Jeff Coffin: Three-time Grammy Award-winner at Beavercreek’s weekend of jazz



As a member of the Dave Matthews Band, a session player, solo artist and instructor of musical improvisation at Vanderbilt University, Jeff Coffin is a busy cat. However, the Massachusetts native is once again making time for Weekend of Jazz, returning to Beavercreek High School on Friday and Saturday, Feb. 23 and 24.

Coffin, who played with Bela Fleck and the Flecktones from 1997 to 2010, performs at 8 p.m. Saturday night with Bob Lanzetti (guitar), Felix Pastorius (bass) and Jordan Perlson (drums). This is the third time at Weekend of Jazz for the three-time Grammy Award-winning saxophonist, who has been with the Dave Matthews Band since 2008. Coffin’s 2022 album, “Between Dreaming and Joy,” was nominated for Best Contemporary Instrumental Album at the recent 65th Grammy Awards.

Coffin recently answered some questions by telephone from his home in Nashville.

QUESTION: What’s going on today?

ANSWER: I’m working on a new record so that’s all that’s on the docket right now. I’m in that manic state of pushing to finish up this record. My self-imposed deadline is next week. I have a couple of little things to finish up and then it’s done. I’ve got some education stuff coming up in Kansas plus all this teaching I do at Vanderbilt so I’m glad to have a couple of days to work on it. My wife is out of town right now so I can go deep.



Q: You’re no stranger to Weekend of Jazz at Beavercreek. How did you get involved?

A: I’ve done the festival a few times before. It’s such a fantastic thing. My sister actually lives in Beavercreek. My niece and nephew went to high school there, so I’ve known Matt Frost for years. What he’s done with that program is a miracle. It’s amazing it has been going on for this long. It’s such a big part of that school and that community. It’s super fun and really educational for the students. It’s going to be an incredible band also, so it’s going to be an all-star event.

Q: What’s the repertoire for this show? A: It’s going to be all over the place, like my music always is. It’s mostly all my original pieces but we’ll probably play a couple of Bob’s pieces. It’s going to be super funky with a lot of improvisation and a lot of surprises. We’ve all worked together a lot over the years, not only live but in the studio. There is a lot of familiarity with everybody, so the groove is going to be undeniable. We’re going to take a journey. Hopefully at the end of the night the audience will feel like they’ve been on stage and the band will feel like we’ve been in the audience. I can’t wait, man, it’s going to be such a blast. It’s great to be there to perform but it’s really about the students and getting to go there and work with them. My focus is to bring them to life. Everybody in this band has done a lot of workshops too so they’re perfect for this gig.



Q: How long has education been a part of your focus?

A: My degree from North Texas is in music ed so that’s something I’ve done for a long time. I did a little bit of teaching in high schools, some private lessons here and there, but I started getting serious about doing workshops and clinics a little after I joined Bela Fleck and the Flecktones. I’ve done well over 325 of those so it’s a big part of what I do. I absolutely love teaching. I’ve been at Vanderbilt for nine-and-a-half years, and I look forward to it every time I go in. It’s uplifting to me. It’s inspiring. It’s also part of my giving back to the community. I get a lot out of it personally and I think the students get at least that much out of it on their end.

Q: What’s your focus with students?

A: We talk about composition and musical fundamentals. We talk about improvisation, the roots of it and how to listen better. We talk about self-expression, and we talk about giving them permission to express themselves. They probably don’t need it but if they think they do we’re going to give them permission. We talk about education and the roots of it. We cover a lot of stuff and I feel the students come away from it with a lot of information to work with. They also come away inspired to practice. We talk about excellence and excellence is not a mistake. It takes a lot of hard work, dedication and a lot of passion for what you do. We help them focus on what to practice and how to practice it, so we talk about a lot of concrete elements. It’s a very holistic approach. You don’t have to be a musician to come to our clinics and learn something from them.

Q: How can improvisation help people who aren’t pursuing music professionally?

A: Our life is basically a big improvisation. We have to be malleable in a way that allows us to trust the universe and to allow it to take shape. You have to plan ahead and work on things but be open to the possibility of creativity and how that affects us and people around us. At the end of the day, we’re talking about life but using music as the metaphor. We’re giving them life lessons. It’s about how to work on something you’ve never done before and your relationship with conflict within those things. Even if they aren’t going to play music professionally, the students can get an understanding of the importance of art, expression and the element of surprise. We’re encouraging them and empowering them to understand their life is their life and they can choose passion. Don’t settle for something. If you have a burning desire to do something, do it. Keep driving forward. Follow your bliss.

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How to go

Who: Weekend of Jazz welcomes saxophonist Jeff Coffin

Where: Beavercreek High School, Alumni Auditorium, 2660 Dayton Xenia Road, Beavercreek

When: 8 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 24

Cost: $30 students and seniors 65 and older, $35 adults

More info: and

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