About Joyce

Formal Resumé

Diverse In-Depth Classical, Jazz & World Music Education

Brookline High School, Brookline, Massachusetts 1968-72.

Special AP class in Semiotics with Dr. Donald Thomas, which led to the creation of a multi-disciplinary major in college to explore music as a language.

Harvard/Radcliffe College 1972-1976: magna cum laude B.A. in a special music concentration designed by Joyce and self-chosen mentors: Professor Rudolf Arnheim (scholar in the psychology of visual perception) and Professor Luise Vosgerchian (protegé of Madame Nadia Boulanger). Additional main teacher at Harvard and M.I.T. was Professor Jeanne Bamberger (pioneer in the field of childhood musical learning and development).

While at Harvard, Joyce's most powerful influences were: taking music classes alongside cellist Yo-Yo Ma and playing cello in several concerto orchestras with Mr. Ma as the soloist. In her two middle years of interdisciplinary studies in music, Joyce attended a graduate seminar in opera with Leonard Bernstein, who was in residence for two years at that time. She also attended all the taping sessions at WGBH during his guest lectures in Joyce's "music as a language" field entitled "The Unanswered Question," now a six lecture series which was shown on PBS. (Joyce can be seen sitting behind Bernstein's piano on lecture four and laughing at all his jokes.)

Additional Education

  • Dalcroze Eurhythmics (6 years): Teacher training with master teachers Lisa Parker and Anne Farber in a pedagogical method of teaching music through ear training, body movement, and improvisation.

  • Kodaly Summer Institute: Month-long daily intensive ear training course in Advanced Musical Analysis with a direct protege' of Zoltan Kodaly.

Instrumental Studies: (in chronological order starting at age 9):

  • Classical Guitar (life-long) with Paul Petracca, adding Jazz guitar at present

  • Cello (life-long) with Paul Paradise, Batya Bergman, William Stokking (Boston Symphony),David Finch (Boston Pops), independent work with Cello "free" Improvisation, Jazz Cello, and Electric Cello

  • Piano (life-long), keyboard harmony, and improvisation studies with Professor Luise Vosgerchian, Bill Banchs, Lisa Parker, Anne Farber

  • Afro-Caribbean Conga with Nuru De Lapina (2 years)

  • Ghanian Drumming with David Locke (2 years)

  • Senegalese Traditional Drumming with Ibrahima Camara (6 years), including a month-long intensive study with members of the National Ballet of Senegal in Dakar, Senegal (1984)

  • Jazz Drum Set (6 years study, life-long instrument) with Alan Dawson (Dave Brubeck's drummer for 9 years)

  • Big Band Drumming and Leadership (4 years at Harvard, 22 years close association) with tenor saxophonist/band leader Jean Baptiste "Illinois" Jacquet (formerly of Lionel Hampton and Count Basie Bands). Small Ensemble Boogie Woogie style with "the king of Boogie Woogie" who accompanied Bessie Smith, Sammy Price.

  • Secondary Instruments (can teach beginners): Clarinet, Soprano and Alto Saxophone, Electric Bass Guitar, String Bass, Violin

Music Composition with Professor Luise Vosgerchian, Walter Kent, Mary Watkins (30 years of study, collaboration, performing and recording together), Professor Jeanne Bamberger

Ernst Bloch Composer's Seminar in Newport, Oregon: audited a week of workshops with emerging composers and received positive comments from senior composer David Del Tredici for a chamber music composition entitled "Portrait of a New York Woman," now incorporated into a larger piece entitled "CityScapes."

Great artists with whom Joyce has performed, recorded, jammed, or workshopped

  • Leonard Bernstein, composer/conductor/educator (the New York Philharmonic and Harvard talks on Poetry and Music)

  • Barbara Borden, drums ("Alive")

  • Lester Bowie, trumpet (The Art Ensemble of Chicago)

  • Don Braden, saxophone (band leading and past sideman with Betty Carter, Wynton Marsalis, and Diane Shur)

  • Janet Hood, composer/pianst, Boston's "go to" pianist for live theater productions

  • Bart Hopkin, guitar (Whole Earth Catalog instrument-making and the collabroative video "Making a Driftwood Xylophone" on Youtube)

  • Jean Baptiste "Illinois" Jacquet, towering tenor saxophonist (Lionel Hampton, Count Basie)

  • Yo-Yo Ma, cello (College classmate, playing in orchestras, with Yo-Yo as soloist)

  • Linda Pastan, poet (twice finalist for the National Book Award)

  • Gray Sargent, jazz guitar (tours with Tony Bennett)

  • Lisbeth Scott, composer/pianist/vocalist (original film "Lion King," "Munich" to name only two of hundreds)

