Ruffin in 14th year as band director

By Greg Miller
star staff

  Lee Ruffin is in his 14th year as the director of the Happy Valley High School band.
  Ruffin's goal is for the students to enjoy being in the band, "that they get a sound musical experience, that they know what the basic fundamentals of making good music are. Then we go from there."
  While in high school, Ruffin played the trumpet, "God's instrument." Gabriel will be playing a trumpet, not a saxophone or drum, he said.
  "I still actively play (the trumpet)," Ruffin said. He is the First Chair in the Johnson City Community Band.
  Ruffin attends First Presbyterian Church, Johnson City. "I play my trumpet there in the mornings with the hymns," he said. "Sometimes I'll do an offertory solo or with the anthem."
  Ruffin's father influenced him to play the trumpet. His dad, C.L. Ruffin, a Johnson City OB/GYN, had played the instrument in junior high school and high school. "When he went to UNC, Chapel Hill, he played in the band there, and when he went to Duke he got out," Ruffin said. "When I was a little kid he put a trumpet up to my lips. He said, 'Buzz your lips and make a sound.' I thought that was fun and cool, but I thought I had to be a doctor because he was a doctor.
  "When I was in the ninth grade, I made my decision. I wanted to be a band director. I was very influenced by Jerry Cole, my high school director. He was a friend, but as soon as I got in the class he was my teacher ... Jerry is still one of my best friends."
  Music is a noteworthy aspect of Ruffin's life. "It does everything," he said. "I go to work, I do music. I get in my car, I listen to music. If I'm happy, I listen to music. If I'm mad, I listen to music. If I'm sad, I listen to music. It's all encompassing for me. It's a God-given talent. It's something I don't work at."
  Ruffin says that the band directors of the high schools in Elizabethton and Carter County enjoy a great relationship. "We all get along extremely well," he said. "We're all friends. We camp together. There's no backbiting among the directors."
  Ruffin graduated from Science Hill High School in 1972. After attending East Tennessee State University for two years, he transferred to the University of Tennessee. In 1976, he graduated from UT with a degree in music education.
  Ruffin served as director of the Abingdon High School Band, Abingdon, Va., for nine years. He then worked as a stockbroker for seven years. He worked as the band director at Rogersville Middle School for two years.