Derek Brown performs beatbox saxophone concert

Guest artist Derek Brown performs on his saxophone using his beatbox style for the first concert of the Rhea Miller Concert Series. Vanguard Photographer | Audrey Bergey

The Rhea Miller Recital Hall was a full house Friday night as SVSU welcomed world-renowned saxophonist Derek Brown.

So many people attended the event that some had to move to a classroom in Curtiss Hall and watch Brown perform via livestream.

Brown has performed in many countries and across all fifty states. Songs he played included one dedicated to his parents called “South Haven.” Brown is a Michigan native himself, making the concert more personal for him and the audience.

Brown has the ability to play his saxophone without needing to pause for lengthy breaths. He incorporates a beatboxing technique while playing that gives a percussion-like sound to his music while simultaneously playing actual notes.

He even used the instrument’s keys to produce music. At one point in the performance, Brown put a shaker instrument in his bell and used it during one of his pieces and played what ended up being two instruments at the same time.

Brown also did a saxophone rendition of Bach’s “Orchestral Suite Number 1,” a piece that was composed before the saxophone itself had been invented.

“Somewhere Over the Rainbow” was also performed with Brown’s dad singing in the audience, a father who Brown said was always a big supporter of his musical passion.

Brown was also able to play two notes at the same time on his saxophone, something widely accepted by the music community as impossible for any kind of woodwind instrument, but Brown proved it was possible to the audience with his rendition of “Chopsticks.”

Brown then performed with music professor Colin Wood on the saxophone during an improvised piece in E minor. The performance concluded with the SVSU Jazz Ensemble under Wood’s direction joining Brown on stage for two final pieces.

Brandon Haskett, a music professor, said Brown “takes a unique approach to the saxophone and has drawn many students to his work through his use of extended techniques, which produce an effect similar to beatboxing.”

Theresa Clark, a music performance senior, attended the performance. They said beatboxing on the saxophone was not at all what they thought it would be, and what Derek Brown was able to do with his saxophone was much more entertaining than they imagined it would be. Clark said they were there to support the local music scene and fulfill music department requirements. “I had a good time listening,” Clark said. “It made me appreciate saxophone music much more. Usually it isn’t my favorite instrument to listen to … I felt that it had a great groove and was entertaining.”

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