July 7, 2003
New book reveals qualities shared by world's
most successful musicians
By Scott Rappaport
What makes the great musicians great? Thats the very first sentence
and the premise of The Mastery of Music, a new book by UC Santa
Cruz lecturer Barry Green.
UCSC lecturer Barry Greens new book includes advice
from renowned musicians such as Dave Brubeck, Bobby McFerrin,
Doc Severinsen, and Joshua Bell. Photo courtesy of Barry Green
Drawing from more than 120 personal interviews with revered performers
such as Dave Brubeck, Bobby McFerrin, Christopher Parkening, Doc Severinsen,
and Joshua Bell, Green discusses 10 qualities shared by the worlds
most successful musicians that make them stand out from the pack.
Green found that true virtuosity requires more than mastery of an instrument
and concentration as a performing artist. He discovered that it also
requires a mastery of additional qualities of the human spirit--such
as confidence, communication, passion, discipline, courage, and creativity--to
take a good musicians skills to the next level.
The book includes advice and wisdom from a diverse group of performers,
including orchestral players, soloists, conductors, and jazz musicians.
For example, Charles Schlueter, principal trumpet with the Boston Symphony,
offers this simple, yet perceptive, tip on how to stay in the moment,
reduce stress, and increase confidence in order to survive an audition
"There is no anxiety in the present," Schlueter says. "Anxiety
is either in the past, worrying about what was just played, or in the
future, worrying about what you are about to play. Nothing can be done
about either! Dont judge or evaluate while youre performing."
Jazz pianist Fred Hersch has a similar take on the issues of creativity
and spontaneity, revealing to Green that he often lets his hands wander
on the keyboards during practice sessions, yielding completely to his
"I dont think," Hersch observes. "Thinking is
Picasso said that if you want to create art, you have
to make a mess. You have to take the time to experiment. You cant
get sidetracked by perfection issues if you want to be a great artist.
You have to take chances--and a certain percentage of them are not going
A former principal bassist of the Cincinnati Symphony, Green now teaches
double bass at UC Santa Cruz, and for the Young Bassist program of the
San Francisco Symphony Education Department. Author of The Inner
Game of Music with W. Timothy Gallwey, Green has written numerous
workbooks for keyboard, voice, instruments, and ensembles. He additionally
gives concerts, conducts bass workshops, and presents seminars throughout
"Whats the quality or talent or skill that makes an Itzhak
Perlman out of an already fine and talented musician?" Green concludes.
"I believe the magic is something that we can learn from watching
the great musicians, and asking ourselves about their defining characteristics.
And I believe the distance between "good" and "great"
that the Itzhak Perlmans of this world have traveled is a distance we
all can travel, because its the distance between being us and
being ever more fully ourselves. It is whats inside you--whether
youre in music or the fire service, business or education--that
makes you unique, special, or even great."
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