Jeff Coffin

Photo Credit – Greg Kessler

Saxophonist, Composer, Educator

Jeff Coffin is an internationally recognized saxophonist, bandleader, composer and educator and has been traveling the globe since the late 20th Century. He is a 3x Grammy Award winner from Bela Fleck & the Flecktones and played with them from 1997-2010. In July 2008, Jeff began touring with Dave Matthews Band, and officially joined the group in 2009 following the tragic passing of founding member LeRoi Moore. When not on the road with DMB, Coffin fronts his own group, Jeff Coffin & the Mu’tet. 

Jeff is a heavily in-demand clinician, a Yamaha Performing Artist, a Rico Artist and, since 2001, has presented nearly 300 solo and Mu’tet music clinics from Farmington, Maine to Perth, Australia to students of all ages to raving reviews.

Jeff is also an avid photographer and he sees photographic composition, musical composition and improvisation as going hand in hand.

My personal practice is…….

My practice varies based on if I am at home, on the road, a day off, show day, clinic, gig, etc…I try to work on music every day though, either on my instrument or in my head working out ideas or problems. I find that I can get as much done sometimes away from the instruments as I can actually playing them. I work mainly on fundamentals and on continuing to find my ‘voice’ thru music.

How did you discover your practice?

I learned to practice while I was in college. I had a difficult time before that with managing my time and with know what and/or how to practice. I still have difficulty managing my time but I’m much better than I used to be.

Why do you practice?

I practice because I feel the music deserves my best. First of all, I have to serve the music. Then I have to serve the musicians I play with and then I have to serve the audience. After all that comes serving myself. The music demands that I be on my game. The people who came before me demand that I be on my game and the young generations coming up demand that I be on my game. I have set myself a very high standard for how I want to play and I have to work hard to maintain that standard.

How frequently and for how long do you practice?

Again, that varies based on my location and travel. I like to get in a couple hours of practice a day but I also practice on stage while I am playing. There are always things that can be worked on during a performance, from intonation to articulation, improvisation, blending, listening, leaving space, etc…there is always something I can do better.

What’s something that gets in the way of your practice and how to you move through it?

Wow, there are so many distractions, from friends and family to fatigue and the need for quiet. I just make a decision to do what needs to be done. I am not 100% all the time but I work hard to get done what I need to get done. Willpower and dedication, and maybe a little fear, all help me get through.

What supports you in staying committed to your practice?

Getting to play with incredible musicians who are constantly striving to be better and to take their craft to a higher level. I would say the music supports my commitment. I believe in the music I play and with the people I create with. They deserve my best and I feel I would be doing them a big disservice if I didn’t give them everything I had on any given gig.

What role does your practice play in your work?

Describe someone you know whose practice inspires you.

Bela Fleck and Bill Fanning. These guys are always working on something. They are driven in a way that I have not really seen before. Bill plays trumpet with the Mu’tet and everyone knows Bela. They are always pushing themselves into corners and then they have to work their way out. It’s very inspiring. I feel lazy around them sometimes.

A practice I’d like to explore is….

Being able to do only what I wanted for six months to a year. I would write and play and write and play and write and play. I would love to have my band with me too and we could just dig into things on a daily basis. That would be really fun. I think!

Anything else you’d like to share about practice.

I’m not much of a ritual person and I have had to deal with that shortcoming by being consciously dedicated to what I do. I have never been the ‘best’ player either but my work ethic has allowed me to be successful in certain ways that I never thought possible. Hard work, passion, dedication and repetition of fundamentals are all important elements that we have to work on constantly.

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