Jeff Coffin Q&A

Jeff Coffin ('90)
Nashville, Tenn.

Favorite teacher: Jim Riggs (retired saxophone professor) was direct and demanded my best work — the kind of teacher his students wanted to please and so we all worked really hard for him. His pursuit of excellence is what I still try to bring to my playing and teaching. He also is kind of a John Cleese character — funny, quirky, a sort of dry humor, but cares deeply about his students. We still stay in contact.

Favorite UNT memory: The things I remember most are all the friends I made and people I stay in contact with. I remember when all the greats came to the Lecture Series and when my friends and I would go to the Caravan of Dreams in Fort Worth and we saw and heard people like Mike Brecker, Sun Ra, McCoy Tyner, Pharoah Sanders, Freddie Hubbard, Oregon, Branford Marsalis, etc. ... It was an incredible education. We were so lucky to have such an incredible club so close to us.

Working with DMB:  We do have set lists. Interestingly, this band is not a jam band. It’s an improvisational band. This past summer we had Charles Lloyd and Herbie Hancock sit in on two consecutive gigs and it was a highlight of my musical career to be around those guys and to make music with them.

He’s worked with: Branford Marsalis, Zakir Hussain, Bob Mintzer, Randy Brecker, Trombone Shorty, Pedrito Martinez, DJ Logic, Maceo Parker, McCoy Tyner, Baaba Maal, My Morning Jacket, Widespread Panic, Chris Thile, Willie Nelson, Chester Thompson, Garth Brooks, Van Morrison, J.D. Souther, Vinnie Colaiuta, The Dixie Chicks, ‘Rakalam’ Bob Moses, Stanton Moore, Brooks and Dunn, Tuvan Throat Singers – the Alash Ensemble & Konger Ol Ondar, George Porter Jr., Umphrey’s McGee, Del McCoury, John Scofield, Yonder Mountain String Band, Marc Broussard, Martina McBride, Lynyrd Skynyrd, the Wailers and many others.

On creativity: Creativity is a way of life. I want to be inspired by something every day and for that to come out somewhere in my art. There is beauty and mystery everywhere and we can all tune in if we take time to look and listen. I have to have quiet space to write. Distractions or being on the road are too much for me to dig into that process so I wait until I’m home. It just sort of comes out when it’s the right time.

Importance of teaching: I never wanted to have to do one or the other. I felt I needed to have experience to be able to teach something before I ventured too far down that path. I have given more than 300 clinics and I'm now teaching at Vanderbilt University and, having been on the road since 1997, I feel like I have real-world experience on the qualities needed to be successful.

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