Dave Matthews Band saxophonist returns to his Rochester roots

Union Leader Correspondent
November 29. 2017 11:30PM

Saxophonist Jeff Coffin explained to students at Spaulding High School how he can play two instruments at a time Tuesday afternoon. (KIMBERLEY HAAS/Union Leader Correspondent)

ROCHESTER — A Grammy Award-winning saxophonist returned to Spaulding High School to inspire students and raise awareness for music education Tuesday afternoon.

Jeff Coffin graduated from the Rochester high school in 1983. He went on to play with Bela Fleck & the Flecktones from 1997 to 2010. In July 2008, Coffin began touring with Dave Matthews Band, joining the group in 2009 after the death of founding member LeRoi Moore.

Coffin moved to Nashville, Tenn., in 1991 and said the music scene is happening. Lots of young people are moving to the city, he said.

“The opportunities there right now are second to none, in my opinion,” Coffin said.

Coffin added that the love of music doesn’t have to end for students who choose a career path outside of the entertainment industry.

“People who used to play in band will come up to me and say, ‘Oh man, back in the day I used to play saxophone’ or ‘I used to play flute or trumpet’ or whatever and ‘I really wish I had continued to play’ and so I think that one of the things about music is that it can be a lifelong endeavor. Whether you become a doctor, a lawyer, a mechanic, a computer science person, whatever you become, music can always have a place in your life,” Coffin said.

Coffin treated the students to some improv before showing them how he can play two saxophones at once. Then he joined band members on stage for two songs.
Jeff Coffin, of Dave Matthews Band, lead students in a breathing exercise Tuesday afternoon while playing with them on stage at Spaulding High School. (KIMBERLEY HAAS/Union Leader Correspondent)

Music teacher Joanne Houston said Coffin’s presentation was a wonderful opportunity for students to see that people who make it big still find time for those in their hometown communities, and that there are others in the world who care about them.

Students Chloe Molinaro and Jacob Wallingford were inspired by Coffin’s words.

“Knowing Jeff is part of the alumni scene is pretty crazy,” Wallingford said.

Yamaha sponsored the event and donated a YX-500F xylophone valued at more than $4,000 to the school during the event. They also donated new mouthpieces and ligatures for the woodwind section of the band in conjunction with DonorsChoose.org, a nonprofit organization that provides aid to public music programs all over the country.

John Wittmann, director of artist relations and education at Yamaha Artist Services in Indianapolis, Ind., said it is proven that students who are enrolled in music programs are better at languages and math, earn higher test scores and have better attendance than their peers.

Wittmann said music teachers, on average, spend almost $1,000 a year out of their own pockets on basic classroom supplies.

Yamaha has been working with DonorsChoose.org for two years to help alleviate that burden on educators, Wittmann said.

EntertainmentEducationGeneral NewsRochester

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