Secret Lives: David Kleinbaum

Ann Borden

Day Job

Professor of Epidemiology, Rollins School of Public Health

Secret Life: Band leader for the Atlanta jazz band the Moonlighters

An aggressive clarinet-playing style effectively ended David Kleinbaum’s career on the instrument when he was a high school freshman—he pushed out his two front teeth and required dental work—but the setback didn’t keep him from continuing his musical career. Kleinbaum’s mother suggested he take up the flute, and it has been Kleinbaum’s main instrument ever since. He focused on classical and symphonic music until he landed in Chapel Hill, where he earned a PhD in mathematical statistics at the University of North Carolina and served on the faculty for twenty-three years. While there he formed a folk band and a jazz band that played gigs at local clubs.

Soon after joining the epidemiology faculty at Rollins in 1993, Kleinbaum started attending an open jam session every Tuesday night at the Freight Room and later helped organize a weekly jam session at the Musician’s Union Hall. He performed with several bands before forming the Moonlighters in 2006.

The seven-piece band consists of Kleinbaum on flute, a saxophonist, guitarist, pianist, bassist, drummer, and vocalist. The band’s name references the fact that all of the band’s members make their living in jobs other than music.

His Words

“The thing that makes it exciting is that it is not easy to do. As a teacher who has been teaching for forty-five years, one of the things I’m really good at is adapting myself to my audience when I’m teaching and being able to tailor my presentation or style to the circumstances. I am an improviser. I get in there and I feel the audience out. I also know how to wind things up and segue into the next topic. There is a lot of improvisation in jazz as well. I don’t know if music helps me improvise in life, or the other way around.”—M.M.L.

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