I was in College and had just started at Long Beach State, transferring in as a Junior. I made the top Wind Ensemble group and was in the first weeks of our first semester when I meet a real Teacher, face to face.
The director was Larry G. Curtis. Mr. Curtis was known for his world class groups and hard nosed style. Many called him Lazer Curtis or Larry ‘God’ Curtis. He was amazing and really scary for the new guys.
One day, during rehearsal, Mr. Curtis stopped the whole band, pointed that stick at me and yelled, “Where are your brains? In your Head or your Foot?” I answered in a totally freaked little voice, “Your Head?” He said, “Go to my office and see my Secretary. I want to see you in my office before next rehearsal. Go Now!”
I scheduled, showed up, got in his office and sat across from him in silence.
Larry let the moment of silence set up the importance of what he was about to say.
He held one hand up high and said, “Greg, when you are on your game, you are as good as anyone can be.” Shakes his high hand and says, “This is you when you’re on.”
He then took the other hand and held it real low and said, “…and this is you the rest the time; a bad high school, beginner sounding sax player.”
Larry shook the upper hand and said, “You don’t ever have to get any better to do whatever you want in the music business.”
He shook the lower hand and said, “You have to improve the ‘BAD’ playing,” as he raised the low hand nice and slow.
He said, “You don’t have to raise the ceiling, you need to raise the floor!”
Curtis went on to tell me that I was totally good enough to be with the band and one of the best tenor players to come thru; but, when I was off for whatever reason, I totally sucked. He told me, it was my consistency and not ability that was going to cost me that gig, and a future in music.
This meeting changed my world, big time. It was a totally different way to think.
Consistency was the problem. My Ability was not a problem.
I was trying to learn all these new sax tricks and show off like most guys in school. I started working on the floor – most the time.
I thank Larry Curtis for taking a minute and sending me in a new direction. I am told, all the time that I never sound bad, or I am always ‘on’, or totally consistent.
It was a Pearl Of Wisdom that has made my Saxophone Career be long, stable, exciting and ever growing. Thanks Larry and sorry about your office chair.