South Carolina Arts Commission

Arts Directory

Mike Kaufman


609 923 0948
Charleston County, SC


  • Music

Geographical Availability

  • Low Country
  • Upstate
  • Midlands
  • PeeDee


Artist Bio

Music has always been in my life. My mother was a concert pianist and my father was a self-taught jazz pianist. My younger brother Steve is world-renowned as a guitarist and teacher; my youngest brother Will is one of the world’s foremost authorities on the life and work of Woody Guthrie. There was always music in our house.

I graduated with a Bachelor’s in Music Education from Montclair State University in New Jersey. I have over 40 years’ experience teaching music to students of all ages, styles and levels of expertise. I am a certified music teacher in both South Carolina and New Jersey, with a Master’s in Education Leadership from Thomas Edison State University (also in NJ).

In addition to teaching, I’ve performed in coffee houses, concerts, churches, bars, festivals, living rooms and back porches throughout the East Coast. I’ve recorded four CDs for release and sale – they’re available on iTunes, Amazon and

Artist Statement

Music is about connection. If we are not connecting to something beyond our own thoughts then at best our work is an intellectual and physical workout.

Music, especially instrumental music, needs to be emotionally evocative. Lyrics can assist in focusing the attention of a listener, but even then music sets the emotional tone of a song. Even when a song is about a person or event, an emotional connection must be made between the performance and the listener, or else there’s no reason to sustain attention.

I retired from teaching school music in June of 2020 after a long and gratifying career. My wife Suzanne was in end-stage cancer, the pandemic was raging and I needed to devote my time to her caregiving. A big part of my own coping was in daily practice. More specifically, music as prayer/meditation. As a fingerstyle acoustic guitarist, there was something spiritually mystical in feeling the vibrations against my chest as notes I will never play again went out into the universe in the spare room.

When I teach theory I often talk about the relationship between our harmonies (musical, not sociological) and the notes in the harmonic series. When a note is played there are hundreds of other notes called partials or overtones contained in the main vibration of the fundamental note. The first five overtones are all members of the major triad built on that fundamental pitch. It’s almost as if our harmonies are designed by nature or physics. That’s not to say non-western harmonic systems are inferior, just that we are messing with something way bigger than ourselves when we play music. We are connecting to something beyond ourselves if we’re paying attention.

Suzanne passed away in July of 2021. My music then became therapy, a means of dealing with all of the emotions swirling around as I tried to navigate my new life. I worked in earnest writing songs, culling the best into a CD called “Old Guy New Songs.” In the fall of 2022 I mounted a small series of concerts called the Cancer Revenge Tour that raised over $10,000 for ovarian cancer research, exorcised a lot of my anger and made connections with others who’d suffered loss. Music is about connection.

My own music tends to be sparked by an event, person or emotion in my life. Lately, frankly, I’ve found questions around my own mortality popping up in my lyrics. Never in a morbid way, typically in a manner that insists we make the most of the time we have here because there are no guarantees.

Clearly these are not subjects when teaching a songwriting workshop in a school situation. There we focus on what’s meaningful to students.

As a performer, my goal is to share music with listeners, because music is about connection.