Dave Matthews Band saxophonist plays for, instructs engaged BHS audience

Walking into the auditorium, it was easy to spot the three-time Grammy-winning saxophonist and member of the Dave Matthews Band. Casual clothes, a cleanly shaven head, a beard he’s “never shaved”, and of course his saxophone in hand, Jeff Coffin most definitely looks the part.

Bearden students and the general public had the opportunity on Friday to come listen to, interact with, and learn from Coffin as he held a seminar in the Bearden High auditorium. More than 100 people, many of whom are in the Bearden band and orchestra, showed up to see the world-famous saxophonist share his mastery of his instrument with the enthusiastic crowd.

Coffin, who was part of his high school band himself, has many fond memories of his early saxophone-playing years.

“I fell in love with it really quickly,” Coffin said. “I had a really great director and one of the things he was really cool about is that I would sort of make up my own parts.”

An entire section was roped off for Bearden band students who wanted to see Coffin, someone who started out like them and took their love for music and made it into a lifestyle and passion.

“He’s not afraid to try new things,” senior clarinet player Emma Burklin said. “He’s really adventurous with his style so he can do a lot more [than the average player].”

In the first 10 to 15 minutes of the seminar, Coffin showed off many basic and advanced techniques with a piece called  “Body and Soul”, a jazz standard. Following his hypnotizing performance, he asked audience members to tell him which techniques they heard him play so that he could teach each one step-by-step.

The first answer from the audience came from a little girl of no more than 4 or 5 who said she simply heard “squeaky notes”, which made everyone, including Coffin, laugh.

Throughout the night, Coffin joked around with the audience with some “musical humor”, played a few more tunes, including the Pledge of Allegiance, and proved that while he is a famous musician, he is also willing to share his knowledge and creativity with eager students and music enthusiasts.

“I wanted to see someone who is known for his abilities in music perform in order to better understand how I can further my own knowledge,” senior violinist Chase Burton said.

While many audience members came simply because they are Dave Matthews Band fans, there was no denying that Coffin captured the audience and proved that while he loves being part of the band, his own personal talent is what defines him.

Senior Ronnie Lauth, who has been a big Dave Matthews Band fan for as long as he can remember, was thoroughly impressed by Coffin’s talent.

“I thought the whole thing was very cool and interesting,” he said. “I didn’t know that [a person] could make so many sounds from just one instrument.”

While it is impressive how many sounds Coffin is able to produce with his instrument, toward the end of the night he impressed the audience even more by playing two saxophones at once which, of course, elicited roaring applause from the crowd.

By the end of the night, not only did he entertain and teach the crowd through his musical abilities and knowledge, he had some advice for current high school musicians.

“You’ve got to follow your passion,” Coffin said. “If it’s really what you want to do with your life, you’ll do it.

“If I had stopped when people told me no, I never would have started.”