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PHOTO CREDIT: KRISTY DOFF by Kevin Fritz Now on a world tour with the iconic band Chicago, Longwood’s Jeff Coffey went from work-at-home dad to rock ‘n’ roll front-man almost overnight A few days before, he was fixing lunches and chaperoning field trips. The next thing Jeff Coffey knew, he was about to take the stage as a lead singer for Chicago, the world- famous rock band that literally filled young Jeff’s dreams when he was an up-and-coming musician in the 1980s and ‘90s. When Chicago needed to find a fill-in for lead-singer Jason Scheff, who took a hiatus during the band’s concert tour this spring, those in the music industry pointed to someone who had been away from the scene for a while. Jeff, 48, is a bassist and vocalist who began his music career in bars and small venues throughout Central Florida. But years ago, he gave up life on the stage to stay home and help raise his two young sons. Jeff traded cheering crowds for the sight of first bike rides and preschool graduations, but his love for the music itself never waned Now, thanks to some serious serendipity, fans of Chicago are being treated to a tour that has not missed a beat, and Jeff’s friends get to witness his dreams come true right before their eyes. And Jeff has more than filled in; he is turning heads with his ability to seamlessly jam with the eight other members on stage. “It’s been amazing,” Jeff says. “Chicago has been a real positive band experience. I get to play with world-class musicians.” Born and raised in Eustis, Jeff attended Apopka High School, where the music bug began to bite hard. He was in the school 20 | Lake Mary Life • September/October 2016 band, blowing trombone during the early 1980s, and the big horn sound of Chicago intrigued the teenager, especially after he strutted his stuff with his high-school band during halftime of Super Bowl XVIII in Tampa. “That was a pivotal moment for me,” Jeff says, remembering how he loved playing music for the cheering crowd. He started a rock band and began dabbling with the bass. Following a stint in Walt Disney World’s student musician program, Jeff received a full scholarship to Stetson University, but the music program there was too classically oriented for his evolving tastes. Jeff transferred to the University of Central Florida, joined the university band, and had the opportunity to play in front of crowds in Germany and The Hague. In 1990, Jeff made the decision to leave UCF to go on the road with his own rock band in an old U-Haul named Gus. “I decided I wanted to play music professionally,” Jeff says. After that band broke up, Jeff formed a new band, House of Dreams, with drummer Tom Hurst, whom Jeff had met at his Disney gig. They were signed by RCA Records in 1997 and headed to Los Angeles to record their first album with legendary producer Keith Olsen (of Fleetwood Mac, Pat Benatar, and the Grateful Dead fame).