Palm Coast People: At 92, Palm Coast’s Jazz Queen Still Reigns

If you are in the mood for jazz, Muriel McCoy of Palm Coast is the woman you want to connect with.
Better yet, take a bus trip with her and other members of the North East Florida Jazz Association on May 28 when they head to the Jacksonville Jazz Festival. That’s a Saturday and the legendary George Benson, a jazz guitarist whose career spans nearly 70 years, is on tap for the evening’s performance.
“It is going to be good,” McCoy told the Palm Coast Magazine.
Make that a vocal emphasis on the word “good” drawn out just for good measure.
McCoy knows just a thing or two about jazz.
She and her late husband, Eugene “Jeep” McCoy, founded the local jazz association in 1985 when they as retirees from New Jersey moved to Palm Coast.
“There just wasn’t any jazz here,” she said.
That just wouldn’t work out for the couple whose courtship, marriage and family life kept jazz at its center.
Jeep wooed her by bringing her the latest 45 records.
Jazz music played constantly in their home. Living across from New York City in Teaneck, New Jersey made it more than convenient to take in jazz shows.
But back in the mid-1980s, Palm Coast had no jazz clubs. Thus, Muriel and Jeep started a group dedicated to bringing top jazz performers to Flagler County.
The effort was a hit.
Since 1985, the NEFJA has been the improv behind more than 100 jazz concerts to the local area including one just held on April 3 featuring Gary Bartz, a world renowned saxophonist and Grammy Award winner with 40 solo albums and more than 200 guest appearances. He’s the kind of artist that isn’t usually going to appear in Flagler County.
That is unless Muriel and the NEFJA send the invitation.
The first NEFJA concert put on in 1987 included bands from Florida A&M, Stetson University and the University of North Florida. Numerous military bands have headlined NEFJA concerts. The Dave Burke Band has appeared several times. The Doug Carn Trio has as well. And one of the biggest stars in American Jazz, Dorothy Donegan — a legendary pianist — agreed to perform after Muriel and Jeep met her on a jazz cruise.
Of course, putting on the concerts is a gig Muriel enjoys, but it is the scholarships that the NEFJA gives to jazz students that really pulls her heart strings.
“I am on a mission to bring in world class musicians and give scholarships to college students at Florida universities who are enrolled in jazz studies,” she said. “Over the years, I have been allowed to see these students grow in their music and many have come to perform. It is a thrill.”
Prudently spoken words coming from a retired high school guidance counselor.
“Following these jazz students has been very rewarding,” she said, noting that the NEFJA’s commitment to local music students continues this summer by sending four Flagler County high school students to attend the week-long jazz camp at UNF this summer.
At age 92, one might not blame Muriel if she skipped a beat or two, pardon the pun. Instead, for Muriel, the beat and its associated music goes on.
The NEFHJA is attracting younger members. She is grateful for that as she knows she won’t always be around. For now, Muriel remains “brassy and sassy” — a compliment in the jazz world.
“It’s the music,” she said. “It just keeps me busy and I enjoy it.”
You can learn more about the North East Florida Jazz Association online at
— Amy Armstrong