Take a Leap

Jeff Coffin

“Bravery. It’s all about being brave.”

That’s what I kept thinking as I listened and watched the Paul Winter Consort perform at The Cathedral Church of Saint John the Divine in New York, late December 2015. I was intrigued with Paul Winter’s use of natural sounds and animal calls as part of his new age, folksy, jazz, world beat music. He has a truly global musical perspective.

In early December 2015, I had the pleasure of playing “Missa Gaia” (Earth Mass), and that too had wolf howls and whale sounds in the pre-recorded tracks. As the fates would have it, I went to New York a couple weeks later, and Paul was presenting his 36th annual Winter Solstice Celebration at the cathedral. What I experienced there was profound.

First off, some of the musicians in the Consort have been with Paul at St. John for the entire 36 years! That alone speaks volumes about his leadership as well as his musicianship and vision. This year, he had singers from Brazil, a gospel singer, oboe/English horn, percussion, cello, acoustic bass, keys/piano, a 40-foot metal chime/gong/bell Christmas tree that rotated as it rung, an African dance troupe with drummers, a young girl (his daughter) doing an Irish dance solo, and a musician strapped onto an enormous sun gong that rose from the floor to 50 feet in the air while he played. Paul spoke about the balance of nature, the importance of healing the earth, and a holistic approach to music. Oh, and during the intermission, the church organist played contemporary pipe organ music. All this was connected with spirit, intention, and the brave artistic vision of one man.

I encourage you all to think about what you are presenting to the world and encourage you to take chances with your art and music. Taking chances means risking failure, but if there were no failure, there would be no success. One of my favorite sayings is “Leap, and the net will appear.” I encourage you all to leap!

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 jeffcoffin.com and earuprecords.com for more information.

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