David Zoffer

Associate Professor
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In Their Own Words

"I love analyzing music to see how it works, sharing that with people, and seeing what they do with that information. I get psyched about pointing out what it is that defines what makes a particular style. In my arranging courses we dive into different musical styles to learn how they work. I'm big on outlines; if you make an outline of what a musician is doing and follow it closely, you can get really inspired by how everything all fits together."

"Experienced artists who have put their whole lives into the development of their art have so much to teach us. It's when you really analyze their music to see how it works that you realize how much passion and development those artists put in. Students exposed to artists with decades of experience, who gave up so much for music, develop a deeper sensibility about their work."

"I get really fired up when I point out all the little magical things that different players in a band do, what makes a particular player's or arranger's contribution unique, and how that expresses something for the whole piece. It's important to really commit to learning everything that's going on inside that music and its context. You throw yourself into it, and when you come out, that's really when you learn. You can't just dip your toe in the water, you have to drink from the fire hose. Then you can decide how much you want to take away from the experience."

"The projects I assign are very comprehensive. My arranging students, right off the bat, are writing three minutes of the blues for four instruments, just like professional musicians. They sort of freak out at first, but then they see that I spread it out over many weeks. I want students to be aware of the big picture when they're making music, so that it's not just a bunch of little exercises—they're thinking about how the whole piece of music fits together."

"Empathy is a big tenet in my teaching. I tell students, 'If you want to work with all different kinds of people and have unique experiences, you have to go out of your way to make it easier for them to do a great job.' My students trade roles as producer and arranger and work with each other in both roles. When they put themselves in the other person's shoes they understand that you can make somebody's day wonderful, or ruin their day, just by the way you work."