“If I Can Keep On Breathing, I’m Gonna Keep On Playing”

How inspiring…

These were the words of Clark Terry, legendary jazz trumpeter, in 1997 during his jazz performance in Salt Lake City when the high altitude of 4000 feet challenged him as it does many visitors who are new to the effects of thin air.

I had the honor of attending his performance back in the days when I was exploring different types of jazz music.  At this point, I already knew I loved (and was intrigued) by the wide variety of music by Miles Davis, so attending Clark Terry’s  performance was a a logical  continuation of my exploration into the jazz world.

I remember loving the improvisational & syncopated jazz sounds while in the elegant hotel ballroom that was the home of the SLC Jazz Series.

There were several times that Clark had to put the trumpet down in order to catch his breath.  His supportive band mates would deliver an oxygen mask to him.   He would inhale, get some relief and then continue playing the trumpet.  At one point while regrouping, he said the words I will always remember.  “If I can keep on breathing, I’m gonna keep on playing.”

Isn’t that the way we all should handle our challenges when life gets tough?  Determination.  Willpower.  Grit.  Just keep going…..

Clark was involved with a film that had that same concept called “Keep On Keepin’ On” that documents the 4 years he provided mentorship to a blind student prodigy named Justin Kauflin.  How cool is that.

Clark Terry recently passed away at the age of 94 after a 70 year career in jazz.  His impact on the jazz world was tremendous and will continue indefinitely through his contributions to jazz education.

Rest in Peace, Clark Terry.

Clark Terry Fun Facts

  • Played for 8 US Presidents
  • Many jazz festivals have been named in his honor
  • Knighted in Germany
  • Arts & Letters Awards by French & Austrian governments
  • Jazz Ambassador for State Department
  • Received dozens of Hall of Fame and Wall of Fame awards, keys to cities, etc.
  • Received many lifetime achievement awards
  • Fifteen honorary doctorates.
  • Three adjunct professorships
  • And so on…..

The video below is a brief music lesson with legends Clark Terry and drummer Louis Bellson.