Joyce Kouffman

posted in: Teachers | 0

NEW! The Magic Flute Music Store Summer Music DayJoyceK Camps, with award-winning instructor, Joyce Kouffman, will be conveniently held at the store studios!

Please call Joyce about scheduling and fees for your custom-designed music immersion week at The Magic Flute studios!


Private Lessons

Joyce’s Method

The Method and the Mission is to Maintain Fun, Excitement, and Personal Growth as we are engaging in Music Study Together.

A unique curriculum is designed for each and every student. The general concepts below are only the starting point. We work together on choosing material, always keeping in the mind the enjoyment of the student for the music.


Young Children:

Age 5-7, we do a lot of music play, drawing, story telling, and fun guessing games with musical sounds and general concepts.

Age 7-11 We use a variety of method books to encourage music reading without looking at our hands, writing original music with drawings and stories, and free improvisation by student and teacher to encourage full use of all kinds of keyboard sounds and registers.

For Age 11 through Adults

Age 11-Adult We work with scales, intervals, arpeggios, improvisation, and composing with method books, pieces chosen by both teacher and students in classical, jazz, pop, folk styles. In jazz we study blues and use Jamey Aebersold jazz teaching CDs to play by ear, along with playing along with classic jazz recordings. Melodic and harmonic improvisation is always associated with knowing the tune well through informal “ear training” singing.


Students learn to play with pick and fingers as they learn reading in treble clef of melodies chords, and songs. Chords are memorized and learned in common progressions. Emphasis is on efficient left hand fingering and playing without looking at hands at all.

For Drum Set:

We begin with sticking rudiments on the drum practice pad based on Joyce’s teacher’s (Alan Dawson) composition: “The Ritual,” which is a musical string of 72 rudiments. Each rudiment is studied carefully and memorized for clean playing and accuracy with a metronome. We also study ear training while keeping time, which is to be able to sing a tune while keeping time and soloing, either in rock or jazz styles. We cover rock, jazz, latin, funk, reggae, hiphop styles, mostly from student’s favorite music. You bring it, we transcribe it together. We learn to listen and follow cues from the music and other musicians. Above all, whether it is aggressive playing or more delicate playing, emphasis is placed on being a very alert, yet sensitive drummer, which is always most appreciated by fellow instrumentalists.

For Congas and Djimbe:

Rhythms of Latin music and Senegal, West Africa are taught while careful hand technique and maximum sound production are covered.<br><br>


Classical technique and bass clef reading are taught along with playing by ear. “Free improvisation” and jazz are included in the curriculum. Many students, even adults in their 60’s, 70’s, and 80’s have gone on to play in the College of Marin Orchestra after only two years of study!

Free Improvisation

All instruments welcome. Freeing oneself from the printed page after training mainly on the page can take a player into a wholly different musical universe of new self-expression. This does not need to include jazz, which is more structured. Taking the initial plunge is probably the most difficult step. After that, it is a matter of “getting out of the way” and “getting used to the water” when playing.

Jazz Improvisation

Learning the main melody of a jazz tune is crucial. Then memorizing the bass line. And the chords. We work with those three initial steps in a thorough way. Then we gradually add the organic embellishment and play which comes out of knowing a song from a deep place. All instruments welcome!

Music Theory and Composition

A musician is as good as her/his ear because the ear always guides the hands. Music theory gives musicians the vocabulary with which to communication the roadmaps of music to open out the expression. Composition is the further step of creating our own musical landscapes and can be one of the most satisfying activities in all of music. To write a song for someone or create a large symphonic work and have it played is the stuff of true musical meaning. (Can you tell I am a composer at heart.)


Joyce has been director of a 16 Big Band, has conducted aleotoric (planned unplanned) music with a professional orchestra, has played drum set in several big bands, has coached children’s rock groups ages 10 through teens, and has coached classical chamber music groups. She is ready to coach your group of any size in all aspects such as musical content, interpersonal relations, business aspects, and publicity.
Coaching for Composing and Recording Your Own CD with Midi and Digital Audio – (using Logic Audio software)

Joyce has self-produced three successful CDs, both at home and using outside companies. She can coach you on email, phone, or in person through the process. Joyce has used midi and live digital audio software for over 12 years and can significantly help shorten your learning curve with Logic Audio software. This also includes coaching on creating a CD at home on your own recording equipment.
iMovie with Music Coaching

Cut your learning curve with iMovie and have Joyce show you how to use it to make movies with music, titles, fades, and fun effects.

