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John Lawless: “No One Wants to Hear You Say How Good You Are; Just Play!”


This interview with musician John Lawless provides a comprehensive overview of his journey as a percussionist and educator. Lawless recounts his early exposure to music, detailing fortuitous circumstances that led him to receive instruction from Jack Bell, principal percussionist of the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra. The interview highlights Lawless’s entry into the professional realm, including his early recordings with the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra and his enduring relationship with the ensemble. The narrative seamlessly transitions to Lawless’s foray into teaching, propelled by Bell’s instrumental role in connecting him with an opportunity at Clark Atlanta University. This pivotal moment initiated Lawless’s career in academia, spanning multiple institutions over the course of 25 years.

Lawless delves into his philosophy on teaching, emphasizing a commitment to eradicating weaknesses in his students. He articulates a dedication to cultivating well-rounded percussionists proficient in all aspects of their craft, including instrument care and maintenance. The interview sheds light on the vibrant atmosphere at Kennesaw State University, where Lawless currently teaches, underscoring a collegial environment among faculty and a supportive ethos within his studio.

The discussion touches upon the demographic of Lawless’s students, predominantly undergraduates aged 18 to 22, while also revealing his affinity for teaching students at both ends of the spectrum—freshmen with burgeoning enthusiasm and seniors poised for the professional world. Lawless articulates his unique approach to instruction, utilizing personalized goal-setting recorded in student notebooks to track progress over their four-year tenure.

Additionally, Lawless shares insights into his preferred practice techniques, eschewing a one-size-fits-all approach in favor of high expectations tailored to individual needs. The interview concludes with Lawless recommending specific technique books for various percussion instruments and offering sagacious advice to both students and teachers. His counsel emphasizes the importance of maintaining professional relationships and a commitment to lifelong learning, encapsulating the ethos of continual growth and adaptability in the realm of music education.

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ISSN: 2792-8349

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International Journal of Music