UCSC Currents online

Front Page
AppointmentsAwards & Honors Classified Ads
UCSC in the News

July 7, 2003

New book reveals qualities shared by world's most successful musicians

By Scott Rappaport

What makes the great musicians great? That’s 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 Green’s 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 world’s 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 musician’s 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 or performance:

"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! Don’t judge or evaluate while you’re 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 subconscious.

"I don’t think," Hersch observes. "Thinking is the enemy…Picasso said that if you want to create art, you have to make a mess. You have to take the time to experiment. You can’t 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 to bake."

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 the country.

"What’s 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 it’s the distance between being us and being ever more fully ourselves. It is what’s inside you--whether you’re in music or the fire service, business or education--that makes you unique, special, or even great."

Return to Front Page

  Maintained by pioweb@ucsc.edu
UC Santa Cruz Home Page Contact Currents Currents Archives Search Currents Currents Home Maintained By Email Contact