Family, Friends Celebrate Musician's Life Through Music

Dozens of people gathered Monday to honor the life of a legendary trumpet player and devoted family man from South Mississippi. John Thomas Schaffner passed away on January 13 in Gulfport after a lengthy illness. On Monday, his life was celebrated through music.

"He was a consummate trumpet player. His life was music, and if he couldn't play music he was miserable."said Mark O'Neill, a friend and member of the Mississippi Coast Jazz Society, which played at the Jazz Memorial.

John Thomas Schaffner loved and lived to play music.

"He's recorded with Pete Fountain on several recordings, and he played at the '84 World's Fair," O'Neill said.

John Thomas was the band leader for years at the Famous Door in New Orleans and most recently the leader of the Dixieland Jazz Band known as Bourbon Street East. Those who knew him best say his passing is a great loss for the coast, as well as the music world.

"He really left something big in Jazz. John was a contributor. He wasn't just a provider in music or a musician. He contributed to the growth and development of jazz music in this area. He was noted for that," said friend Jerry Hurlbert.

And those close to him say this Jazz Memorial is the way the devoted family and music man would want to be remembered.

"Basically it's a happy time where we celebrate the fact that a member has gone to a better place, and hopefully to play for a better band," O'Neill said.