  • Linda Tillery, drummer/vocalist (The Cultural Heritage Choir)

  • Mary Watkins, Composer/pianist (three operas and two Academy film music nominations)

Teaching Experience

Private Teaching Studio - 1976 - Present

Brookline Public Schools - all instrument teaching assistant to townwide music specialist (1971-72)

Harvard University - teaching assistant to Music Department Chairwoman, Professor Luise Vosgerchian (special appointment 1975)

Harvard University - teaching assistant with Professor Vosgerchian (1980 - 1986) for Core Curriculum Music Classes (majors and non-majors)

Newton School of Music, Newton Massachusetts - Music Theory (1976 - 1986)

Crowden School of Music, Berkleley, CA - Music Theory and Composition, Poetry (1989 - 1996)

Bentley School , Oakland, CA - Director and Teacher of Afterschool Music Program (1996 - 2011), including piano, guitar, strings, chamber music groups, and funk band

Guest teacher appearances: Bowman School, Lexington, MA; Vicki Citron Music Studio, Cambridge, MA; West Marin School, Point Reyes Station, CA

Big Band Drummer and Director: 16 piece mixed professional/amateur all women's Big Band (1986-1987)

A Whimsical Summary

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 Senegal, West 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 from the Harvard/Danforth Center of Learning 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 master Illinois Jacquet (formerly of Count Basie's orchestra) 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's life-long experiences in music span classical, jazz, and world music genres. Her in-depth work has included study and performances with jazz masters Jean Baptiste Illinois Jacquet (Count Basie, Cab Calloway), Sammy Price (Bessie Smith's pianist), Alan Dawson (Dave Brubeck's drummer for nine years), Gray Sargent (Tony Bennett's guitarist), Mary Watkins (prolific composer/jazz pianist and twice nominated for film score academy awards), pianist Janet Hood, and saxophonist Don Braden (appeared on Betty Carter's Grammy award recording).

It all started with Mrs. Ann Fleck, a premiere percussionist in the Boston area and Brookline, Mass. school-wide instrumental teacher, who spotted Joyce and brought in numerous instruments for her to try over several weeks. Thanks to Mrs. Fleck, who has been a continuous inspiration through Joyce's life, Joyce now teaches strings, winds, percussion, piano, guitar, music theory, musicianship, ear training, counterpoint, harmony, composition, and improvisation. Of course, it also helped that her general music teacher, Miss Alice Freeman, w ho received her music training at Radcliffe College, required Joyce to play guitar and cello solos at school assemblies. Paul Petracca, a Boston area professional jazz guitarist, was her first private music teacher in classical guitar. Her remembrance of his jazz playing has influenced Joyce to expand her classical skills to jazz guitar of late. On cello, her early teacher was Paul Paradise, followed by William Stokking of the Boston Symphony and David Finch, principal cellist of the the Boston Pops and Boston Ballet.

Music teachers shape lives everyday and change the world for the better, one student at a time, which is what Joyce also aspires to do. For over a decade, Joyce taught Music Theory at one of the Boston area's finest community music schools, All Newton Music School, which gave her a sense of the community of music-loving adults as well as musical youth.

Along the way, Joyce has also jammed spontaneously on jazz drums with trumpeters Wynton Marsalis, Lester Bowie, saxophonist Lee Konitz, vocalists Gwen Avery, Denise Perrier, Linda Tillery, and have improvised on numerous instruments with author Ishmael Reed, and award-winning poets, including former U.S. poet lauriette, Robert Hass, Jane Hirshfield, and Linda Pastan.

In the classical realm, Joyce studied music theory and composition with Professor Luise Vosgerchian at Harvard alongside Yo-Yo Ma in college and she performed several times on cello in orchestras with Yo-Yo, Boston Symphony Orchestra's violinist Ronan Lefkowitz, and M.I.T. violinist Lynn Chang as soloists. She also attended Leonard Bernstein's graduate seminar on opera when he was in residence at Harvard University in the 1970's to offer the six Norton Poetry Lectures at Harvard.

Joyce's main composition teachers have been Professor Luise Vosgerchian and Ivan Tcherepnin of the Harvard Music Department, eclectic composer Mary Watkins, and Professor emerita Jeanne Bamberger of M.I.T, and presently, U.C. Berkeley. She also worked as a composer's assistant with Tison Street and Randall Thomson, which entailed organizing their catalogs, engaging in many discussions of composing techniques, and taking care of important correspondence in the former era of physical letter writing as a medium of historic exchange between artists and writers.

In world music, Joyce travelled to Senegal, West Africa and pursued intensive study of traditional drumming in the mid-1980's with members of the National Ballet of Senegal along with her Boston teacher, Ibrahima Camara, a former lead drummer of the company.

