Reaching the Goal

What are your goals? How do you achieve your goals? Are your goals really “The Goal”?

For me, I knew I wanted to make my living playing music, but I only dreamed I would have the opportunities I have had with Bela Fleck & the Flecktones, Dave Matthews Band and my own group, The Mu’tet. I am grateful every time I get to play.

At my clinics, students ask: “How do you ‘make it’ in music?” I tell them I’m not sure you ever do. I still work very hard, and every successful musician I know does the same. Setting goals is an important part of this process, but I feel the process and journey are more important than the goal. What happens if you don’t actually achieve your goal? Was the journey for nothing?

Defining and Morphing

Setting goals is important because it gives you something to push toward, but these goals will likely change as you get closer to them. They will refine themselves or morph into something a bit different than what you originally thought. It’s important to go with the flow and to keep refining and defining your vision.

I recommend writing down your goals someplace where you can easily access them. Define short- and long-term goals. Short term could be, “I want to learn all my harmonic minor scales, modes and arpeggios by the end of the summer.” A long-term goal might be, “I want to be a studio musician and play on other people’s records.”

Figuring out how to implement that plan is essential. Know the skillsets you need to be successful and then figure out how you develop them. They are likely different, with some overlapping, for each goal you set.

Learning and Achieving

Realize that as you achieve your goals, there are many things you have learned in the process. In some cases, maybe you didn’t fully achieve your goals. Think about what you learned during that journey and put that wisdom and experience into the next one. I wish you luck, success (and a few failures) on your countless journeys.

About author

Jeff Coffin

Jeff Coffin is a three-time Grammy Award winning saxophonist, composer, educator, and author. He has been a band member of Dave Matthews Band since 2008.  Jeff also teaches at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee. Jeff has published “The Saxophone Book,” co-wrote “The Articulate Jazz Musician” with Caleb Chapman, and released “The Road Book” in late 2019. Jeff is a Yamaha and D’Addario Performing Artist and Clinician.  Visit and for more information.

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