Odd Things

Joyce is a teacher with a calling. She is able to break down virtually any task you might like to know about related to music. In the past, she has coached a champion whistler on his way to winning the national whistling competition, coached a ballroom dancer how to hear the rhythm and perform the steps better, started children on penny whistle for music reading and building coordination, worked with a blind piano student who wanted to transfer music by the rock group “Police” to piano, coached a person how to conduct a very difficult Broadway arrangement in front of a major orchestra, worked with the Boston Symphony as a consultant in their program “Making the Arts Grow” in the school curriculum, taught college students with absolutely no musical training how to write “string quartets” using all percussion instruments (for which she won a teaching award at Harvard University), taught many people with classical training how to express themselves through “free improvisation,” and helped dance student choreographers shape movement pieces to music, taught arranging to a folk musician so he could have his songs recorded with more color, to name just a few.

The odder the better for Joyce!


When they say the word “eclectic” about Joyce Kouffman— composer, jazz drummer, classical guitarist, improvisational cellist, live concert producer, community music activist, and dedicated educator — they mean it. Joyce’s music career has spanned from classical to jazz to studies in traditional drumming in SenegalWest Africa. She has led and conducted all sizes of ensembles, written music for film, dance, and chamber music, and has even taught individuals how to sharpen up their ballroom dancing and how to win an international whistling contest. She received a certificate for excellence in teaching at Harvard University and initiated the now-rich video collection of visiting artists at Harvard with her innovative and far-reaching jazz residency series, Jammin’ at Harvard and Radcliffe. Jazz legend Illinois Jacquet credited her project as having inspired him to lead a big band in the last 20 years of his life.

About Joyce’s jazz drumming, Illinois Jacquet wrote: “Boss of the Drums!”

Joyce’s longtime mentor and colleague, noted as one of Yo Yo Ma’s mentors as well, Harvard music professor Luise Vosgerchian wrote: “Everything she touches (be it an exercise or an original work) bespeaks the intentions of a creative artist.”

And at a videotaping session at WGBH-TV, Leonard Bernstein said, “Hi, Joyce!” when he spotted her in the audience, after she had attended his graduate seminars in opera that semester. OK, it’s not a comment on Joyce’s work, but those moments are memorable and influential, yes?

Joyce Kouffman, Director of Point Reyes Music Center, in her early years followed a traditional track of classical musical training, with studies on cello with members of the Boston Symphony. She also studied classical guitar, improvising cello, piano, percussion, and music theory and composition, all before college years.

After many years of playing classical cello in chamber groups and orchestras, including several performances with YoYo Ma as classmates at Harvard/Radcliffe College, she turned to in-depth study of African-style drumming and jazz drumming for a decade, including travels to Senegal, West Africa to study with the master drummers and dancers of the National Ballet of Senegal. During that time, she also studied in Boston with jazz master, Alan Dawson (Dave Brubeck’s former drummer) while teaching at Harvard University with her former professor in the music department.

She received a certificate for excellence in teaching undergraduates and two major grants to initiate and produce a far-reaching, innovative jazz residency series with the great tenor saxophone legend and big band leader, Illinois Jacquet over a four year period, with sell-out concerts and major radio and TV coverage. Significant video footage was also taken to preserve the oral tradition of jazz education. This was the initiation of a now twenty-year video archive of all visiting artists at Harvard.

After moving to the SF Bay Area in 1987, and Point Reyes in 1990, Kouffman has been focusing mainly on composing and performing with Bay Area legend, award-winning composer/pianist Mary Watkins. They have collaborated on two acclaimed CDs, one of which was selected in the Top Ten Picks of 2004 by KCSM-FM 91.1, the Bay Area’s main jazz station.

Presently, Joyce is composing music with a series of poems by National Book Award finalist, Linda Pastan to be released on a double CD on fall of 2010 at a month-long arts festival Joyce is presenting. Please watch for details on!

Lessons on Skype also available!


Contact Info

(415) 663-9176