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The student news site of Clayton High School.

The Globe

The student news site of Clayton High School.

The Globe

Underground Talent

How junior Derek Crisp tuned into his musical abilities, and left a mark on the community
Derek+Crisp+%28left%29+plays+with+Jazz+mentor+and+SLUMS+bandmate+at+the+Duck+Room+at+Blueberry+Hill+in+the+Delmar+loop+in+STL.+He+played+in+front+of+more+than+350+people+that+night%2C+bringing+the+community+together+with+great+jazz%2C+talented+musicians+and+a+communal+atmosphere.+
Derek Crisp
Derek Crisp (left) plays with Jazz mentor and SLUMS bandmate at the Duck Room at Blueberry Hill in the Delmar loop in STL. He played in front of more than 350 people that night, bringing the community together with great jazz, talented musicians and a communal atmosphere.

Junior Derek Crisp would have never guessed that getting his ears pierced at Iron Age Studio in 2020 would have led to him playing his guitar in front of a roaring crowd of 400 people less than two years later.
Crisp, a native Utahan, moved to St. Louis in 2019 during his seventh-grade year and attended Wydown Middle School.
Now, at 17, Crisp has built up a hefty resume of musical endeavors and experiences and has expanded his musical talents to various instruments, genres and groups.
However, he wasn’t always involved in music. Crisp first paved the way for his musical interest while living in Utah.
“My family is not musical,” he said, yet while not being exposed to many musical influences, Crisp found a way to maintain and nurture his curiosity in singing and music.
Crisp was mostly self-taught in guitar and piano and had a passion for vocal performance from a young age. However, he much preferred his form of learning by experimentation and trial-and-error, compared to learning from a teacher.

I took classical piano lessons for about a month in third grade, and then I promptly quit because it was too structured.”

— Derek Crisp


“I took classical piano lessons for about a month in third grade, and then I promptly quit because it was too structured,” Crisp said.
After his years in Utah, Crisp endured a change of scenery. At 10-years old, Crisp moved schools. And countries.
He attended an international school in France with a large English program focused on immersion into the French culture and language that also housed a successful theater program.
Every year, the school put on a play and a musical, and Crisp was drawn to participate in these performances because of his passion for singing and performance.
In his second year in France, he participated in the production of “Cinderella,” and in his third year, he was selected to play Jack in “Jack and the Beanstalk.”
Crisp declined the role of Jack because his father had to move to St. Louis for his job in 2019. Having moved to St. Louis, he joined the Clayton School District and attended Wydown.
At Wydown, starting in his seventh-grade year, Crisp participated in “Puffs,” the fall play, and “Matilda,” the spring musical. While his theater career was just beginning, he joined the school’s Jazz Band via an audition process in his eighth-grade year.
Little did he know that this introduction to Jazz would spark an entire career in performance of the genre.
The same year he joined the Jazz Band, he also joined another organization called St. Louis Underground Music Scene (SLUMS ). This organization was a collective ensemble of around 30 musicians of different instruments, ages and backgrounds who would busk in the Delmar loop on any given night.
When Crisp got his ears pierced in his eighth-grade year, he saw these buskers playing in the loop. Being a beginner musician, he was nervous but wanted to talk with them.
“My dad convinced me to go up to them and introduce myself, so I went up to them and said, ‘I’m a musician too,’” Crisp said. “And they were like, ‘Oh, yeah, just give us your Instagram, and we’ll text you when the next jam session is.’”
After the initial meeting, Crisp was pleasantly surprised when he received a notification with their message.
“They texted me and said, ‘Hey, learn these two tunes,’” he said. “‘We’re gonna play these tunes and whatever else we feel like.’”
Crisp went home, and those two tunes were his life for the next 24 hours.

Then I went with them, and I played those two songs and nothing else. I just listened. But that’s what’s been the most influential for me. It’s just listening. Listening to people, listening to music.”

— Derek Crisp


“Then I went with them, and I played those two songs and nothing else. I just listened,” he said. “But that’s what’s been the most influential for me. It’s just listening. Listening to people, listening to music.”
Between his eighth-grade and ninth-grade years, he recalled spending hundreds of hours playing with and watching his bandmates in SLUMS perform. However, as most of the musicians were high school seniors when Crisp joined, the group dissolved when they graduated, leaving only a few artists, including Crisp, in St. Louis. The remaining players then decided to form a new group focused on indie rock in 2021.
This group focused on playing live music in front of crowds at concert venues rather than busking in public spaces.
Crisp noted a prominent moment in that group’s career when they played at Blueberry Hill. “One of the most fun nights I’ve ever had in my life was January 2022, where we went to the duck room, and I played for maybe 300 or 400 people,” he said.
From exposure to SLUMS, Crisp garnered inspiration for forming the new indie rock group and learned many valuable lessons and teachings.

