She grew up roller skating on the terrace outside Macky Auditorium—while her parents worked on a choral repertoire book—and listening in on Festival Chorus rehearsals—the ones led by her dad. Now, after years working and teaching in Southern California, Marty Coffin Evans is living in Boulder, devoting herself to the community and the preservation of her parents’ legacy.
And in doing so, perhaps inadvertently, she’s building one for herself as well.
“My dad’s legacy is really important to me,” Evans says. “He had such an impact on so many students, and while his name has longevity in this community, I want people to remember him and not just his name.”
Under Evans’ watch, the Berton Coffin Graduate Voice Scholarship Fund became fully endowed, and the Faculty Fellowship Fund and Applied Voice Faculty Research and Professional Development Endowment Fund were established. Each of these gifts has helped students and faculty in the voice department reach new levels of excellence and grow the reputation of the department that Coffin himself was so instrumental in building.
“Berton Coffin is a legend in the world of vocal pedagogy,” says Patti Peterson, Berton Coffin Faculty Fellow at the College of Music. “I was lucky to be in his studio a lot in the early 70s, as I was a pianist in those days. I took classes with him when I switched to voice as my emphasis, so I know how amazing his work was.”
Peterson studied with Coffin’s successor, Barbara Doscher, and eventually took over leadership of the vocal pedagogy herself.
“When I came here for my doctorate I came here for the reputation of the pedagogy program,” says Eklund Opera Director Leigh Holman. “The program that was spearheaded by Berton Coffin had been passed down to Barbara and then Patti.”
Though she wasn’t a professional musician herself, music has always been a part of Evans’ life. “I don’t see how you can live without music,” she muses. Her father, after all, was Berton Coffin, the man who literally wrote the book—11 of them to be exact—on vocal repertoire and pedagogy. He led the voice area for 30 years and was an early president of the National Association of Teachers of Singing.
Evans’ mother, Mildred Coffin, was an early director of the Artist Series. As a girl, Evans got to rub shoulders with the likes of Van Cliburn and George London as they came through town and ate post-show dinners with her family.
“I grew up on campus. Running around Macky or skating on Varsity Lake when it was frozen. But I also went through University Hill Elementary in the days when the College of Music was where the west side of the UMC is now,” Evans remembers. “A few years ago, I connected with an alum who told me she used to pick me up at Uni Hill and walk me back to my dad’s studio.”
When she herself was a student at CU, Evans decided not to pursue a career in music, rather majoring in English literature and minoring in history. But she says music was never far from her heart. “I sang in the women’s glee club and the university choir, which was great fun. That’s where I met a lot of my friends. It’s important for students to have a support group, and that happens naturally with music.”
After graduating in 1964, Evans took a job in Southern California. What was supposed to be a one-year sabbatical replacement for a high school English and journalism teacher turned into more than 30 years of teaching and administration in nearby districts and even a stint doing school accreditations overseas.
Along the way, she and her late husband, Reverend Ray Smith, always lived by the philosophy that you have to make connections wherever you go. “When I was chairing school accreditations, I traveled to Hawaii and Japan—where I was the only member of the team from the mainland. During those visits, I worked with educators from Manila, Hong Kong, Spain and Ireland—and still see some of them,” Evans says.
“My husband always thought that it was smart to make connections wherever we live, so when I returned to Boulder in 2001, he and I immediately got connected in the community. It always helps to know people where you’re living.”
That philosophy guides Evans now as a freelance writer, former member of the Alumni Association Board and a member of the Music Advisory Board, alumni Director’s Club, School of Education Development Board and the CU Foundation Board of Trustees. She’s also a CU Advocate.
“I keep all the thank you notes I receive from students. No matter how much you can give, I think it’s those ‘Thank yous’ that count. Every digit matters, and when a student tells you exactly what your help meant to them, that makes it special.”
Now, the little girl who went to Uni Hill—the CU student who would peek into her dad’s studio window as she walked to class—will touch the lives of even more students, and no doubt receive even more thank you notes. Evans recently endowed yet another gift in the Coffin name: a fund geared toward student success.
Evans says the pillars of the “College of Music Advantage” got her thinking. “I wanted to do something with the student success aspect,” she explains. “If I could help students participate in a competition or in a special program abroad, then that would bring it all full circle.”
And though this new endowment is in her father’s name, Peterson says through her support, Evans’ name will be remembered as well.
“Marty has done a great deal for the voice area financially, but more than that, she is a driving force behind all we do,” Peterson says. “She served on the Vocal Advisory Board for many years, pushing funding for voice projects, raising scholarship funds and supporting voice faculty with her own money and moral support. She attends all our faculty concerts and the operas. I can't think of anyone else who has contributed as much as Marty has.”
“I think of the Boulder music community as one big family, and this is how I’m helping that family,” Evans says. “I’m so grateful that my folks brought me here. I can’t think of a better college town to grow up in.”
To that end, she says she’ll always be involved in continuing the tradition of music at CU Boulder.
“I hope I can always stay involved in supporting the college. I’d like to remain a part of the Music Advisory Board, because that’s the best way to stay informed—and the more informed you are, the better advocate you can be.”
Marty Coffin Evans and dozens of other supporters will be honored at the College of Music’s annual scholarship celebration and dinner this weekend at the Glenn Miller Ballroom.