A Spotlight on Professor Larry J. Livingston

Marina McLerran

Editor, McLerran Journal

Assistant Band Director, Center ISD, TX


I met Professor Livingston at the 2016 Art of Band Conducting and Rehearsal Workshop at the University of Texas in Austin. He was exciting to watch, gave profound advice, and was hilarious to interact with during the breaks. At the end of the week, Professor Livingston gave his closing remarks and then performed an improvised piano solo that drew tears from most of the participants.


Professor Livingston is a world-renown conductor, educator, administrator, and motivational speaker who was “drawn inextricably to music” from an early age. His father was a band director who regularly held jazz band rehearsals in the Livingston home. Professor Livingston was provided with piano lessons beginning at age three and felt that his entrance into the field was “completely organic.” He believes that, though tastes vary, one “cannot be completely human without music.”  

Professor Livingston holds a degree in conducting from the University of Michigan School of Music where he had the opportunity to study with greats like Laurence Livingston, Elizabeth Green, and William Revelli. He was awarded the Alumnus of the Year Award in 1988. Professor Livingston was also the founding Music Director of the Illinois Chamber Orchestra and has conducted ensembles around the world including the Houston Symphony, the American Youth Symphony Orchestra, the Young Musicians Foundation Orchestra, the USC Thornton Chamber and Symphony Orchestras, and the Festival of Orchestra at Idyllwild Arts in California. He has served as a clinician or guest conductor for the College Band Directors International Conference and All-State Ensembles in Arizona, Colorado, Florida, Iowa, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Michigan (Interlochen), New Mexico, Oregon, Tennessee, and Texas (where he holds the record for the greatest number of appearances).

In the early 1980’s, Professor Livingston served as the Vice President and Music Director of the New England Conservatory of Music in Boston (also the conductor of the Symphony Orchestra and the Contemporary Music Ensemble). He then was named the Dean of the Shepherd School of Music before becoming the Dean of the USC Thornton School of Music (1986-2002). Since 2008, Professor Livingston has chaired the Education Committee of the Quincy Jones Music Consortium. He has regularly toured the United States as a motivational speaker for universities and businesses since the early 2000’s.

In his career, Professor Livingston has had the opportunity to conduct at the Festival de Musique in Evian, France, the USC Contemporary Music Ensemble in Berlin, the Stockholm Wind Orchestra in Sweden, the Wroclaw Philharmonic and Academy Orchestras in Poland, the George Enescu Bucharest Philharmonic Orchestra in Romania, and an electro-acoustic ensemble in Tokyo with Yamaha International, just to name a few. Livingston served as the Music Director of the Pan Pacific Festival Orchestras in Sydney, Australia and participated as a performer in the 1982 International Jazz Festival in Rome

Out of all of his performances abroad, the adventure that stands out to Professor Livingston the most was his eight-week stay in the Soviet Union during his freshman year in the University of Michigan band. The ensemble was invited to make the journey to Russia as part of the State Department’s cultural exchange program. During this period, the United States and Russia were enemies in the Cold War (1947-1991), but managed to exchange artists, musicians, and youth groups in an attempt “to penetrate political tensions with art.”

Professor Livingston has earned several distinguished awards including the Life in the Arts Award from Idyllwild Arts, the Outstanding Teacher Award from the USC Center for Religion, and becoming the first music administrator to be accepted into the Harvard University Executive Education Program. 

To young music educators, Professor Livingston advises to “remember that, while you are there for music, it is the people who matter the most.” He explained that the human element, and not trophies or ratings, should be the main focus of education; it is the educator’s responsibility to find a way to “cut through all of the noise in order to make a personal connection” with the students. Towards students at the collegiate level, Professor Livingston encourages immense dedication to the perfection of one’s own instrument or voice. Regardless of the specific specialty, he believes that growing one’s own skill and regularly performing is an excellent way to “understand music at the deepest level.”

Professor Livingston stated that he has been “extremely blessed” when it comes to family. His wife, Mrs. Karen Livingston, is a music teacher and “wonderful human being.” Professor Livingston bragged on his children and his “beautiful” grandchildren who are all involved in music in some way. He believes he is “lucky to have such amazing people related to [him].” About the future, Professor Livingston stated “I want to become a more grateful and generous person.”


Book and Recording Suggestions from Professor Larry Livingston:  

“The Book of Joy: Lasting Happiness in a Changing World” (2016) Dalai Lama, Desmond Tutu, Douglas Carlton Abrams

Novels of Cormac McCarthy


“Feels like home” Bonnie Raitt


“Dedicated to you” Keith Jarrett  




Interview on May 26, 2017


“Larry J. Livingston.” USC Thornton School of Music: Faculty. N.p.N.d. Web. 26 May 2017.



“New USC Dean: Livingston: A Musical Academic.” Cariaga, Daniel. Los Angeles Times. Los

          Angeles Times. 17 September 1986. Web. 28 May 2017.