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American Composers and Musicians from A to Z: (Part 2–Kauflin, Justin and Kern, Kevin)

One of my tasks with the NLS Music Section is to compile articles and reviews about popular music for our patrons. The result is Contemporary Soundtrack, available in audio format on BARD and digital cartridge for our patrons. While browsing Billboard one day, I saw a brief article about Quincy Jones mentoring up-and-coming jazz musicians, and I kept repeating one name (Justin Kauflin, Justin Kauflin). JUSTIN KAUFLIN is one of our patrons! I reported my news to the NLS Music Section supervisor.  We were thrilled about one of the regular users of our braille music collection partnering with a legend. That was the impetus of a concert Mr. Kauflin presented in Coolidge auditorium on October 22, 2014.

Justin Kauflin checks with his guide dog, Candy, during his October 22, 2014 performance in the Coolidge auditorium. Photo by Amanda Reynolds.

He has attracted an impressive following and is still busy with performances. Keep On Keepin’ On, a documentary about his mentor, Clark Terry, had been released earlier that year and was on the short list for an Academy Award nomination for best documentary. Before the concert, NLS Director Karen Keninger and Music Section Head John Hanson interviewed Justin about his education and career, and at his recommendation we acquired The Right Hand According to Tatum in braille (BRM 36375).

Another “K” composer/musician is Kevin Kern. Legally blind since birth, Kern has attained status as a Steinway artist and records and concertizes with his original compositions. Mentored by another jazz great, George Shearing, he learned to improvise early on in his studies. He studied at the New England Conservatory for Music, and achieved international fame with fans all over the world. His compositions have been heard as background music for TV programs, such as Autumn in My Heart, a popular show in Korea.  He has toured in Japan, Singapore, Taiwan and the People’s Republic of China. Mr. Kern speaks of his piano solo works as “sound paintings,” evoking musical representations of a moment or musical description of a scene, such as a star-filled night sky. “New Age” has been used as a descriptor for some of his compositions, but in this hyper-speed age, a sound painting seems to be ideal for a pause now and then.

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