Play with expression
Treat everything you play on your instrument as an important piece of music, even if you are just warming up, or flirting, or joking. Something might seem like it’s not important, but it is because it’s all a part of you, the way you tie your shoes, the way you hold your fork. Every day you walk around making yourself into you. Do everything with the proper type of attitude. Always trying to be yourself and give yourself over to what you’re doing. Don’t be a cynic and think you’re too hip to be a part of something. Invest yourself by participating and trying to do your best, no matter how insignificant your part seems.
The expression that you play with is your style. Playing with expression requires a more internal intensity. Expression is not a matter of physically doing something like slurring or tonguing. It comes from inside. We could say that expression is your intent, it’s what you want to communicate. And you can communicate a full range of experiences. There is no right or wrong in expression, only different levels of success in communicating how you feel. Ultimately that is why you take the time to learn to play an instrument, to express how you feel. It’s like developing an extensive vocabulary. The more skillful your use of language, the more precise your communication will be.
Wynton Marsalis, from “Marsalis on Music” p. 130-131