Life Changers: George Marriner Maull – The More We Perceive, The More We Receive

Life Changers: George Marriner Maull – The More We Perceive, The More We Receive

George Marriner Mull Discovery Orchestra Jon D Harrison

George Marriner Maull, a passionate advocate of classical music listener education and Artistic Director of The Discovery Orchestra®, is known nationwide for his televised Discovery Concerts® and internationally for his weekly Discovery Orchestra Chats on YouTube  He has conducted orchestras at Carnegie Hall, Lincoln Center and in Europe. His Telly Award winning shows Discover Beethoven’s 5th  and Bach to the Future have been seen by millions across the US.  His latest show Discover Vivaldi’s Four Seasons has just begun a three-year distribution by American Public Television.

Learning to listen attentively is a behavior I developed as a child.  My earliest memory of being very emotionally moved as the result of music listening occurred pre-kindergarten. The occasion was the first time I encountered the sound of a symphony orchestra, albeit on an ancient sound reproduction device quite inferior by today’s standards, a monophonic record player!

How it was that I was primed for this moment I cannot say for certain. Having a highly trained classical pianist for a mother undoubtedly played a significant role.  As I continued to intentionally listen to all the music I encountered from that day forward, I came to be fascinated by the process of listening.  I also began to notice that some people listened…and some people did not, and this intrigued me.  Why did some people give music their complete, undivided attention while others read, talked or did other things while musical sounds were present?

Some answers would eventually come through my association with Saul Feinberg who taught music listening at my local high school.  I’m going to repeat that – who taught music listening at my local high schoolDr. Feinberg was an unusual music teacher.  There were other music teachers who taught choral or instrumental music, that is to say, they taught the performance of music.  Saul taught music listening.  And he did it very well.

Over the thirty years he taught at Abraham Lincoln High School in Philadelphia he influenced the lives of thousands and thousands of students – including me.  I learned everything I know about teaching music listening from Saul.  He called his course Perceptive Music Listening.  And what did he mean by that?  He frequently said that the more musical detail we perceive, the more pleasure we can receive from the experience of listening.  And of course, right from the get-go, he made certain that his students perceived first-hand the difference between merely physically hearing music and actually giving music your undivided attention – or listening. 

Learning to listen and having this behavior reinforced when Saul Feinberg said: “The more we perceive, the more we receive…” set the course for the rest of my life.  Listening to music daily – and not just to classical music – has and continues to be perhaps the greatest source of pleasure and meaning in my life.

How my life changing experience can change your life:


Today set aside 10 minutes, giving your undivided attention to some music – no texting, no tweeting, no eating, no taking of cell phone calls or reading. Just listen.  See what happens.


Each day this week, make the choice to be open-minded. Expand the kinds of music you are willing to try to listen to. Experiment with listening to some wordless, abstract music.  Rather than notice what you do not like about a particular style, identify what you do like about it. Take 5 or 10 minutes to learn about some new aspect of music that you can notice from Discovery Orchestra Chats on YouTube or some other source.


Intentionally listen to (not just hear) some music every day.  As you begin to notice more and more detail in music, become attuned to how the quality of your life is changing – hopefully for the better.  Are you feeling more fulfilled?   Are you feeling that your innermost self is somehow more fully expressed?  Most of us will not be musical performers…but we all can become perceptive music listeners, the result of a conscious decision on our part that will change our lives forever.