The Wit and Wisdom of William D. Revelli
“Revelli-isms” Compiled by Travis Almany

Dr. William D. Revelli was one of the “godfathers” of the band movement in the United States. His name resides
alongside those such as A. A. Harding, Frederick Fennell, and H. A. Vandercook for his far reaching impact on
music education and bands in this country. It is almost inconceivable to imagine the bandworld today without Dr.
Revelli's influence. Leaders in the band world over the past forty years as well as countless wind players in the
nation’s top professional bands and orchestras were either students of Dr. Revelli or indirectly impacted by his
teaching and life.

The purpose of this article is not only to  teach us about the wit of a great man, but also to amuse and distract from
our daily struggles. It is not my intention to give a historical accounting of Dr. Revelli’s life, although reading such
would be a worthy endeavor.  A great place to begin would be

I suppose that you could call me a “grand student” of Dr. Revelli. Both of my main college band directors, John
Whitwell and Jim Keene were his students. Unfortunately, by the time I was in graduate school with Mr. Keene, Dr.
Revelli had passed away. Yet, through my study with Mr. Whitwell, Dr. Revelli was still spreading his magic. I am
forever indebted to Mr. Whitwell for bringing Dr. Revelli to our campus on two occasions. They were times I will
never forget.

The following list is a small (only 130 out of over 500 I have read) sampling of “Revelli-isms,” unique things Dr.
Revelli would say in rehearsal. They were collected over a period of years by students in the University of Michigan
Bands.  I think you will see some of the brilliance, some of the tyrant, and  
from a safe distance, some of the humor
of Dr. Revelli. Concerning the tyrant side of him, make sure you check out the last "Revelli-ism." Enjoy.

