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High school hires new band, music director

South Whidbey High School band students will be playing to the beat of a different director this fall.

With the departure of longtime band instructor Brent Purvis, Jeff Cohn will step onto the podium to lead South Whidbey High school’s bands next year. He will lead the jazz and concert bands, the wind ensemble and pep band and teach a music theory course.

Mike Johnson, principal of the high school, said Cohn is a good choice for a position that has been filled by one of the most successful music directors in the state for the past few years.

“We are pleased to have someone of his quality join our program,” Johnson said. “We believe he has the capability and expertise to continue and enhance the band program at the high school.”

Johnson said his skills match up well with the district’s award-winning music program.

In 2002-03 South Whidbey’s jazz band and jazz combo placed second at the Lionel Hampton Jazz Festival in Moscow, Idaho. This spring the jazz band came home with a second place from the Bellevue Jazz Festival. There are 66 students in wind ensemble and 42 in concert band.

Cohn said he is looking forward to working with South Whidbey High School’s band students, and those coming through Chris Harshman’s program at Langley Middle School.

Cohn is not a stranger to South Whidbey, so does not come into the area without knowing what he is getting into.

“My parents have a weekend home here and I have two nieces attending school in the district. I’ve been coming here for years,” Cohn said this week after accepting his new position.

Cohn was the band director at Decatur High School in Federal Way for 17 years. He also served as the music coordinator for the Federal Way district and as director of student activities.

Decatur High School has an enrollment of 1,600, more than twice as many students as South Whidbey High School.

A combination of factors brought him to the island. Besides being familiar with the island and wanting to move away from the city and all the traffic, Cohn said he was attracted by South Whidbey’s arts community.

An accomplished brass player and singer, he looks forward to joining small community musical groups.

In Federal Way, Cohn’s high school bands won a number of first place awards in music festivals.

He is a graduate of Mercer Island High School, received his masters degree from the University of Washington and administrative certificate in 1991.

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