David Maxwell

President, Drake University
Jazz Guitar Player

Things could have been different for Drake University President David Maxwell.

Maxwell took up classical guitar at the age of 10, and later switched to jazz guitar. Even though he loved playing music, and still does, Maxwell didn’t pursue a career as a musician. He says he just didn’t have the discipline that his father, Jimmy, a professional trumpet player, had. 

Still, he stuck with it, playing in a band in college. He graduated from Grinnell College in 1966, and that summer, Maxwell joined another band with some friends. One of the highlights was opening for The Youngbloods at a show in New York. Now, Maxwell still plays when he can. Earlier this year, he played with the Turner Jazz Center Orchestra in a concert at Drake.

Maxwell now owns nine guitars, eight of which he keeps in an attic space in his house, and one that he keeps in his office on campus. His collection includes a Fender Stratocaster, a Gibson ES-335, an Ovation 12-String, and four Taylor Guitar models. 

“My equipment far exceeds my right to have it,” Maxwell joked.

Maxwell, 69 is retiring next year, and his youngest son has challenged him to put in 10,000 hours of guitar-playing after he retires. If you do the math, Maxwell points out, he would have to practice about 2.5 hours a day for six days a week, give or take, to reach that goal by his mid-80s.