Being Great

A photo of Jeff Conner.

When students decide on their college majors, they are making one of the most important decisions in their lives. If you choose music, don’t decide on it only as a degree title; decide to be great at it.

Smart Work

Given the amount of time that you have already invested in music, including preparation for auditions to be accepted into a music school, your efforts have already been considerable. However, the next step will require even more hard work and, more importantly, smart work. If you choose a performance degree, then do everything possible to be great in your performance area. Apply the same philosophy to any degree in music.

The cost of going to college is extremely high, so get your money’s worth. Be great by deciding to do everything possible to achieve that goal. Practice, study, build relationships, perform as much as you can. Leave no stone unturned. Become the thing you are studying, so much so that long after graduation, your fellow alumni will always connect you to your degree.

The Best You Can Be

Becoming great in any field of music starts by being the best musician you can possibly be. No shortcut exists around this reality. You do not need to be a great performer if your field is not performance; you just need to become the best musician you can. The process of developing your musicianship will teach you many things about music and yourself. Not everyone who studies music has the same musical gifts, but everyone should develop their gifts to the highest level they can. Set your personal musicianship bar very high. Do so, and good things will follow.

Determining if you are in fact great at something is not for others to decide; you must decide. While you are listening to your commencement speaker on graduation day, reflect on your studies and ask yourself if you are satisfied with your efforts to become great at what is musically important to you. If your answer is yes, then mission accomplished.

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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