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Inspirational Quotes on Jazz, Music and Life

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As a personal development and business coach, I’ve had the pleasure of working with several musicians, some of whom are cleverly disguised as corporate employees. In our discussions, music, and jazz in particular, has often been used as an analogy for life, organizations, business dynamics and so on. I was given this wonderful collection of quotes by a music teacher. There are some gems in here that I thought you might appreciate. Enjoy!

In my music, I’m trying to play the truth of what I am. The reason it’s difficult is because I’m changing all the time.

– Charles Mingus

A jazz musician is a juggler who uses harmonies instead of oranges.

~ Benny Green ~


“Life is what we play” Louis Armstrong

Music is your own experience, your own thoughts, your wisdom. If you don’t live it, it won’t come out of your horn. They teach you there’s a boundary line to music. But, man, there’s no boundary line to art.

~ Charlie Parker ~

“Music then is simply the result of the effects of Love on rhythm and harmony.”



“Rhythm is the soul of life.

The whole universe revolves in rhythm.

Everything and every human action revolves in rhythm. When we get out

of rhythm, that’s when we get into trouble.”

— Babatunde Olatunji


“Dancing with your feet is one thing, Dancing with your heart is another.”–unknown

Drumsound rises on the air,

its throb, my heart.

A voice inside the beat says,

“I know you’re tired,

but come. This is the way.”

— Rumi


“All the arts we practice are apprenticeship.

The big art is our life.”

– M. C. Richards quoted in The Artist’s Way by Julie Cameron


“Don’t ask yourself what the world needs.

Ask yourself what makes you come alive,

and go do that,

because what the world needs

is people who have come alive.”

– Howard Thurman



Wait until it is absolutely still within you

When you have attained this

Begin to play

As soon as you start to think STOP.

And try to retain The state of NON-THINKING

Then continue playing.”

— Karlheinz Stockhausen


“The purpose of a musician is not to make good music but to make society good.”
Music is moral law. It gives a soul to the universe, wings to the mind, flight to the imagination, a charm to sadness and a gaiety and life to everything. It is the essence of order and leads to all that is good, true and beautiful.

Plato 427-347 B.C.

“For a few moments music makes us larger than we really are, and the world more orderly than it really is….As our brains are thrown into overdrive, we feel our very existence expand and realize that we can be more than we normally are, and that the world is more than it seems. That is cause enough for ecstasy”

from Music, the Brain, and Ecstasy

by Robert Jourdain
Music is nature’s love and tears transformed into harmonies that reach the spirit of man.

DoraFlick Flood

When I hear music I fear no danger, I am invulnerable, I see no foe. I am related to the earliest times, and to the latest.

Henry D. Thoreau

A laugh is just like music. It lingers in the heart, and where its melody is heard the ills of life depart.


Conductors must give unmistakable and suggestive signals to the orchestra, not choreography to the audience.

~ George Szell ~
If a man does not keep pace with his companions, perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer. Let him step to the music which he hears, however measured or far away.

– Thoreau

I’ll play it first and tell you what it’s called later.

— Miles Davis

Painter paints pictures on canvas. But musicians paint their pictures on silence.

– Leopole Stokowski

“Whenever you meet miserable conditions or obstacles, you should

immediately and effortlessly recognize them as good. The thought of liking

problems should arise naturally, like the thought of liking ice cream or

the thought of liking music. When a person who likes music very much hears

music, the thought of liking it arises naturally, without any need to

consider the reasons.”

– Lama Zopa Rinpoche

“There are different ways of listening to music. There is a technical state

when a person who is developing technique and has learnt to appreciate

better music, feels disturbed by a lower grade of music. But there is a

spiritual way, which has nothing to do with technique. It is simply to tune

oneself to the music.”

-Hazrat Inayat Khan (Sufi master)

Laura Young is a personal development and business coach. She is a contributing author to A Guide to Getting It: Purpose and Passion and Become Your Own Great and Powerful: A Woman’s Guide to Leading a Real, Big Life. She has recently been featured on By, For and About Women and Artists First Radio. Learn more about Laura.

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About Laura Young

  • I always liked that Louis Armstrong quote.

  • “the forces of life–autonomous intelligence, a childlike openness, sexual energy, and humor–defeat those of death: by seduction if possible, by force if necessary”

    — Robert Christgau, Village Voice music critic in a review of George Clinton

    I’m all about those forces of life.

    That is all.