Title/Position: Professor of Music Education, Chair, Department of Music Education and Music TherapyProfile:
What would you say are the outstanding highlights of your professional life?
• Founding and directing the Iowa City New Horizons Band in 1995, one of the first in the country. This group of retired amateur musicians became a large close-knit family.
• 24 years of service at the University of Iowa
• 3 months as Artist-in-Residence at the University of Tasmania (Australia) in 2002
• Chairing the Commission for Community Music Activity for the International Society for Music Education
• Serving on the editorial committee of the Journal of Research in Music Education (twice)
• Serving on MENC’s Music Education Research Council Executive Board
• Hugging my son (as both father and professor) at commencement upon his completion of a music degree with teaching certification from the University of Iowa.
What advice would you give to an aspiring young musician?
Let me narrow that question to aspiring young music educators. We teach PEOPLE not music. How you treat others has to come first. The process is more important than the product. Convey your love of the journey so that others will come along with you. Because we cannot make students to want to learn, we have to continually extend invitations to learn. If the process is enjoyable, the result will be an excellent product and leaners who will want to continue to make music throughout their lives.
What is your favorite quote by, or about you?
Probably the phrase I’ve heard students quote most often is my “Less is more.” I usually rely on this to guide young conductors who need to refine their conducting gestures. But it also applies to some aspects of instrumental performance. Players sometimes play too loud or try too hard—encouraging them to relax (less is more) can work wonders for balance, intonation, and precision.
Why did you choose music as a career?
Like many other music educators, I was inspired by a high school teacher. I decided at about age 14 that teaching music was what I wanted to do because I could build relationships with students over a period of years while helping them to succeed as musicians.
What do you expect from your students?
I expect them to come to class not just having prepared their assignments but having done some self-directed learning. I hope to pass on a commitment to instilling an attitude towards lifelong learning in music in their future students. If we want K-12 students to continue making music in some form after high school, we will need to fashion experiences in schools and outside of schools that will facilitate continual music making. In short I want students to educate beyond the classroom.
Don D. Coffman, Professor of Music Education, chairs the Department of Music Education and Music Therapy at the University of Miami’s Frost School of Music at and is Professor Emeritus at the University of Iowa. He has served on the Executive Committee of the Society for Research in Music Education and chaired MENC’s Adult and Community Music Education SRIG and ISME’s Community Music Activity Commission. He currently serves on the editorial boards of the Journal of Research in Music Education and the International Journal of Community Music. His passion is making music with “chronologically gifted” adults in wind bands. He is the founding director of the Iowa City, Iowa New Horizons Band, which has provided an opportunity for senior adults to learn or reacquaint themselves with wind and percussion instrumental music since 1995. In 2006 he was honored for his work with this New Horizons Band with three awards: The University of Iowa President’s Award for State Outreach and Public Engagement, the State of Iowa Governor’s Volunteer Award, and the Outstanding Continuing Educator Award from the Johnson County chapter of AARP. Coffman received a Ph.D. from the University of Kansas, a M.M.E. from Wichita State University and a B.M.E. from the University of Kansas.