“This is sort of my philosophy,” he said. “If you want to get better at something, surround yourself with people who are 50 times better than you.”
Taking this philosophy to heart, Crisp threw himself into the deep end when he joined SLUMS, a group of experienced musicians.
“Like the SLUMS, these are guys that have been playing for like eight years, 10 years, and I was there and had four months of experience,” Crisp recalled. “I’m sitting in with these guys, and it’s incredible to me because it’s all about listening and just immersing yourself in that kind of space.”
From his eighth-grade year to his transition into high school, Crisp joined a musical group called Jazz U. Jazz U requires an intense audition process, which involves several stages and is very competitive. Once accepted, students join one of seven small combination groups where they learn to play jazz instruments and make music with each other, guided by professionals every week.
Derek participated in Jazz U only during his freshman year and has now shifted his focus as a high schooler to be centered around high school theater, choir and Jazz, rather than SLUMS, his indie group or Jazz U.
“Over these past two years, I’ve tried to focus on my music and extracurriculars within Clayton,” Crisp said. “Whereas, like my freshman year, I was doing Jazz U and my indie group, now I’ve got Jazz Ensemble four days a week, Jazz Choir, and I’m doing choir, musicals and plays.”
Now a junior, Crisp is a member of the established Jazz ensemble and the newly formed school Jazz Choir. The Jazz Choir, a novel addition to the school’s musical offerings, was largely introduced through Crisp’s initiative. His inspiration came from participating in the All-State Vocal Jazz Ensemble over the summer, a small group composed of 15 singers from across Missouri, selected through a strict audition process that involved a memorized performance and a scat solo. Motivated by this experience and with the support of Choir Director Brian Parrish, brought the concept of a Jazz Choir to CHS.

Within the theater program, Crisp has been selected to be the Music Director for the student-run musical “Legally Blonde” this spring and has auditioned for and received the role of Sweeney Todd in “Sweeny Todd” this upcoming semester.
Crisp has gained significant experience in music and theater over the past five years. With college just around the corner, he is also exploring higher education opportunities.
Luckily, Crisp has his eye on many college opportunities in the year ahead.
Thescon, an annual state-wide school music convention, is being hosted in Kansas City this upcoming January.
“Juniors are allowed to do an audition [for college opportunities,] so I sent them an audition tape. They have lots of colleges review [the audition tapes]. The colleges are mostly in-state but also include bordering states. And, if you’re selected as a finalist, you perform a live audition. One song and one monologue. And then, if they like you, you might get a scholarship, and it’s a great college opportunity.”
Crisp has various subjects and occupations he could enter whenever college applications roll around.
“Part of me wants to be a choir conductor. Part of me wants to go into performance. I love theater and instrumental music, so being even a pit conductor would be amazing,” Crisp said.
Crisp has high hopes for the coming year, aiming to make it into Jazz U again – this time on piano. His goal is to form relationships and forge connections that could lead to scholarship opportunities.
As he looks ahead, he aspires to leave a lasting impact on the music industry and community. For those who aspire to a career in music, Crisp offers advice that has been crucial to his journey.”
“If you want to do something or join something, just go for it,” he said. “That’s so cliche, but like, if you want something, you got to take that first step. I think that’s a huge thing. For me, it was auditioning for my seventh-grade year because that introduced me to the theater. If you ask anybody who does theater, they’ll tell you it’s intimidating at first, but once you get in and meet these people, it’s very welcoming.”
Within the performing arts, it can be hard to appreciate the manner of the art form, Crisp noted. While paintings and film can be viewed multiple times and viewed for hundreds of years, music and performances do not linger after the performance.

What stays there is the change that the people have gone through. Because you don’t know what’s going on in your audience’s life. Mr Parrish always says, ‘We’re in the business of changing people.’ That’s what sort of fuels my love for music and how music has a big effect on me. Being able to do that to other people is a really, really cool thing.”

— Derek Crisp


“What stays there is the change that the people have gone through. Because you don’t know what’s going on in your audience’s life,” Crisp said. “Mr Parrish always says, ‘We’re in the business of changing people.’ That’s what sort of fuels my love for music and how music has a big effect on me. Being able to do that to other people is a really, really cool thing.”

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Charlie Meyers, Senior Managing Editor
Charlie Meyers is a junior at this year and is one of two Senior Managing Editors on the Globe staff. She has been on staff for three years and initially joined the Globe because of her passion for journalism and interest to get involved in her school. Outside of Globe, Charlie is also a part of Speech and Debate, StuCo, MYAC, Field Hockey, Lacrosse, and is Junior Class President.
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