A Spotlight on Dr. Don D. Coffman

Marina McLerran

Editor, McLerran Journal

Assistant Band Director, Center ISD, TX


Dr. Don D. Coffman is currently the Chair of the Department of Music Education and Music Therapy for the Frost School of Music at the University of Miami and also the Professor Emeritus at the University of Iowa. He is an internationally-recognized educator, conductor, and writer credited with over one hundred publications and more than a hundred presentations in thirteen countries. Professor Coffman has received several prestigious honors including the Inaugural Award for Outstanding Scholarship and Service (NAfME), the President's Award for State Outreach and Public Engagement from the University of Iowa, and the State of Iowa Governor’s Volunteer Award.

Professor Coffman holds both a Bachelor’s degree (1978) and a Ph.D. (1987) in Music Education from the University of Kansas and a Master’s of Music Education (1984) from Wichita State University. He has taught all ages of person (elementary, middle school, high school, college, etc.) and conducted more than three hundred wind band performances in his over forty years of educating. After working at the University of Iowa for twenty-four years (1987-2011), Dr. Coffman and his wife decided it was time for a change of scenery. The Frost School of Music in Miami, Florida caught his attention with its diverse selection of degree programs.

Dr. Coffman has had the opportunity to influence the music education profession through serving as a member of the Society for Research in Music Education Executive Committee (NAfME), a member of the editorial board for the Journal of Research in Music Education, associate editor of the International Journal of Community Music, editor of Research Perspectives in Music Education, chair of the Community Music Activity Commission of the International Society for Music Education and the Adult and chair of the Community Music Education Special Research Interest Group of the National Association for Music Education (NAfME).

One of Professor Coffman’s most notable contributions to music in the United States is the founding of the Iowa City New Horizons Band (ICNHB) in 1995. Dr. Coffman, the head of Music Education at the University of Iowa at the time, was approached by Steve West of the West Music Company, Myron Welch, Director of Bands at the University of Iowa, and Roy Ernst of the New Horizons International Music Association (NHIMA) about the lack of musical opportunities for the adults of Iowa City. The ICNHB was founded with the mission “to provide the opportunity for all persons, age 50 and older, to learn and make music” and inspire relationships between the university and the community. The ensemble, currently under the direction of Dr. Erin Wehr (University of Iowa), is comprised of approximately seventy wind players and percussionists. Dr. Coffman shared a humorous anecdote from one of the ensemble’s early performances at a local high school where the audience gave the performance a standing ovation (which he later discovered was something that the community did for every concert). One of the musicians asked Dr. Coffman, “Do they like us because we’re good or because we’re old?” He retells that story frequently to emphasize the importance of combatting ageism in society.

Through presenting his research and lecturing in other countries, Professor Coffman has had the opportunity to share his knowledge with music students around the world. Fifteen years ago, because of his friendship with Professor Monte Mumford (then Director of Bands, University of Tasmania), Dr. Coffman had the opportunity in to participate in a “professor exchange” between the U.S. and Australia. He was delighted to spend approximately three months as Artist-in-Residence at the University of Tasmania where he conducted an ensemble very similar to his own in Iowa. Dr. Coffman described the place as “a wonderful little island” characterized by both a small mountain range and scenic beachfront. About travels abroad, Professor Coffman emphasized the importance of expanding one’s world view and appreciating the many varieties of people in the world.

About his teaching philosophy, Professor Coffman shared his support of activism (in all fields) and suggested directors place greater importance on providing a quality education over winning competitions. He believes that competing with one’s self and “constantly trying to improve” is significantly more important than simply “beating someone else” or winning an award. The point of education, according to Dr. Coffman, is to “encourage student excellence and play good music;” earning high ratings at contest is a side-effect of good teaching, not the goal. About his plans for the future, Dr. Coffman anticipates that he and his wife Stacy will be spending a lot of time in Ecuador, because his son Nicolas’s fiancée lives in Quito—Johanna Abril earned her Ph.D. in Music Education from Miami in 2017, and Nicolas will join her in 2019 after finishing his Ph.D. in Music Education from Miami.


Follow Dr. Coffman at the Frost School of Music


Book Suggestion from Dr. Coffman

“Born to Run” Christopher McDougall

Purchase Here





Interview on December 27, 2017.


Professor Profile. Dr. Don D. Coffman. University of Miami. Frost School of Music, University of

          Miami. 2017. Web. 1 December, 2017.



“Iowa City New Horizons Band: History.” Iowa City New Horizons Band. New Horizons Band.

          2017. Web. 1 December, 2017. <http://www.iowacitynhb.org/about_us.html>


“New Horizons International Music Association.” New Horizons Music. NHIMA. 2017. Web. 1

          December, 2017. <http://newhorizonsmusic.org/what-is-nhima/>