Play for Someone You Love - A Lesson from Louis Armstrong

Feb 07, 2020

How do you get over the fear of making a mistake on a performance?

How do you let go of all the things that are on your mind and bugging you when you need to perform?

Rich Matteson, best known as a jazz educator and euphonium player with the Dukes of Dixieland, posed these questions to Louis Armstrong during a break in their recording session.

The answer as Louis Armstrong saw it was simple: 

“I always play for somebody I love. That’s all. You play for somebody you love, all the time. I always play for Him because he gave me the talent, I play for Lucille because she’s my wife and if I make a mistake she’s understands. They all want to listen, that’s cool. If they don’t want to listen, it’s still cool because I was going to play for Him and her anyways.”

Why does playing for someone you love make you play better?

As Rich Matteson says in this full interview:

“When you play for someone you love, you automatically try to do the best you can because you love that person.” 

If you approach the bandstand with this mindset, your music will come not from a place of showing off or trying to impress the musicians in the room, but from the genuine expression of yourself through your music.

This lesson was passed on to me at the University of North Florida via my Jazz Ensemble 1 director, J.B. Scott, who was taught this lesson from Rich Matteson, and I hope you’ll pass it on to your students.

When you get on that stage and put your horn to your mouth, fingers to the keys, or pick to the strings, remember to play for someone you love.

- Chase

What's the most important non-musical lesson you learned from one of your teachers? Let me know in the comments below.

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