When we first met Clark Terry, we could not believe we’d just met one of the greatest musicians of all time. He was a legendary jazz trumpeter, playing in the orchestras of Duke Ellington and Count Basie alongside 20th century greats like Charles Mingus and Thelonious Monk. He was NBC’s first black staff musician and a National Endowment for the Arts Jazz Master. Millions of Americans knew him for his signature song, “Mumbles.” But to us, he was a mentor and teacher.
He was a master instructor who could see the potential in his students (who ranged from children to luminaries such as Miles Davis and Quincy Jones) and took great pride in helping them develop. Clark will be remembered as one of the greatest musicians and educators of all time, but the thing that stands out in our minds is the love and encouragement he shared so freely with everyone in his life.
One of our favorite quotes from Clark in our documentary is, “Your mind is a powerful asset. Use it for positive thoughts and you’ll learn what I’ve learned. I call it getting on the plateau of positivity.”
Clark lived by example on that plateau.
Hicks directed the documentary Keep On Keepin’ On, about Terry’s mentorship of Kauflin
This appears in the March 09, 2015 issue of TIME.