How can we have a band…

That sounds like a painter falling off a ladder.
You sound like someone in hip boots walking through a swamp in mud up to your neck.
Why, we don’t need a cat—we’ve already got a clarinet.
You couldn’t sell that tone to a pawn broker.
Someday you’ll either realize I’m right, or you won’t be a success.
I know it’s hard—that’s what makes it difficult.
30 years ago this band would’ve gotten a 3rd division rating.
I can make the same sound by dragging a broom across the floor.
How can you do things like that?
If pilots make that many mistakes…
Music is not like religion…you don’t get a second chance.
Finger your parts before you go to bed at night.
If you’d accent it you’d be there when you get there.
You’re not finished until you’re through.
It’s all the fault of your high school band director.
If each of you made 5 mistakes in the performance, that would be 500 mistakes. That’s 500 potential mistakes on
every note.
Stop conducting me.
I detest notes but I love music.
When I die, you’ll see that I’m right.
You’ve played that wrong since birth.
That sounds like a mint—julip player.
What in the world would I want with ten trombones?
I’ve got a concert coming up—how about you?
Why don’t you get a hammer and be done with it?
I don’t want any tutts in this band.
Tell him what he is band…and he doesn’t even know.
You’ll join the vast army of mediocrity.
You can’t tell me you’ve practiced that.
There are a thousand bands that can play like that.
That doesn’t sound like the “Procession of the Nobles,” it sounds like the procession of the midgets.
In my Hobert band, all of the trombone players moved their slides in the same direction at the same time.
The seven most perfect notes I’ve heard are in the Toscanini recording of “Barber of Seville.”
You don’t have any such thing.
How can you play in tune if you don’t tongue the note?
Don’t push in your slide, push in your ear.
To come in at 20 you have to come in.
Soft, intense; like a sparrow on a telegraph wire.
I wouldn’t give you a nickel for 1,000 of those notes.
Hold your horn up.  Why not lay it down on the floor and be done with it?
I always wanted a buzzsaw (to oboe).
It’s the simple things that are difficult.
If you make every rehearsal a performance, then your performance will be just like a rehearsal.
If you watch me you couldn’t play it wrong.
Bach was one of the greatest melodists of all times; he couldn’t even write a 4th cornet part without it being melodic.
What’s a mouthpiece doing in this rehearsal?  (after mouthpiece was dropped by a brass player)
What’s causing the trouble is that you’re playing the second note of every note too long.
I don’t call that tone soft, I call it sick.
Come off the tie and go about your business.
I’m just being facetious, band, but I could go down to Kroger’s to buy a chicken and save an awful lot of money.  (to
sop. sax)
That hasn’t got anything to do with music.
You sound like you’re blowing through a metal tube.  (to trpts.)
Don’t tell him.  He knows what to do.  If he doesn’t know, we’ll tell him.
That sounds like a groundhog.  Have you ever heard a groundhog?  I haven’t, but if it sounds like that…
You can’t have rhythm unless you get it.
Why do you have to look at the music?  I can look at the score right now and tell you the notes.
I don’t want to beat anyone.  (MB pep talk)
Louder on the timbales…BLOW!!
Those mallets sound like they’ve been bathed in the Ganges River for thirty years.
When you play piano, play sharp.
What are you having back there, a meeting of the League of Nations? (to percussion)
I could make the same sound with a kitchen utensil.  (to flutes)
Do you third clarinets always have to play like little old women?
Mister, if you’re not sweating after sweeping the field, you’d better check either your glands or your attitude.
Come in like a leopard – not like an elephant.
Make it churchy.
You couldn’t blend with a streetcar.
Be dedicated in whatever you do – even if it’s kissing your girl goodnight.
Take a big breath; there’s no city tax on breath – you can breathe all day for free.
Your vibrato sounds like a fire whistle telling the men it’s all over. (to bass clarinets)
Leave out the grace notes – what good is a flower in the lapel of your suit coat if you don’t have your pants on?
Mister, if you can’t play that, what CAN you play?
Don’t you believe what the man wrote?
I think I have the right to assume you have normal intelligence.
I wish you could play it twice the same way once.
If you play it wrong slowly, it’ll be twice as bad when you play it right.
Don’t look at your horn, look at your ear.
When you can’t play the part there are 3 things you can do: play the wrong notes, leave it out, or tear up the music.
There’s 30 seconds you’ll never see again.
When I go – blow.
Do that last phrase and cream it up more.
Take last chair – I’ve been listening to that for three months.
If you’re waiting for Reveille to tune you, you’re waiting for a miracle.
I don’t hear any “G” – where’s the “G” in this band?
You’ll be late to your own funeral.
You can only play as good as you are smart.
You’re playing it TA LA TA TA and the TA TA’s are out of rhythm.
I have never heard anyone play in rhythm at 24 that played out of rhythm at 20.
Either join the parade or stand on the side – we’re going by.
It goes from a college band to a high school band to a junior high band in 4 bars.
What you did from your neck up was useless.
If you haven’t got time for marching band, you haven’t got time for college.
I didn’t cue the horns to do that (crescendo) … and I’ve got witnesses.
I like everybody here, and I like you better when you play well.
It is not good enough to play it right 7 times out of 8; learn to play it right 9 times out of 8 – sing it to yourself the
other time.
You never know what is going to come out of the horn section – any letter of the alphabet.
Young man, you started to play and you didn’t even have the clarinet in your mouth, but you played anyway.
We’ve got a couple of instruments that don’t sound like the instruments you’re playing.
Everything is short except the long notes.
You must be able to discriminate between your sound and a good one.
I’ve never seen anyone succeed who’s always talking.
You don’t make a sauce and then put the ingredients in.
Speak so I can understand when you play.
The saxophones sounded like they swallowed fish.
Where did you get the idea it was Buda Buda Buda?
You sound like a sleeping St. Bernard looks.
Anytime you see the word crescendo, play soft.
If you can play it right 4 times out of 5, the fifth time might be the concert.
The tympani player in the Cleveland Orchestra could sing the first violin part to any of the symphonies he plays.  He
knows the symphony – he doesn’t know the tympani part.
I don’t know where you’re playing, but you don’t have what you’re playing.
What’s so hard about playing 3 sixteenth notes with the first one not being played?
When am I going to learn to depend on you?
If the 3rd trombone would play out those 2 half notes, I’d know where we are.
I want to hear the harp.  You play it so beautifully, and you’re such a nice girl…why don’t you do something about it?
We’ve got to get rid of this shrill, fire department kind of sound in the flutes.
It’s like you’re looking down the whole state of Kansas.
That’s why we have music education – to find places with jobs for people who play like that.
You’d better play that forte instead of piano because you’re lost.
How can you play with somebody else if you don’t know if they’re playing or not?
You can practice all day, and there won’t be any tax.
You’ve never played the note you’re going to play.  How could you?  You haven’t played it.
You’d make a lousy chef.  I’d hate to ask you for a little mustard.
You never get started because you don’t keep going.
Stop patting your foot – you get me all out of rhythm.
Just crescendo – don’t worry about the dynamics.
One of the processes of education which hasn’t been discovered yet is how to avoid telling someone what to learn.
Most of the things I tell you don’t take any brains to know!
I could teach a gorilla to do that.
How many of you saw the “Lombardi Profile” on TV last night?  When asked if he could have changed anything
about his career, he said that he wished he could have had more patience and understanding.  It takes a great man
to say that.  …You know, band, I go home every night after band and say the same thing.

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