Professional Musician Derek Brown Coming to NC


In this photo from, Derek Brown stands next to brick walls holding his saxophone. He uses his saxophone to play his unique style of music, which he calls beat-boxing. Shawn Weis, the director of bands at NC says, “He’s the only one in the world that’s playing saxophone the way he does.”

Arielle Purcell, Reporter

Derek Brown, a saxophonist known across the world, is coming to Natrona County High School. While at the school, he will be working with the concert band, commercial music, and both jazz bands. The ensembles have started preparing their music already. He will be here from March 13th through March 14th. 

Concert band will be playing two songs, Jazz 2 will be playing one, and Jazz 1 will be playing two. Commercial music will also be joining, but they don’t know what songs they will be playing yet. 

Shawn Weis, the band director at NCHS, says, “Commercial music is such a unique ensemble. He doesn’t have anything that he’s written for that type of ensemble, so he’s going to jump in on some of the things that we’re already doing.”

Derek Brown has a very distinct style called “beatboxing” on his saxophone. When people first hear his music, they assume he is using technology to loop multiple tracks. However, in reality, he is using techniques including circular breathing and slap tonguing to create a very unique and interesting live sound.

Samma Crawford is a freshman who is a part of Jazz 2, Percussion Ensemble, and Commercial Music. She says she is “excited to learn how he beat-boxes while playing the saxophone.”

Having Derek Brown come to work with the students will give them the chance to learn from someone who has lots of experience and has created his own technique. 

Madeline Elston, a sophomore in Commercial Music, Jazz 2, and Concert Band says, “I hope to learn about how he got into his career of being a professional musician.” The music students will get to learn from a professional musician about how someone can have a career in music. 

While Derek Brown was the director of jazz studies at Abilene Christian University, he created and directed a jazz/rock group called The Abilene Jazz Collective. He also has a YouTube channel called “Beatbox Sax” where he posts informative videos and music videos. He has 170k subscribers.

Jolee Sullivan is a Junior who is in Concert Band, Commercial Music, and Jazz 1. “I hope to learn how he looks at and interacts with music,” Sullivan says. Many students are looking forward to learning about music from a new perspective. 

Crawford also says, “The way he writes, you can tell he loves what he does and when he solos it’s obvious he has fun.” Listening to people who have fun when they’re playing music makes the music more enjoyable and interesting. 

There are several songs that will be played. Concert Band is playing ”Greater Heights” and “Hoping for the best”. Jazz 1 will be playing “The Good Fight” and “Human Error,” and Jazz 2 will be playing “A Simple Gesture.” All of these songs are by Derek Brown. Commercial music will decide what songs to play when Derek Brown gets here.

Working with guest musicians like Derek Brown provides unique experiences to NCHS music students. Weis has an extensive background in jazz and music education and works very hard to make sure his students are presented with opportunities to collaborate and learn from many different professional musicians

Last year, the NC jazz band traveled to Dallas, Texas to go to the Jazz Education Network (JEN) Conference. Here, the students went to workshops taught by professionals and saw tons of performances by different jazz groups. The NC jazz band also got to perform for judges at the conference. Weis says, “When the jazz band played in Dallas for the JEN conference, [Brown] heard the performance and sent us an email saying he was interested in our program and would like to talk about doing something together.”

This opportunity isn’t just for music students, though.

“We’re hoping to do a master class kind of thing with him that would be open to the public,” Weis said. The schedule for that is not completely worked out yet, but there will be an opportunity for people who are not in any music classes to meet him and learn from him.

There will be a concert on March 14th at 7pm where Derek Brown will play with the four ensembles on his saxophone.