Larry Teal Biography

Larry Teal Biography

About Laurence Lyon Teal, Sr.

Laurence Lyon “Larry” Teal is considered by many to be the father of American orchestral saxophone.

Teal began playing in jazz bands as a saxophonist as a mean to support career studies (in dentistry, then journalism, and then accounting). He performed with the Michigan Union band known as “Wilson’s Wolverines,” with the Kennedy’s Kollegians from 1925–1926, and in 1927 he joined the Casa Loma Band in Toronto. He performed as a pit musician in the Capitol and Fisher theaters and the WJR Studio Orchestra in Detroit. Teal moved away with his original university studies and elected to concentrate on music studies. He choose the department of the saxophone as his major endeavor because “it was an open field in music and I thought much could be done.” He earned a Doctor of Music from the Detroit Institute of Musical Arts in 1943.

From 1943 to 1964, Teal was a flutist with the Detroit Symphony Orchestra.  Not only did he play sax, but he also performed on clarinet and was the DSO’s first desk flutist (rare and  almost unheard of now). He maintained his own music studio  near Wayne University and staffed it with players from the orchestra. It was one of the most reputable, demanding and prestigious of its kind in the country. Many high school and collegiate students studied saxophone and was highly sought after as a professional musician by both classical and popular musical organizations.

In 1953, Teal became the first full-time professor of saxophone at any American university when he was appointed to the faculty of the University of Michigan-Ann Arbor. From then on, he was busy training future saxophone teachers, perfecting improvements on the saxophone mouth-piece, writing instruction books and transcriptions, and compiling music editions. His clinic-demonstrations took him to many far places.

In 1964 he completed the book The Art of Saxophone Playing, considered to be the definitive work on the subject. It is used widely by saxophonists and woodwind players has also been translated into Japanese.

During his 21 years at the university, he taught over 100 college saxophone students, many of whom went on to become successful teachers and performers.  He remained the professor of saxophone there until he retired in 1974, at which time he was given the title “professor emeritus.”

Larry Teal lived from March 26, 1905–July 11, 1984.

Further Reading

  1. “U-M professor emeritus of music dies at age 79.” Ann Arbor News. July 13, 1984. Print. Web. 11 May 2015.<>.
  2. “Musician? It’s Not Logical.” Ann Arbor News. May 9, 1974. Print. Web. 11 May 2015. <>.
  3. Leonard, Jim. “Recital to honor man who made the saxophone ‘legit.'”Ann Arbor News. January 18, 1985. Print. Web. 11 May 2015. <>.
  4. 7026 LARRY TEAL, SR. Digital image. Dan Pliskow Jazz Archive. Dan Pliskow Jazz Archive, 30 January 2013. Web. 11 May 2015. <>.
  5. 7042 LARRY TEAL, SR. Digital image. Dan Pliskow Jazz Archive. Dan Pliskow Jazz Archive, 30 January 2013. Web. 11 May 2015. <>.
  6. Wikipedia contributors. “Larry Teal.” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. 1 May 2015. Web. 10 May 2015. <>.
  7. Teal, Larry. The Art of Saxophone Playing. Alfred Music, 1964. Print. Web (preview). 12 May 2015. <>.