Nashville drum and percussion tutor is one of America’s finest.

Nashville, Tennessee is America’s Music Capital. It is here that you will find not only some of the world’s biggest stars, but also many of the nation’s finest musicians. Indeed, to qualify for a music career in Nashville a player needs to be good. Really good.

As a percussionist and drummer, Clifford Koufman qualifies. A pro player and top educator, he is not only Nashville’s leading tutor of African Percussion, but one of the nation’s leading drum set educators and of the few qualified to teach the Freddy Gruber drumming technique. (Gruber’s students included Journey’s Steve Smith, RUSH’s Neil Peart, and the great Dave Weckl.) These are reputations Clifford has earned since launching his Sound & Rhythm Studio in 2000, an initiative that he says combines his passion for learning and teaching. 

“My interests span great songwriting and African percussion as well as American jazz, with my mission being to absorb the knowledge of the masters, then share that, both at my Sound & Rhythm Studio, as well as in seminars and workshops at schools, universities and percussion events. I teach students of all ages and experience levels, in private lessons and group classes that have been described to me as being fun, inspiring and relaxing.” 

As with so many serious players, Clifford is personable, open and humble. “Nashville is a real leveller,” he has said. “Being accepted here has as much to do with the quality of the person as with the expertise of the player.” 

Though Clifford has pursued the various arts and instruments of rhythm with a passion, his approach has been intelligent and strategic – he studies with the best. “I traveled to Ghana and Guinea in West Africa to study with master drummers. Two of my primary teachers were grandmasters, Mamady Keita and Famoudou Konate. Immersing myself in their cultures gave me something possibly nobody else in this part of America has, which is true hands-on, face-to-face in situ experience. I have also studied with master musicians from Cuba, Brazil and the Middle East. There is so much more to teaching than just playing the notes. Culture is a key component in grasping the feel and understanding the philosophy.”

For drumset studies, Chester Thompson (Frank Zappa, Genesis, Phil Collins), Roy “Futureman” Wooten (five-time Grammy winner with Bela Fleck & the Flecktones), the legendary Gary Chaffee (students included Sting’s Vinnie Colaiuta, Aerosmith’s Joey Kramer), Bruce Becker (Freddie Gruber disciple), and jazz greats Bob Moses (Pat Metheny, Jaco Pastorious), and Jason Marsalis (N.E.A Jazz master; member of the famed Marsalis family of musicians) were amongst from whom Clifford gained insight. “Because their experiences are so varied and deep, each of my teachers has a unique philosophy; what they tell me is as important as what they show me.”

For Clifford, the interest in drumming happened at a young age. “Three things inspired me:  a TV special with people with sticks in hand walking city streets, playing rhythms on everything from street signs to sides of buildings; a kid playing drums for a school production; and my two best friends needing a drummer when they started on guitar and bass. My students are similar in that they see a music video, enjoy a band at a concert, or they, alone or with their friends, want to have fun and discover something new that they can do. For many, discovering they are capable of playing is a big revelation. But almost everyone has rhythm. It’s one of those use it or lose it things. My students love discovering that yes, they can play percussion and/or drums. And I love being part of their discovery process.” 

Which is why Clifford Koufman is the leading choice for those pro players and ambitious enthusiasts who want to experience the joys of learning African hand drumming or drum set techniques in the style of Freddie Gruber, but also feel confident that they are learning from one of the best…someone highly capable of educating to the highest standards.