From Bach to Bieber: Derek Brown ’06 Plays Sax on NPR

Hope College graduates often apply their liberal arts education by finding unique ways to make innovative and untraditional connections in their work. But Derek Brown ’06 is the only one combining the bass line and melody of Every Breath You Take, switching from Bach to Bieber on the same album and playing the saxophone as percussion and woodwind.

In fact, Derek’s sound is so unique that it earned him a spot on NPR’s Weekend Edition yesterday. Listen now.

“When you listen to Derek Brown play the sax, you figure this guy has got to be using all kinds of loops and overdubs and electronic pyrotechnics. And then when you figure out it’s just him playing live, it is a little bit hard to fathom.” -NPR’s Mary Louise Kelly

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If the 19th century Belgian inventor were still alive, Adolphe Sax would be proud of the lengths to which Chicago-based saxophone innovator Derek Brown has taken his instrument.

Derek crosses genres from jazz to funk to classical using creative new “beatbox-like” techniques. He is currently involved with the up-and-coming Chicago funk/fusion supergroup Low Spark, as well as his signature solo show, “BEATBoX SAX.”

After growing up in Michigan and attending Hope College, where he graduated Summa Cum Laude with a Jazz Studies and Music Performance double major, Derek went to grad school at the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music. His experimentation with the saxophone started at Hope and continued through graduate school.

For the next six years, Derek was the Director of Jazz Studies at Abilene Christian University in Abilene, Texas.

beatbox-sax-album-coverNow living in Chicago with his wife Rachel (also a Hope grad), Derek is focusing on a career as a full-time freelance saxophonist.  In addition to a growing YouTube following and a recent release of BEATBoX SAX, he has performed in France, Germany, Norway, Latvia, Bulgaria, the UK, Poland, Czech Republic, Ukraine, Serbia, China, Malaysia, and Brazil.

Whether it’s on their albums, online, in Hope’s Jack H. Miller Center for Musical Arts or on NPR, we love listening to our alumni, student and faculty musicians!


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