While his career has focused on performing/touring and recording, Laurence's ties to teaching are lifelong and originate in his family. His father, Burnet Hobgood, was an acclaimed educator in the college theater, perhaps best known as the creator/designer of the still renowned theater program at Southern Methodist University in Dallas, TX. Laurence's exposure to his dad's dynamic style of rehearsing and teaching left a permanent imprint; of particular interest is the ultra-literate, verbally expressive nature of the theater world which stands in (frequently stark) contrast to the "if you have to ask I can't tell you" syndrome that's unfortunately all too prevalent in the jazz world.

Make no mistake: all learning is self-learning, self-realizing. Teachers are simply guides in this process, ideally wise stewards of knowledge who see themselves as being further down the same path the student has chosen.

That said, there's an unfortunate human tendency to conflate that which one is unable to do -- or express -- with that which cannot be done -- or expressed. The fact is that there's no shortage of well-intentioned, genius-level musicians -- particularly specialists in improvisation, i.e. jazz musicians -- who simply lack expansive verbal skills and therefor make the mistake of thinking there are certain ideas and concepts which just can't be expressed with words.

Understanding the very nature of teaching reveals the extreme oversimplification that this attitude personifies. As stated, ultimately any true learning involves an internal exercise in absorption of new ideas. As such, teachers are sort of mystical internal button-pushers; finding the right formulae to allow the student to experience those "light bulb" moments that lead to real learning is an art form unto itself.

The old meme "you can't tell someone how to ride a bicycle" -- meaning no amount of verbal description can adequately prepare someone to ride a bike for the first time without making some physical/coordinative mistakes -- comes readily to mind. Of course there's a certain truth to the saying, but it's a highly simplistic, superficial truth. If proffered mindfully there are undoubtedly valuable insights one could share with a novice bicyclist that would stand a good chance of making the experience, once undertaken, a bit less daunting, less alien.

The same is true with music, especially improvised music, where a major component of the learning challenge is to be able to construct one's own content. When communicated effectively guiding concepts, dependable strategies, "tiered" priorities and objective factual information offer major assistance to the student in their quest to unravel what is a highly complex system -- and can additionally shape this process to lead to individualized style and coherence.

This is the philosophy Laurence brings to all his teaching.

 


Laurence is on the staff of Terry's Kids.
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Thanks again for a great residency and concert. The students are still talking about the events of last week. You gave them superb feedback, perspective and direction. And your trio was fabulous.”

- Michael Sakash, Music Director Conservatory at Fryeburg Academy, Fryeburg, Maine

Dear Laurence,
Thank you for coming to Stanley. Middle school teachers need to be inspired, and you certainly did that for me. The students are still talking about YOU, your lecture, and your playing. Seldom in my life have I met anyone who could speak about Music and play it at the level that you do.

I just don’t know what to say. I am a better person and musician for having met you. The little girl who sat next to you is one of the pianists. When I asked today what your message was, she said, “You have to tell a story”. She got it and so did the rest of us!

I feel a lot of what you say, but I can’t express it in English as you did. That comment was consistent with all of the other adults present. Again, I am grateful that you got up so early, took BART, and gave of yourself so generously.”
very open to any input I might have had. The end result was a thrilling and impressive composition which evokes images of the beautiful Appalachian landscapes. Hobgood’s arrangement elicits thunderous applause at every concert.”

- Bob Athayde, Music Director, Stanley Middle School, Lafayette, CA