you (first encounter). But your technique gave me hope. But now I realize I was wrong about that.

Not your best.

Do a shot of espresso before each lesson.

Yes, that’s it! But Tony, you have to play like that ALL the time. If you play like that nobody can sound better than you.


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