A Waterloo native, Jim Coffin received his bachelors and masters degree from what is now the University of Northern Iowa. After playing professionally in Los Angeles he returned to Iowa and began teaching at Woodward in 1956. Soon after, he teamed up with Jack Oatts to form the "Faculty Four," a group that remained together for over a decade. 1957 saw the addition of the Woodward High School Stage Band as part of the instrumental music program. Belle Plaine was the next high school where Jim started a stage band after joining their faculty in 1959 and his groups participated in the Tallcorn Festivals held on the campus of the Iowa State Teachers College in Cedar Falls.
Jim received his Masters degree in 1964 and after joining the faculty he instituted both the jazz and percussion programs at UNI. UNI Jazz Band I began touring Iowa high schools to attract students to the program and won their first major competition at the University of Wisconsin Eau Claire. They were the first university jazz band west of the Mississippi to perform at the Notre Dame Jazz Festival and in 1972 won the Collegiate Mid-west competition resulting in a festival performance at the Kennedy Center in Washington D.C. An all-star band was selected from the big bands and combos at the festival and Jazz Band I had four of its members so honored and received a gold mic from Stan Kenton. The list of artists that performed with the band included Clark Terry, Sonny Stitt, Marvin Stamm, Dan Haerle, Lou Marini, Jr, and Rich Matteson.
Jazz Band I was among the first university jazz organizations to play at an MENC conference. Also among their credits was a 30-minute TV program produced by Phi Mu Alpha Sinfonia, the Kansas City Jazz Festival, Ohio River Arts Festival, and a five-day stint as a resident jazz band at the University of Minnesota.
In 1972, Jim left UNI and joined the Selmer Company where he was the marketing, education and artists relations manager for Premier Drums. Ten years later, he joined the Yamaha Corporation and was responsible for the development and marketing of their percussion products.
Jim is the author of the Performing Percussionist I & II and Solo Album published by C.L. Barnhouse. As a clinician, soloist, adjudicator and conductor he has appeared in forty states and five Canadian provinces. Since retiring in 1993 he has been a contributor to Drum Business magazine; editor of the drum set column in Percussive Notes; a marketing consultant; presenter of music business seminars sponsored by the National Association of Music Merchants for college and university music majors; secretary of the Executive Committee for the Board of Directors for the Percussive Arts Society; a published fiction writer; played on and produced a CD, "The Seasons of Our Lives," distributed by Walking Frog Records (Barnhouse); interim Symphonic Band conductor at the Cal State University San Bernadino; as well as a writer and editor of a Sherlockian newsletter. One of his many honors include being noted as an outstanding university jazz educator in Duke Ellington's autobiography, Music is My Mistress.