Words of Wisdom from Wynton Marsalis during the Coronavirus / COVID-19 Pandemic

advice coronavirus jalc jazz at lincoln center quotes wynton marsalis Mar 24, 2020

Wynton Marsalis and the Jazz at Lincoln Center held an hour-long livestream last night answering questions directly from people tuning in. At the start of the stream, Wynton spoke about what musicians can do during this period of social distancing and quarantine and then the JALC video producer Adam Meeks moderated the questions that came in.

I’ve grouped Wynton’s thoughts and responses based on topic and hopefully they will provide you with food for thought and encourage you to join the next livestream from JALC or watch previous talks from Wynton Marsalis.

If you enjoy this, share it with another musician. Let's pass on the wisdom passed down to us from the elder statesmen of this jazz community.

10 pieces of advice for when you’re stuck inside:

  1. “Embrace the space”
  2. “Set long-term internal goals.”
  3. “Keep perspective.”
  4. “Organize your short-term goals and plan each day with a doable schedule."
  5. “Diversify your day.”
  6. “Stay humorous.”
  7. “Stay active in your mind and exercise.”
  8. “We’re going to be in this a while, pace yourself.”
  9. “Hope and optimism are internal.”
  10. “You play for yourself first.”

On community:

  • “Reach for community”
  • Create your community based on your interests and concerns, not based on geography
  • “Get to know the people you’re with”

On what the blues can teach us about the current crisis:

  • “The thing about the blues is it puts a groove on a bad situation.”
  • “The blues is survival music.”

On playing your instrument:

  • “ I don’t separate technique from expression or the soul from the spirit.”
  • “Speaking is an improvisation.”
  • Wynton quoting flamenco guitarist Paco de Lucia, “The mind calls for innovation, but the soul calls for tradition.”
  • “Accept that it [practicing] takes discipline. Then get to work. But put aside some time to not do anything too.”

On not having other musicians to play with:

  • “When you have restrictions, you work inside that. Make the best of the situation.”

On the desires that prevent young musicians from attaining mastery:

  1. “The desire to waste time.”
  2. “Needing recognition from peers”
  3. “The desire to avoid insecurities”

On playing fast tempos:

  • “Try to do things you can’t do. Chart your progress. Tape yourself.”
  • “For fast tempos, Dizzy told me to tap on 1 and 3, not 2 and 4.”
  • “As musicians we’re really dealing with our imagination and our ears.”
  • “Get to the fundamental root of what your problem is.”

On keeping perspective:

  • “Look at what you get and be grateful for that, not looking at what you didn’t get.”

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