Published: May 22, 2018 By ,

Dr. Berton Coffin Internationally recognized vocal pedagogue Berton Coffin was Professor of Music and Chairman of the Division of Voice at the CU's College of Music for almost 31 years. Among many of his contributions to the College, Dr. Coffin was responsible for creation of the Doctor of Musical Arts degree in Vocal Pedagogy and Performance, and the building and recruitment of an nationally acclaimed vocal faculty. Widely known for his numerous volumes (Sounds of Singing; Phonetic Readings of Songs and Arias; Overtones of Bel Canto; among others) and professional writings in vocal technique and principles of the acoustics of the voice, Dr. Coffin worked tirelessly towards the accomplishment of optimum resonance through the relationship between vowels usage and pitch.

In 1987, the College of Music Faculty selected him for the first “Distinguished Faculty” award. Even after his death, his legacy remained through the work of his wife, Mildred W. Coffin and his daughter Martha who instituted the Berton Coffin Faculty Fellowship. Dr. Coffin’s deeply caring teaching style and uncompromising attention to the personal growth of each his students, along with his keen sense of integrity and passion for voice research and development, are now the basis of teaching for the Voice Faculty.

Many of his original writings, first editions of his books, and illustrations from his research process are held by the American Music Research Center in Norlin Library.

Dr. Coffin with the Overtones of Bel Canto book.  Examples of sonograms that show the different frequencies in which a specific vowel resonates in various pitches depending on the voice type.  A vowel chart from 1973. Festival Chorus in the 1950s conducted by Dr. Coffin People singing in a choral group. Berton Coffin smiling next to Barbara Doscher, his student, who became an international renowned Vocal Pedagogue and author of the book “The Functional Unity of the Singing Voice”.

The seal for the 100 Stories for 100 Years of Archives campaign The University of Colorado Boulder Libraries will celebrate the centennial anniversary of the Archives on June 6, 2018. This is story #84 in our series: 100 Stories for 100 Years from the Archives!