Derrick Michaels

Saxophonist | Composer | Educator

Baltimore-based tenor saxophonist whose approach is at once unapologetically lyrical and uncompromisingly dynamic. 

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Private lessons & ensemble coaching in the Baltimore & New York areas.

(Improvisation lessons offered for all instrumentalists & vocalists! )

My Teaching Mission

To connect each student with the primordial creative impulse.

To revitalize each musician’s creative process with a spirit of inquiry & sense of adventure.

To illuminate the musical fundamentals as our point of entry for the creative process. 

To reveal phrasing and delivery as the primary vehicle by which all musicians express their personal sound.

To encourage creative decision-making from the very first lesson.

Creative Guidance

These lessons are an ongoing process of observation, experimentation, and discovery. They are about opening, rather than closing. It is an intimate communication between two people and the music. A trinity.

A teacher’s wealth of experience should open them up to experiencing each student, even each NOTE, with fresh ears. Only then can we be of service to the student.

Academic “jazz” instruction focuses extensively on acquisition of patterns, scales, harmonic devices, and repertoire, leaving the student utterly bewildered with far TOO MUCH information. Too many answers. Too many closed loops.

What is missing is the opportunity to go DEEPER rather than WIDER.

The internet is overrun with promises of quick fixes for “bulletproof” playing. Human beings are not bulletproof. You don’t need to be a superhero, you need to nurture a process for developing your music.

To go within, finding ever more meaning in what is right in front of us, rather than searching for something HIPPER or more complex…that is where you will find your personal expression.

It is not about WHAT we play but about HOW and WHY!

My Perspective

Music is an experience.

We cannot tell music to someone, we have to play it.

When pursuing creative work, we often learn more from questions than we do from answers.

Questions offer us open loops of thought - inviting us to experience full involvement in the process that is happening.

Answers offer us a closed loop. When looking for answers, we are oriented toward memorization. When asking questions, we orient ourselves toward the unknown…

Far too often, lessons in the arts are focused on providing answers rather than asking questions!

Traditional music lessons force an authoritarian learning environment, centered around academic goal-orientation. Such lessons are mono-directional. This is the passing of answers from generation-to-generation…

It’s a closed loop. And it doesn’t always work.

What we NEED is to ask better QUESTIONS.

My Approach

Curiosity and wonder are essential to the work we do.

Our practice is to tap into our inner source and bring that inner reality into being through our instrument. To deepen our experience of conjuring music into existence through our bodies and our horns.

I work to cultivate each student’s imagination, inviting the creative process to take place within each musical utterance. Development of technique is essential to expressive musical performance, but it is best developed alongside our expressive instincts from the very first lesson.

Finding joy in the smallest building blocks of music puts us in creative control.

I encourage advanced students to break down their knowledge to the fundamentals, exploring their musical impulses as they are actualized in real time.

The most valuable component of creative expression is INTENTION!

How might we work together to connect your ears with your instrument, and help you develop the confidence to create music that sounds exactly the way you INTEND for it to sound?

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Lessons in musical improvisation serve to nurture one’s creative impulses, liberating a spontaneous & personal form of expression.

While the nature of improvised music is rich and complex, our process as improvisers is rather simple: we develop vital ideas, in real time, with clarity & intention.

Our goal is to develop a unified creative music practice, which Integrates spontaneous melodic development with ear training & instrumental technique.

Improvisation lessons offered for all instruments & voice!

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Saxophonists are familiarized with the myriad options related to sound production. You’ll learn to work with the saxophone rather than fighting it, filling the room with a sonorous, beautiful, and flexible tone.

Along the way, we’ll work on:

Developing a holistic approach to instrumental technique, enveloping the practice of fundamentals into our creative process.

Committing to every sound with 100% conviction, in both our practice & our performance.

Establishing practical ear-training methods which cultivate an ever-deeper connection between our ears & our instrument.

Derrick Michaels is an outstanding musician, with a beautiful concept of sharing this music with so many people to bring us together, and to make us appreciate what we all have within.
— Robert Shahid host of “Masterclass” WEAA


Your Instructor

Portrait: Efrain Ribeiro Photography

Portrait: Efrain Ribeiro Photography


Alongside my career as a performer & recording artist, I have offered outside-the-box private instruction for saxophonists & improvisers in the Baltimore area for 15 years. Along the way, I maintained lesson studios at The Park School, Music & Arts Center, Dundalk Music Center, and Bel Air Music.

In order to focus more deeply on the experiential nature of music, I left these institutions in order to become an independent creative music coach.

Ever since, I’ve worked closely with a wide range of students, from “day one” beginners to local professionals looking to expand their vocabulary, deepen their tone, open up their ears, or get in touch with their own personal mode of musical expression.

All are welcome.

I have been a guest artist or lecturer at a handful of institutions including:

  • “Global Improvisation” - Peabody Conservatory

  • “History of Jazz in Baltimore” - Notre Dame of Maryland University

  • “World Music Ensemble” - Towson University

  • “Improvisation Ensemble” - McDaniel College

  • “History of Jazz” Harford Community College

  • “Baltimore Jazz Education Project”

  • Guest performer alongside master drummer Billy Hart with the Peabody Jazz Orchestra

  • Guest performer at both McDaniel College & Carroll Community College with the Jon Seligman Quartet & Quintet.

interested to learn more?

send me an email!