Beatbox saxophonist Derek Brown will present an alumni concert at Hope College on Sunday, Feb. 16, at 5 p.m. in the Concert Hall of the Jack H. Miller Center for Musical Arts.
The public is invited. Admission is free.
Brown, who is a 2006 Hope graduate, will perform alongside the Holland Jazz Orchestra, as well as pieces with a student string quartet and the Brazilian Music Ensemble. The concert will be conducted by Dr. Jordan VanHemert, assistant professor of music.
“Derek has really worked hard to develop this style of saxophone playing that is uniquely his own,” VanHemert said. “Now, he’s taken his style and infused it with the instrumentation of the traditional large jazz style, which is what you’ll see in this concert.”
After graduating from Hope with a jazz studies and music performance double major, Brown obtained his master’s at the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music. From there, he spent the next six years as the director of jazz studies at Abilene Christian University, where he said he really began experimenting and exploring different styles of jazz, and finding his own unique “voice” on the sax.
He found that voice in a beatbox style approach of playing the saxophone, where he incorporates his saxophone to also produce woodwind and percussion sounds. “It’s as if I’ve made a mini orchestra just out of my sax,” Brown said.
It’s his unique style of playing that has taken him to performances worldwide, and produced two solo studio albums, “BEATBoX SAX” and “FiftyFifty,” as well as an upcoming duo album with Dave Mathew's Band sax player Jeff Coffin. Brown has also built a strong following on YouTube, with more than 10 million views and 150,000 subscribers.
Brown also finished up his 50/50 tour late last spring, which featured over 50 gigs in all 50 states over the course of six months. He and his wife, Rachel Brown, who is a Hope classmate, borrowed an RV and drove around the country to various universities, where he performed his solo act, as well as typical big band standards with music students there.
Brown is looking forward to bringing it full circle to his alma mater, where he’ll step foot in the Concert Hall for the first time and perform at the school that he notes built his foundation and confidence.
“I’m thankful I went to a school like Hope, where I could receive the extra nurturing from a small-school environment, while having the freedom to experiment with different ensembles and musical experiences,” Brown said. “I hope [Hope] students see that it is possible to pursue your creative dreams and make a living with that. Easy? No, but the sky’s the limit.”
In addition to the live concert, Brown will be recording an album in Hope’s recording studio that will feature Hope students and the Holland Jazz Orchestra. All compositions will be Brown’s original work, and most of the songs will also be recorded for his YouTube channel.
VanHemert said that Brown’s performance and the recording session will be a great opportunity for students to experience an example of things they are learning in their classes, while also seeing what being a modern musician in the 21st century is all about.
Audience members who need assistance to fully enjoy any event at Hope are encouraged to contact the college's Events and Conferences Office by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or calling 616-395-7222 on weekdays between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m.
The Jack H. Miller Center for Musical Arts is located at 221 Columbia Ave., on Columbia Ave. between Ninth and 10th streets.