Listening is Essential

Guest Author: Max Matzen

I truly believe that at the center of every great player’s musical inspiration are a handful of recordings. Not just digital video footage, but actual recording projects–like records and CDs. I can name several records that had a profound impact on me as a young musician that still inspire me to this day: Wynton Marsalis’s Carnaval with the Eastman Wind Ensemble, and Clifford Brown and Max Roach’s Live at Basin Street. These records, no matter when I see or hear them, make me want to play the trumpet for several hours or more. My discovery of these two records seriously changed my entire life trajectory.  I know that sounds a bit much, but it’s completely true! I was 15 years old on a trip in Colorado. I found both of them on the same day in a CD store in Colorado Springs. Right now, many years later, they are both with me here in my private studio, proudly sitting atop my piano (next to a bunch of trumpet mouthpieces).

As a teacher in a generation where most things are just a click away, things have definitely changed. Many students are unwilling to pay for recordings, even if it’s just $1. Many people don’t have the patience to search for good recordings beyond youtube.  It’s no coincidence that every student (and professional for that mater) that I’ve seen that really excels in their art has a very close relationship with recordings that they love. They listen to them closely and regularly, repeatedly. They turn to them when they need inspiration or just to be excited about the path that they are on.

I believe that one of the biggest challenges we face is somehow fostering an environment where students learn this kind of patience, curiosity, and relationship with entire recordings, and feel good about investing in them.

What do you think?

Author: Max Matzen, Course Creator, EA School of Music 

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