Wynton Marsalis on recognizing your place

From Sam Dillon’s “Graduates Get an Earful, From Left, Right and Center” (The New York Times: 11 June 2006):

Wynton Marsalis


[Delivering commencement to] The Juilliard School

Realize that integrity is real, and so is starvation. Never let pay and the talk of pay occupy more time and space than the talk of your art. If you find that it is, go into banking or start a hedge fund or something.

Also, about pay, understand where you are. When I was 19, I was on a tour with Herbie Hancock and I started complaining to him before we walked onstage about what I was being paid. I said, “When am I being paid?”

He said: “Come here, man. Look out into the audience.” He said, “Now, do you see those people?”

I said, “Yes sir.”

He said: “They paid for these tickets. If you don’t walk out of here, how many of them are going to leave? Now, if I don’t walk out, how many will leave? That’s why you’re being paid what you’re being paid.”