Derrick Michaels

Saxophonist | Composer | Educator

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

Photo credit: Efrain Ribeiro Photography

Photo credit: Efrain Ribeiro Photography


Derrick Michaels is a Baltimore-based tenor saxophonist | composer | educator, and an inexorable force in the creative music community. Boasting a rich, expressive tone and a propensity for dynamic performance, Michaels harnesses the primordial impulse to create - bringing a kaleidoscopic process of melodic architecture to a myriad of egalitarian improvisational ensembles.

Michaels communicates with vitality, romanticism, and reckless abandon - enveloping listeners into the process of his music as it unfolds into the present moment. His deeply personal approach to performance & instruction favors expressive nuance over idiomatic reverence, invoking the rich expressive history of the tenor saxophone while refracting it through his own prism of creative purpose. Each performance both demonstrates & defies his strong roots in jazz by plunging unapologetically into the unknown.

Over the years, many important musical relationships have developed with the likes of Ellery Eskelin, Susan Alcorn, Michael Formanek, Dave Ballou, John Dierker, Eric Kennedy, Mike Kuhl, Jon Seligman, Zach Swanson, Theljon Allen, Alex Weber, Jeff Reed, Phil Cunneff, Ben Frock, Chris Pumphrey, Sarah Hughes, Jarrett Gilgore & many more.

Derrick Michaels with Dave Ballou & Michael Formanek

Derrick Michaels with Dave Ballou & Michael Formanek


(For the saxophone nerds)

Tenor & soprano saxophones

Both early 1920’s Buescher True Tones.


Theo Wanne Ambika 2 with 7* tip opening (hard rubber) is what I use in most musical settings.

I use a stock Rascher mouthpiece for chamber playing & classical music.


Vandoren Traditional (blue box) 2.5 reeds


Rovner (Van Gogh & Platinum Gold models)

**Balam Back Strap!**

(Save your neck! This strap is wonderful)

Derrick Michaels Quartet @ Keystone Korner

Derrick Michaels Quartet @ Keystone Korner


“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 “Masterclass” WEAA

"Derrick is an amazing young tenor sax player with a fresh sound, making waves on the jazz scene as we speak."

- Mel Ellison, Saxophonist

“For those who don’t know, Derrick is as high level a saxophone player as you’ll ever hear.”

- Jeff Antoniuk, CEO/Artistic Director at & Maryland Summer Jazz

"Derrick Michaels' saxophone playing comes right out of his soul; the instrument sounds like a human voice. He delves deep into the harmonic mysteries of even the most familiar tunes."

- Liz Fixsen, Baltimore Jazz Alliance

"Whether improvising freely or reinterpreting Thelonious Monk's 'Pannonica', Michaels was able to create memorable phrases and vary them in clever ways."

- Geoffrey Himes

"Michaels toes the line between musical and the experimental in a highly successful way."


"As he takes a solo, his tone is soft and light, reminiscent of Stan Getz, one of his heroes. It's an unexpected but perfect tone for a band playing a fair amount of free stuff...Michaels is playing a free song like it's West Coast Cool Jazz. But then, his tone becomes harsher, and his notes become more insistent, and suddenly he's in a Coltrane-esque flurry of notes, swaying back and forth on stage as the band feels it and comes back in..."

- Baynard Woods

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