Take Five With Ryan Kauffman

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Meet Ryan Kauffman: "What is not to like about a throaty tenor saxophone with a big aggressive sound, a full voiced soprano saxophone or a hauntingly velvety flute?" —Craig W. Hurst

Ryan Kauffman is a saxophonist and private teacher in central and eastern Pennsylvania. He currently leads his own jazz trio and quartet, and has performed throughout the Central PA region, including appearances at Bethlehem Musikfest, Central Pennsylvania Friends of Jazz, Lancaster Jazz Festival and Rehoboth Beach Jazz Festival. He has had the privilege of performing with Dave Liebman, Steve Giordano, Ron Thomas, Tim Warfield, Steve Wilson, Peter Paulsen, the Lancaster Symphony Orchestra and the Manhattan Saxophone Ensemble.

Ryan also doubles on the flute and clarinet, and plays for various regional and Philadelphia area theaters. He teaches at the Pennsylvania Academy of Music, the Darlington Arts Center, and the Westtown School. He has also taught saxophone at West Chester University. Ryan holds music degrees from Eastern Mennonite University and West Chester University, where he earned his Master's degree studying with Gunnar Mossblad.



Teachers and/or influences? Some of my teachers include: Gunnar Mossblad, Ron Thomas, Tim Warfield, Andy Wen.

As far as influences, I am most heavily influenced by saxophonists (for obvious reasons), including Julian "Cannonball" Adderley, John Coltrane, Dexter Gordon, Sonny Rollins, Wayne Shorter, Sonny Stitt, Lester Young—the usual suspects, really.

I knew I wanted to be a musician when... I realized that it was something I am passionate about and reasonably good at, but that the challenge was also huge. Also, I have always had a sort of intrinsic awareness of the power that music has to connect individuals together in community. Even if only for a moment, all is right with the world.

Your sound and approach to music: I try to be in the moment, as much as possible. I want to be careful here and say that by in the moment, I do not mean a sort of scattered, fractured chasing after everything another musician has just played. Hookups can happen and they are magical, but I don't go looking for them or try to force an event when we play.

Your teaching approach: I attempt to meet the student where he/she is and draw them forward. The bulk of my students are beginners through advanced high schoolers, so I tend to focus a lot on relaxation, sound production and learning literature or transcribing.

Road story: Your best or worst experience: I had a close call one time on stage at Bethlehem Musikfest. We had yet to play a note, the bandleader counted off "Inner Urge" and just as I put the horn in my mouth my neck strap failed. I mean the hook actually came apart! Luckily I saved my tenor and the band kept it together, but I must have looked ridiculous rushing about the stage fixing my strap with gaffer's tape; ah, good times.

Your favorite recording in your discography and why? Definitely this latest disc, Three Little Words. I feel that it's been a long time coming, a good summation of where I'm coming from as a musician and a great step forward for me.

The first Jazz album I bought was: Either Bird & Diz or Joe Henderson's So Near, So Far. I can't remember which.

What do you think is the most important thing you are contributing musically? This is really impossible to answer except maybe in retrospect. Right now I am trying to be faithful to the things I value most in my place and time.

Did you know...

I am fluent in Spanish and have been to nearly every South American nation.

CDs you are listening to now:

Dexter Gordon, Daddy Plays the Horn (Bethlehem);

Dexter Gordon, Go (Blue Note); ; Sonny Stitt, Live at the Hi Hat (Roulette);

Miguel Zenon, Esta Plena (Marsalis Music).

Desert Island picks: John Coltrane, A Love Supreme (Impulse!);

Miles Davis, (Columbia);

Enrique Morente, Lorca (Virgin); ; Miguel Zenon, Esta Plena (Marsalis Music).

How would you describe the state of jazz today? Alive and well, but underappreciated.

What are some of the essential requirements to keep jazz alive and growing? Keep playing it and keep introducing young people to it. Plant seeds.

If I weren't a jazz musician, I would be a: Spanish teacher.


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