Dan Moffett

Komarek Elementary School band director Dan Moffett is a jack of all trades when it comes to music.

For the past 19 years, Monday through Friday, Moffett has mentored hundreds of fifth through eighth graders in North Riverside, helping them learn music theory, develop their abilities and prepare them for band performances. 

Then on weekends — and sometimes school nights — he steps on the stage as a saxophonist, playing everything from jazz and rock band festivals to weddings and filling in as a freelancer for bands traveling through the Chicago area. 

He’s played with such legendary bands as The Buckinghams, The Rascals, Chicago, The Box Tops, Gino Vannelli and Jay and the Americans and his repertoire runs the musical gamut.

Though Moffett regularly bounces between teaching middle schoolers and the world of rock and jazz, there’s one musical opportunity he almost never gets to tackle — playing in a symphony.  It’s so rare, in fact, that it’s been exactly 27 years since Moffett has last done so. 

But next week, he’ll finally get to perform in a symphony again, this time, as the featured saxophonist in the world premiere of the original composition “Symphony No. 3” alongside The Symphony of Oak Park & River Forest at Symphony Center in downtown Chicago.

The last time Moffett played in a symphony was in 1996, when he was hired by the Illinois Symphony Orchestra to play in a series of works by famed American composer George Gershwin. 

“Typically, orchestras don’t use saxophones, so when this opportunity came up, I had to jump on it,” he said. “We’re world-premiering a symphony, and to do so at Symphony Center is icing on the cake.”

So how did Moffett score the deal? On the golf course, of all places.

It all started three years ago when one day after school, Moffett stopped by Meadowlark Golf Course in Hinsdale on his way home to Westmont.

“I stopped to play nine holes, and I got randomly paired with Jay Friedman,” he said. “I didn’t know who he was until the very end of the golf round, when he got to talking and he asked me what I did for a living. 

“I told him I was a band director and saxophonist, and he told me he was a musician, too. I was shocked when he said he was principal trombonist with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra — my jaw about fell on the floor.”

Before leaving the green, Moffett and Friedman exchanged contact information, and in the months following, golfed together often. During one of those rounds, Friedman mentioned to Moffett that his principal cellist, Alex Groesch, was composing a symphony and adding in a part for a saxophonist, asking Moffett if it was something he’d be interested in.

Groesch, a Forest Park resident who first heard sax used in an orchestral composition by the late Russian composer Sergei Rachmaninoff, decided to incorporate the instrument in a future work.

As fate would have it, Moffett will be playing the saxophone part in all four movements of Groesch’s new symphony, under the direction of Friedman.

As both a musician and music educator, Moffett says this performance demonstrates to his students that pursuing music into adulthood is something that’s absolutely possible.

“I always like to push music as a lifelong activity, something that’s enriching, something that you can do forever,” he said.  Just look at the director of the symphony [Friedman]. He’s 84 and he’s done this his whole life. It’s something I feel is important to bring new music to the public.”

In addition to working at Komarek and performing professionally, Moffett is also an adjunct music professor at Benedictine University in Lisle, and is raising two daughters and a son with his wife, Karen, who is also a middle school band director in Westmont. 

“Symphony No. 3” debuts as part of The Symphony of Oak Park & River Forest’s program, “Romantic Visionaries, New and Old,” on April 3 at 7:30 p.m. at Symphony Center, 220 S. Michigan Ave. For more information and tickets, visit SymphonyOPRF.org or call 312-294-3000.