FRYEBURG, Maine — Jeff Coffin is the Grammy-award winning saxophonist with the wildly popular Dave Matthews band. He’s toured globally with them for nearly 12 years. Before that, he played with Bela Fleck and the Flecktones, and has a successful solo career as well. He is also a music educator, not something you often hear about performers who are known world-wide. For three days, he visited Fryeburg Academy to teach, and talk about music, his career, and the path he followed to become a globally recognized musician. It’s pretty hard to describe just how big a deal this is.
"It’s really amazing to be able to work with a professional who dedicates their life to doing this because it gives you a new experience," says student Bailey Richardson.
For Coffin, teaching music is as much about life as it is about chords and harmony. "I hope they’re inspired… I hope they’re inspired to create. To kind of dig deeper in to whatever it is they decide to do in life. Basically at the end of the day, we’re talking about life when we’re doing this kind of stuff. Using music as the metaphor. All these students are basically looking for their metaphors these days. Whether it’s music, or mathematics, or computers, whatever it is – composition, gardening, mechanics – it doesn’t matter what it is, it’s all the same stuff."
Coffin started playing sax as a kid in Dexter, Maine – great instruction all the way through school lit the fire for him. Teaching – and giving back – has always been important. "They’re my tribe. They’ve always been they always will be doesn’t matter what age they’re at, if we’re a musician, we’re gonna hang."
Christopher Burk is the Director of the Jazz Residency Initiative, the local non-profit that pulls together these residencies at schools in Maine. "From the students perspective, they’ve heard a lot of great things from their local music educators. And they’re gonna hear a lot of the same things from these artists. But these artists have a Grammy statue on their mantel. And it sounds a little different when they say it. They get to see that these artists who are phenomenal world-class artists are also real people. And they’ll talk about what they did when they were in high school, and they can see that there’s a path to get from high school to being a professional musician. It involves a lot of hard work and practice, but there is a path, there’s not this magical abstract. And they’ll meet a person who’s made that journey."
If you would like to learn more about Jazz Residency Initiatives – the non-profit that pulls these experiences together, click here.