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ROBB JEFFRIES: Life lessons through music

Kind of.

I’ve been playing music since elementary school. My music career really took off in fifth grade, the first year my school district offered band. My parents were leery of me joining — after all, what parent can honestly say they look forward to coming home from work and listening to terrible trumpeting or a squeaky oboe?

They lucked out. I fell in love with the largest instrument — the tuba. Until I learned how to play it well, all I could do was make fart sounds. But, at least I could only do it at school.

My parents showed their support by attending every concert, and as I got older, I turned into a pretty good tubist. I got to play in a couple of honor bands in high school, and spent my UND career following the men’s and women’s hockey teams across the country to provide musical atmosphere at tournaments with the Pride of the North band.

Before falling into journalism, I began my collegiate career as a music education major. I played numerous bands through school, but my big break (relatively speaking) came with the music I made outside of the classroom.

My roommate had a fledgling career playing acoustic guitar, and asked if I could provide some depth to his songs with my electronic keyboard. I was definitely second fiddle, so to speak, in the folksy Restless Dreamers duo, but it wasn’t ever really about the fame.

We played in parks and coffee shops, and I got to really see what music could do for people. Everybody starts somewhere, but you could see the passion the other bands had for their craft when they left everything on the makeshift stage in front of a “crowd” smaller than a family grouped around a Thanksgiving dinner table.

I learned how to engage a crowd, and how to ignore the little voice in my head that told me to be embarrassed for playing a song we had thrown together a week ago. I learned how to tie-dye merchandise shirts and stay awake during late-night practices. Most important, I met a bunch of people I would have never talked to, and I grew to embrace other points of view and other lifestyles.

By learning those life lessons, I daresay I learned more than many bona fide rock stars ever do. They might have millions of fans and even more millions of dollars, but I can carry on a conversation with someone completely unlike myself.

And that’s good enough for me.

Robb Jeffries

Robb Jeffries is a news coordinator for Forum News Service. He is a graduate of the University of North Dakota and previously served as a reporter and copy editor for the Grand Forks Herald. Reach him at and follow him on Twitter at @robbjeffries.