Phil Kaufmann grew up on a farm in north central Illinois, the 11th of 12 children. Since his family sang grace at every meal and performed music in churches and for local events, he grew up singing. His twin sister Phyllis and he sang duets in harmony before they were old enough to go to school.
Phil’s father was a musician, playing violin, guitar and harmonicas in a string band during the 20’s. Unfortunately, much of this instrumental music was replaced with the work of raising a large family and tending the crops and livestock during Phil’s younger years. When Phil was 12, his father was killed in a tractor accident, sadly before Phil had learned to play the guitar.
Phil participated in band (playing the clarinet), choirs, and musical theater in school, teaching himself chord playing on the guitar. While in college he took two semesters of voice, sang in the choirs, and participated in musical theater. He “temporarily postponed his formal education” (ok – dropped out) to travel and sing full-time in a vocal trio which toured the Midwest singing in lounges, at county fairs, etc. During this time he played the electric bass guitar.
Recognizing the stresses that full-time traveling as a musician had on his marriage, Phil left that and settled in his home town community of Tiskilwa, originally helping out on the family farm. He began leading singing at the Willow Springs Mennonite Church, incorporating the use of the guitar.
While commuting 90 miles for night classes to finish a master’s degree, Phil started playing the harmonica to help stay awake. Next came the mandolin — not while he was driving of course! The saxophone and penny whistle were natural extensions of his latent clarinet “skills”. Group lessons on the clarinet in grade school and one semester of group piano in college were his only instrumental instruction. He can blame all the rest on “having a bad teacher” (himself).
Most recently Phil started on the 5-string banjo to help fill out the sound for the Cotton Patch Gospel. With this addition he claims he is one step closer to “Jack of all trades, master of none.”
Phil is the Administrator at Greenfield Retirement Home in Princeton, IL.