Harry Watters on How to Care by Not Caring

harry wattersJazz Trombonist Harry Watters travels nationally and internationally as a Jupiter Artist. His numerous Summit Records releases include the popular Love Songs and the three critically acclaimed Brothers discs with trumpeter Ken Watters.

After graduation from the University of North Texas, Harry spent four years touring and recording with the renowned Dukes of Dixieland. While working at night on Bourbon Street, a sleep-deprived Watters attended the University of New Orleans by day, serving as the graduate assistant to Professor Ellis Marsalis.

Watters has performed with Doc Severinsen, Al Hirt, Pete Fountain, Erich Kunzel, Kevin Mahogany, Wycliffe Gordon, Lou Rawls, Maureen McGovern, Bill Watrous, Carl Fontana, Jiggs Whiggam, James Moody, Peter Erskine, Conrad Herwig, John Fedchock and the Boston Brass. In addition, Harry has appeared as a featured soloist with the Syracuse Symphony, the Baton Rouge Symphony, the Louisiana Philharmonic, the Tulsa Pops, the West Virginia Symphony, the University of North Texas One O’Clock Lab Band, the Janacek Philharmonic, the Moldovan Festival Orchestra and the U.S. Army Orchestra.

Harry is married to violist and keyboardist Holly Watters of the U.S. Army Strings. They reside in Alexandria, Virginia with their three children Harry V, Katherine the 1st & Lady Caroline.


  1. Have a sense of detachment in evaluating your playing. Don’t be emotionally involved.
  2. Memorize the music as much as possible.
  3. Visualize a phenomenal performance. (Harry practiced for a couple of hours on the stage the night before his audition for the Army Blues.)
  4. (Bonus) Don’t have “flowery hands.”


“In 1990, at the University of New Orleans, I had my master’s recital. I also performed with the Dukes of Dixieland 6 nights a week. I was just stretching myself too thin. My concentration level was not the highest. The recital was disappointing because I didn’t play up to my standards.”


  • “I don’t give myself permission to play anything until I’ve slowed it way down and prepared adequately.”
  • “I had to have that experience in order to be more effective and efficient with my practice.”
  • “You care by not caring.”
  • “Effortless mastery is the ultimate goal.”



Q: It’s 5 minutes before you go on stage for an important performance… What are you doing?

A: Virtual practicing until the moment I go on stage. Tuning with the ensemble if I’m a soloist. Drinking water. Always have the mouthpiece to the lips so I can feel that physical contact.

Q: What’s the best performance-related advice you’ve ever received?

A: I had a lesson with someone and he said, “Harry, just play.”

Q: Can you share one tip for our listeners to help deal with stage fright? (Physical, mental, etc.)

A: Just remember this is a mere snapshot of your progress as a musician.

Q: What’s a non-musical activity that contributes to your success as a musician?

A: Being a parent. Showing your kids that playing music with the small amount of time you have is very powerful. Also makes you more effective and efficient in practicing.

Q: Imagine you’re on stage. It’s the end of the performance and the audience is on its feet, applauding. They don’t want any more and they don’t want any less. Everything is perfect. What have you just done?

A: The next gig is my dream gig.

About the author, James Newcomb

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