Derrick E. Brown
Jazz Bassist, Trombonist and Reeds
Bill Johnson, Photographer, Greenville, MS
Ron Myers (left) tickles the keys during a jazz reception at Mid-Delta Regional Airport terminal in this 2006 photo.
He is accompanied by Lane Rodgers (background), Derrick Brown (center) and Billy Smiley.
Not pictured is drummer Hal Holbrook.
(Greenville, MS 7/18/05) - When it comes to playing musical instruments, few musicians are bold enough to step up like
Greenville’s own Derrick E. Brown. Brown a native of Greenville, Mississippi, was born on May 26, 1965 to Rev. and Mrs. S.B. Brown. Coming from a musical family and neighborhood, he was influenced by his Baptist Minister father, siblings, and older neighbors who was already taking band in junior high and high school or playing professionally.
One of his biggest influences was Greenville's great jazz saxophone player Leonard McIntosh, Jr., who would “jam” in his den on the horn. On many occasions Brown and McIntosh’s son would secretly listen through the window to his dad play and sometimes he would record himself playing. Brown would sit in and listen to the older neighbors practice on their band music in groups to help each other out.
After hearing all of these musical encounters, Brown made up his mind that he had to play something. He thought about the drums because his brother played them. There was a piano in the house that his sister played when she was at home and he played at it sometimes.
Before Brown considered playing a band instrument, he sang in Weddington Elementary School Choir as a soprano. When puberty set in, his voice went from a soprano to a baritone overnight! He didn’t like this abrupt change in voice timbre.
Next, he took interest in playing pre-band instrument such as the recorder. In the fall of 1977, Brown got his chance to participate in band at E.E. Bass Junior High School in Greenville. There he met his first band director, Charles F. Strange. Brown could vividly remember Mr. Strange pulling out all of these different instruments from a flute to a tuba and sounding good on all of them! He like the trumpet the best but Mr. Strange talked him into playing the tenor trombone. He found out that he liked the trombone a lot.
After his parents rented him one from Walick’s Music store downtown, it was on! He can vividly recall impatiently riding with parents to the music store to pick up his trombone and impatiently riding back home from the music store to home with the rented instrument. Brown, without any training on the trombone, assembled the instrument and tried to play the theme from Hawaii Five-O on his freshly rented trombone. Brown took great interest in playing the trombone in the beginners band and was placed in the “A” band the very next semester with the 8th and 9th graders.
He played his first public solo at a Black History Week program at Zion Baptist Church. He imitated the great Louis “Satchmo” Armstrong by playing “When the Saints Go Marching in” on trombone instead of trumpet.
During this event Brown was only 12 years old and the Church was crowded with listeners. This gave Brown confidence and he continued playing in churches and he still does presently.
After junior high band, Brown moved on to audition for a trombone position in the Greenville High School Band under the direction of Mr. Roy P. Huddleston and Mr. Maurice Kelly. At Greenville High Brown was in luck! The assistant director was a trombone player and he took daily lessons every morning from Mr. Kelly. This continued until Brown graduated.
While in the high school band, he became section leader his second semester of his sophomore year. Brown participated in both marching and concert bands, brass choir, and solo and ensemble contests. Brown auditioned for the Lion’s band twice and made the semi-finals both times. He also made
first chair trombone in the White Band (2nd) in the State Band Clinic held in Biloxi, Mississippi.
He also doubled on tuba and euphonium while in junior high and high school. A good friend of his played the tuba and bassoon and Brown became interested in playing the bassoon one day.
After graduating from high school in 1983, Brown matriculated at Mississippi Valley State University on a full band scholarship under the direction of Mr. Leonard E. Tramiel and Mr. Isaac Richardson. While at MVSU, Brown majored in instrumental music education. During one of his music classes, (woodwinds) he was introduced to first the flute and next the bassoon.
During one of his evening practice session in the fine arts building, his band director overheard him
preparing for woodwind class and so happened he peeked into the practice room to see who was
playing so well on the bassoon. When Mr. Tramiel discovered who it was he immediately requested that he start playing the bassoon in the symphonic band the next day.
The next year Brown was selected, along with three other MVSU students, to play in the 550 piece All-American College Marching Band by his director. This group was a collection of college band students from all over the United States. This group performed for President Ronald Reagan’s second inaugural festivities.
In the fall of 1988, Brown was sent to Yazoo City, Mississippi to
do his twelve weeks of student teaching. This was a rewarding experience for him because he
worked with students from grades 6-12.
Shortly before graduating, Dr. Sandra Scott, the MVSU Fine Arts Department Chair, asked Brown to audition for the Germany Young Musicians Exchange Program. Brown reluctantly applied and sent a audio tape of himself playing a classical trombone piece.
About a week later, he received a letter requesting a “live” audition and interview at Mississippi College in Clinton, Mississippi. The day after graduation, Brown and one of his former professors, Dr. Lawrence Goldman, went to Mississippi College for the live audition. Dr. Goldman accompanied his trombone solo. A few days later he received a letter stating that he had made the group, where over 200 people applied!
The purpose of this group was to take ten young musicians from Mississippi and at send them to Germany for a month to study German music and culture. Germany was going to send ten of their young musicians to Mississippi for a month to study our music and culture. The trip was postponed because of the incident in China involving the revolt with thousands of Chinese college students.
After graduating from MVSU with at degree in music education, Brown was hired to work as a band assistant in the Greenville Public School System. After a short stay at Greenville, Brown was hired at Hollandale School District as a special education and general music, Assistant Band Director.
During that time, Brown earned a Masters of Education Degree form Delta State University. While at DSU, Brown would find himself in the fine arts building piano practice room during breaks in his schedule.
After many years of not playing with any groups or ensembles, Brown sort of stopped playing for a while until the summer of 1997. In that summer Brown joined a community band in Greenwood, Mississippi under the direction of Mr. Russell A. Baxter. He began as a trombonist his first season and was reintroduced to the bassoon again after being absent from playing the bassoon for nearly eight years!
A wonderful thing happened to Brown during that time. In November of 1997, the Greenwood Community Concert Band and the 41st Army National Guard Band did a join concert. Brown was deeply impressed with the army band members and especially when he saw an old high school and college band buddy, Rodrick Shannon, in uniform with the army band. Brown immediately requested information about joining the 41st Army Band. Mr. Baxter was the conductor of the 41st and before Brown knew it he was in the Army for the first time at age 33! After joining the army band, which did a tour in South America in the summer of 2000, Brown has been on a musical growth quest.
While in the army band he has cross-trained on several instruments to help move the band forward when instrumentalist are absent such as: oboe, English Horn, clarinet, alto and tenor saxophones, bass drum, electric and string bass. Also during that time, Brown became active with two orchestras, Metropolitan Chamber Orchestra and the Delta Symphony Orchestra, as 2nd bassoonist and trombonist.
Brown’s most recent musical encounter is with Ron Myers and the Mississippi Delta Jazz Connection.