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Doc Severinsen: “If You’re Going to Play What You Feel Like Playing Without a Goal of Some Kind Then You’re Not Going to Make It”


This scholarly interview with iconic musician Doc Severinsen delves into the captivating journey of his illustrious career, marked by a unique blend of talent, determination, and unexpected opportunities. The narrative unfolds through Doc’s early encounter with Tommy Dorsey, his unconventional entry into the music scene at the age of fourteen, and the pivotal role his father played in shaping his trajectory as a trumpeter.

As Doc reflects on his remarkable career, he candidly discusses the relentless pursuit of mastery on the trumpet, emphasizing the instrument’s demanding nature. He credits his father’s unwavering support and foresight for instilling a disciplined work ethic that propelled him to success. Doc’s evolution from a classical player to diverse genres, including big band, pop, jazz-funk, and disco, is explored, providing insights into his versatile musicality.

The interview unveils the humorous anecdotes from Doc’s thirty years on The Tonight Show, highlighting his charismatic and witty persona. Notable moments, such as the Thanksgiving episode with Johnny Carson, shed light on the camaraderie between the two.

Doc’s post-retirement relocation to Mexico unveils a new chapter in his musical journey, marked by unexpected collaborations with guitarist Gil Gutiérrez. The transition to smaller orchestras and ventures into jazz reflect Doc’s ongoing passion for exploration and growth as a musician.

The interview concludes with Doc’s reflections on the fondest aspects of his career, including his role as a pops conductor for symphony orchestras. The narrative encapsulates the joy and challenges of this role, demonstrating Doc’s adaptability and dedication to musical excellence.

In offering advice to aspiring trumpet players, Doc Severinsen underscores the trumpet’s demanding nature, urging disciplined practice and setting clear goals. The interview concludes with a poignant life lesson learned from personal experiences, emphasizing the ephemeral nature of life and the imperative to seize every opportunity.

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ISSN: 2792-8349

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International Journal of Music