Photo by John Toomey, ODU VA
"Simply beautiful Cat--
you can feel it in every note he plays"
Justin Kauflin is an award-winning “jazz pianist who favors a clarity of touch and ideas...his writing is balanced tempering post-bop intricacies with the assurances of the gospel church” -New York Times. After losing his sight at the age of 11, Kauflin gravitated towards playing jazz piano, despite having a background in classical violin & piano. He studied with Liz Barnes (Governor's School for the Arts) and John Toomey (Old Dominion University) and was performing jazz professionally by age 14, most notably with the Jae Sinnett Trio. In 2008, he graduated summa cum laude from William Paterson University, NJ where he studied with his heroes, Mulgrew Miller and Harold Mabern, as well as being mentored by and performing with the legendary trumpet/flugelhorn player, Clark Terry (2010 Grammy winner for Lifetime Achievement in Jazz).
As leader, player, composer and producer, Justin Kauflin has released 10 recordings to date and has collaborated on 30+ albums as sideman. In 2015, Justin had the incredible honor of performing on Oscar Peterson's personal Bosendorfer for "Oscar with Love," along with 16 world class pianists for Kelly Peterson and Mack Avenue Records. March 2023 marked Justin's debut live-recorded vinyl, "Justin Kauflin Trio Live at Sam First" by Sam First Records.
Justin Kauflin scored, and is featured in, the Oscar shortlisted documentary "Keep On Keepin' On," directed by fellow musician, friend and award-winning director Al Hicks and Oscar and Grammy winning composer, Dave Grusin. During the 5-year process, Justin was picked up for management by Quincy Jones and performed as a solo artist on his World Tours. The Justin Kauflin Trio went on to perform worldwide, as well as conduct jazz workshops, from 2015-2020. During the pandemic shutdown, Justin focused on film scoring and sound design, completing projects for full-length documentaries, commercials and trailers.
Justin shares Clark Terry's passion for jazz education through the Keep On Keepin' On Jazz Outreach which includes a screening of the documentary, Q&A, student workshops, student jam sessions and concerts. As a U.S. Department of State Jazz Ambassador Justin gives workshops & concerts worldwide. He has been an adjunct faculty member/adjudicator for the Monterey Jazz Festival, Centrum Port Townsend Jazz, Vail Jazz Workshop, Lionel Hampton Jazz and Notre Dame Jazz with John Clayton and Jazz Maui with Katie Thiroux. Currently, Justin is on faculty and initiating "Jazz Nights" at the Governor's School for the Arts in Norfolk, VA (Instrumental Music - Jazz).
Justin Kauflin is dedicated to creating and sharing music that excites, energizes and nourishes the soul in multiple genres & media. He is signed for management by impresario and music icon, Quincy Jones and is a Yamaha Artist.
Photo by Amanda Reynolds, Library of Congress WDC
Diversity & Accessibility
Justin Kauflin was born with a condition that affected both eyes called proliferative exudative retinopathy, rendering him totally blind by age 11.
In his transition from 'low-vision' to total blindness, Justin received adaptive services provided by the Virginia Beach public school system. From elementary through high school, itinerant vision teachers enabled his attendance alongside his sighted peers in classes ranging from Japanese to AP Physics as well as 3 forms of Braille (literary, math and music), O & M (orientation & mobility) skills with the white cane, and vocational rehabilitation provided by the DBVI (VA Dept. for the Blind and Vision Impaired).
The NJ Commission for the Blind provided a few days of O&M to navigate the campus of William Paterson University. Throughout his years there, the National Library Service of the Library of Congress in Washington, DC sent brailled classical music scores upon request, free of charge. Justin utilized Dancing Dots and Avid Sibelius to write and score music for assignments and provide charts to his Trio.
Programs such as the Kennedy Center VSA advocates disability awareness around the world, and continues to promote artists with disabilities. They, in conjunction with the U.S. Department of State, sent Justin as a Jazz Ambassador to share his experiences as well as perform for Jazz Week in Tbilisi, Republic of Georgia.
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) enables travel by providing assistance between airport gates, ADA-abiding car services, allowances for a PCA (Personal Care Assistant), and most recently, the Hampton Roads Para Transit service to and from work. The ADA also opened the door to restaurant- and movie-going with braille menus, allowances for guide dogs, and DVS (Descriptive Video Services). And, at The Seeing Eye in Morristown, NJ, Justin was matched and trained for a month 24/7 with Candy, his sweet guide dog for an incredible 12 years.
Advancements in assistive technology has allowed vision-impaired/blind individuals to be on slightly more even ground with their sighted colleagues. The Apple iPhone has built-in accessibility features such as screen readers, voice-to-text capabilities and GPS, which are extremely useful, if not life-saving! Recent tech innovations, specifically with Native Instruments Komplete Kontrol allows Justin to finally utilize software he has owned for over a decade, launching a whole new world to explore producing sound designs, film scores and music to professional standards.