In addition to solo appearances on jazz guitar, electric cello, and percussion, Joyce currently performs regularly with pianist Mary Watkins, recent Seattle "first call" pianist, Eric Vaughn (Joe Henderson), Barbara Borden, past percussionist with "Alive", five-octave vocalist, Cheri Anderson, songwriter/guitarist Harmony Grisman, and bassists Cindy Browne, Ruth Davies, Jan Martinelli, and Tami Pallingston.

Her double CD of eclectic/jazz/African-influenced compositions, entitled "Fierce Unruly Joy," inspired by the poetry and live reading by Linda Pastan, was released in October 2010. A recent album, released in early 2021 is entitled "Dog Love" and is inspired by Ms. Pastan's volumed entitled "A Dog Runs Through It," an anthology of poems that refer to dogs (W.W. Norton 2018).

Academic Training

Starting at age 10, Joyce followed a traditional path of classical musical training, with studies in cello with members of the Boston Symphony and Boston Pops: William Stokking and David Finch, respectively. She performed with the Greater Boston Youth Symphony from 7th grade through the end of high school. She also studied classical guitar, improvising cello, piano, percussion, and music theory and composition, all before college years, with a strong interest in jazz and soul music.

After winning the Brookline Chamber Music Society Award for her performance with her high school string trio and after taking a special class in Semiotics as a senior in high school with Dr. Donald Thomas (of the Harvard Graduate School of Education), Joyce decided to pursue the study of the semiotics of music or "music as a language." In addition, her innovative high school concert productions which brought together musicians and performers of all genres to sold-out audiences of all ages, plus an award noting "best in student-faculty relations" foreshadowed a life long dedication to community music activism. To Joyce, this meant providing a forum not only for those who had dedicated their lives to the study of music in a formal way, but also for those who were self-taught, such vocalists, folk and rock musicians, and aspiring performers of all genres.

At Harvard/Radcliffe College, with Professor Luise Vosgerchian of the Harvard Music Department, Joyce created and earned a magna cum laude degree in "The Psychology and Aesthetics of Music," a double major with added courses in the psychology of learning with M.I.T. Professor Jeanne Bamberger. She also audited a graduate seminar in Opera with visiting lecturer Leonard Bernstein, as well as attending all of his Norton Poetry Lectures at WGBH-TV studios over a two year period. Her one-on-one course linking visual and musical perception was with Professor Rudolf Arnheim, a leading scholar in gestalt psychology of visual perception.

As a cellist, Joyce performed for many years in chamber groups, college and professional orchestras (as a guest in the Harvard/Radcliffe Orchestra in the Herbert van Karajan Competition in Berlin, as cellist with a conducting role in the New England Women's Symphony) including several orchestral performances with soloist YoYo Ma (as classmates at Harvard/Radcliffe College).

After college, she turned to in-depth study and performance of African-style drumming (Ghanian, Cuban, Afro-Carribean, and Senegalese) 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, Luise Vosgerchian, in the music department. With Professor Vosgerchian, Joyce taught for six years as a special assistant in ear training and composition to both music majors and non-majors in two couses: The Development of the String Quartet and Structure and Form in Music and Movement. In both courses, Joyce created a sub-course in focused listening and music composition to augment the lectures.

In the same year that Professor Vosgerchian was presented with the "most creative professor at Harvard University" award, Joyce also received a Certificate for Excellence in Teaching undergraduates from the Harvard/Danforth Center of Teaching and Learning.

Concurrently, Joyce earned two major grants to originate, produce, and perform in a far-reaching, innovative jazz residency series through Harvard's Office for the Arts, with the tenor saxophone master and big band leader, Illinois Jacquet over a four year period, with sell-out concerts and major radio and TV coverage. This innovative project initiated semester-long residencies, as well as welcoming the first African-American jazz artist-in-residence to Harvard in 1982. Joyce also initiated video documentation of the entire jazz teaching and learning process to preserve the oral tradition of jazz education. This was the beginning of a twenty-year video archive of all visiting artists at Harvard.

Since moving to the SF Bay Area in 1987, and Point Reyes in 1990, Kouffman has been teaching at the Crowden School, Bentley School , and in her private studio, Point Reyes Music Center, while focusing mainly on composing and performing on jazz drums and cello with Bay Area 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, the Bay Area's main jazz station.

In the field of composing, Mary Watkins (www.MaryWatkins.net) has been Joyce's main composing teacher since the 1980's. She has also worked closely for shorter periods of time with the following composers, as either composer's assistant or as a student/auditor in workshops: Walter Kent, Randall Thomson, Tison Street, David Del Tredici, Dr. Jeffrey Goldberg, Dr. James Yannatos, Leonard Bernstein.