Jeff Coffin & the Mu’tet held a clinic for WTAMU music students on Jan. 16 and 17, giving the WT Jazz I Band an opportunity to perform live with him and his group at the Globe-News Center last Thursday.
The Mu’tet is led by three time Grammy award winner Jeff Coffin, composer, educator and saxophonist from Dave Matthews Band and Bela Fleck & the Flecktones. Coffin and the Mu’tet held scheduled classes at Mary Moody Northen Hall such as an improvisation clinic and various clinics with the WT Jazz Band and the Rhythm Section.
“Each class was scheduled for an hour but easily ran for two hours,” Dr. Nicholas Scales, assistant professor of Double Bass, said. “After the two and a half hour class on Wednesday night, they just hung out with the students doing lessons. It was like a jazz fair on stage. It was unbelievable.”
The Mu’tet consist of Bill Fanning on trumpet, Chris Walters on piano, Felix Pastorius on bass, five time Grammy winner Roy “Future Man” Wooten on drums and three-time Grammy winner Jeff Coffin.
“They’ve been here in our midst for days working with us for countless hours,” WT School of Music Clarinet Professor Douglas Storey said. “Not only are these guys fabulous musicians, they are fabulous human beings. I want you to know they have truly enriched our lives.”
Not only were the WT music students inspired by Jeff Coffin & the Mu’tet, but the students inspired them as well.
“I think the best way to describe my rehearsal with Jeff Coffin was that I was completely ecstatic to be there,” Dustin Trahern, junior Pre-Medicine major, said. “From the moment he started our rehearsal you could feel his passion for the music.”
“It sure has been a pleasure getting to work with the students, getting to know them a little bit,” Coffin said. “We’ve had great times. It’s been really inspiring to us as well. This has really sparked a lot of creativity with them, a lot of inspiration and a lot of things that will really last as they become teachers, educators or performers. It has really been a great pleasure to work with [them].”
The Mu’tet takes its name from the word “mutation”, reflecting Coffin’s idea that music must continue to change and mutate in order to grow. Coffin strives to expand himself, his band mates and listeners, with music inspired by his wide musical interests.
“He encouraged us to really feel the music and tell our story through our playing, and we all really took everything he said to heart,” Trahern said.
Storey had a connection last year with Coffin’s manager and decided to check with them and see if it was at all possible for Coffin to hold a clinic at WT. Coffin’s management eventually came forward and said that Coffin & the Mu’tet were actually available.
“I am constantly reminded how fortunate I am to attend a place like WT with so much talent,” Michael Marin, junior Music Education major, said. “I met Jeff Coffin, one of my favorite saxophone players ever. To say that I was extremely stoked would be an understatement.”
Bringing Coffin to WT was made possible through student service fees, which have been used to take WT bands to the University of Northern Colorado for the Greeley Jazz festival, one of the largest jazz festivals in the nation.
“I saw Jeff Coffin perform two years ago at a jazz festival and I’ve been a fan of his ever since,” Trahern said. “He’s been a huge inspiration to WT’s Jazz program and we thank him for all the lessons he taught us.”
Jeff Coffin & the Mu’tet not only affected the WT School of Music but the outside community as well with their performance at the Globe-News Center for the Performing Arts in Amarillo.
“I would say it has been a great thing for the School of Music, a great thing for our students and even the panhandle community,” Dr. Jessica Mallard, dean of the Sybil B. Harrington College of Fine Arts and Humanities, said.
“This year instead of just helping our jazz groups get an experience we gave something to the whole community, not just WT,” Scales said.
According to Trahern the WT Jazz students were inspired by the performance.
“He really rekindled our love of jazz and I feel like we easily gave our best performance because of him,” Trahern said.
Scales said he is hoping to organize more events like Jeff Coffin & the Mu’tet in the future by bringing in enough musicians to form a jazz festival at WT.
“This is a great opportunity for us and it’s also a great opportunity for the school,” Coffin said. “It’s the first time they’ve done this. Hopefully this would be a stepping stone into bringing other clinicians in and also bringing us back. It would be a lot of fun.”
On behalf of the group, Coffin had a few last words to say after his concert Thursday night.
“The hospitality was incredible, the people were great, the band sounded great, a lot of people came out to the show,” Coffin said. “It was a two thumbs up experience for sure. I’ll just like to say how fun it was.”