Three-time Grammy award winning saxophonist Jeff Coffin led the UNCP Jazz Ensemble and received a standing ovation at the 6th annual Jazz Festival held on Feb. 6.
Coffin was chosen as the guest artist for this year’s festival by Dr. Aaron Vandermeer. Coffin arrived at the university the day before the festival on Feb. 5 after a pre-Super Bowl performance in San Francisco. He worked with the Jazz Combo I and Jazz Sax Section as well as rehearsing with the Jazz Ensemble.
The festival was filled with different seminar-style classes taught by UNCP directors throughout the day on campus in buildings including GPAC, Moore Hall and the UC Annex.
Seventy of the best music students at 24 different high schools all around the region were selected by their directors to participate in the festival, train and get hands on experience in working in a college setting.
Dr. Vandermeer said that they also use the event as an opportunity to scout potential UNCP students and encourage seniors to become a part of the Department of Music.
Coffin taught master classes during the event and played with other UNCP music instructors. He gave advice on each piece that he played for the high school students and then answered questions about his career.
Coffin played with the group Bela Fleck and the Flecktones for 13 years and began touring with and later joined the Dave Matthews Band as the saxophonist. Coffin is also the lead in his own band Jeff Coffin and the Mu’tet.
As well as being a performer, Coffin is an educator and enjoys teaching at high schools but mostly colleges. Coffin said that when students are in college they’re in that period of “independence and dependence.” He said that they have a certain freedom yet they are still dependent on their professors or instructors for guidance and he said he likes being that somewhat “surrogate parent” to the students.
Coffin said that the main thing that a musician should know when they get out in the real world is to first: remember their fundamentals.
“Your fundamentals are your roots,” Coffin said. “If your roots are strong then the tree is strong.”
He said that knowing your fundamentals is the key to a good career in music.
“If you’re a mechanic, don’t show up to the garage without your tools,” he said jokingly.
Coffin also said being a good person plays a major role in having a good career.
He said that it doesn’t matter how good a musician you are if you’re a “Jerk.” He also encouraged students to help the drummer take down his drumset after a show.
At the end of the day, selected students honed in on the skills they learned throughout the festival and performed for a crowd of roughly 300 people for a concert held in GPAC.
Dr. Vandermeer said that they are already in the works for getting the next year’s guest artist.