Photo: Ashton Blake

Theron Brown focuses on new album Spirit Fruit

By Laura Lakins for The Devil Strip

At the age of two, jazz musician Theron Brown began experimenting with music. With a piano at home, and countless instruments at the church his father preached at, he could try just about any avenue of music he wanted.

By the time he was five, he was learning how to play music by ear — a skill that took him all the way through childhood. With only a handful of structured lessons, Theron is mainly a self-taught musician.

As he continued to perfect his craft, Theron began booking gigs at local church events. Through these performances he, along with his audiences, began to realize that the stage is where he belonged.

“At first I’d get to play one song, and then two songs, and then they asked me to start playing half the service, and next thing you know I was playing for the whole service,” Theron says. “This showed me that anything I wanted to do musically, I could figure it out.”

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With some inspiration from jazz greats like Thelonius Monk, Herby Hancock, and Oscar Peterson, Theron began to develop his own unique style. All the while, his passion for creating and playing was only growing. By the time he was a senior in high school, he knew he wanted to seriously pursue music.

In 2005, Theron made his way from his hometown of Zanesville to Akron to study music at The University of Akron. Little did he know, this city would provide him countless opportunities to grow as a creator. 

During his time at UA he began to form relationships with other Northeast Ohio musicians in the same program including Nathan Paul Davis, Steve Miller, Phil Anderson, Matthew DeRubertis, and a variety of others that are still playing in the area today.

“I didn’t know what I was doing, I just knew I liked the music, but I knew the only way to get better was to play with other people,” Theron says. “We would have small jam sessions, which is in the history and culture of jazz. It’s all about getting together and making music.”

As his relationships with his peers began to strengthen, so did his ties with Akron. Though he moved around between then and now, eventually his heart was called back home here where he currently resides.

“The Northeast Ohio music scene holds one of the biggest parts of my heart,” Theron says. “I developed here. There have been so many musicians that have helped me, even when I wasn’t ready. I think that’s why I’m so involved and indebted to the area.”

With a mission of giving back to the community that gave so much to him, Theron has gotten involved with various organizations and boards around town. He founded the Rubber City Jazz & Blues Festival in an effort to elevate local musicians.

Currently, he is the program coordinator for artists in residency with Akron’s Curated Storefront, a nonprofit focused on giving artists a platform in our city.

Through his work with Curated Storefront, he is involved with the I Promise School, and expanded his role to work with aspiring artists there as well.

In addition to his work with Curated Storefront, Theron also works as a content creator for Playground Sessions, a top-rated online piano lesson app. His lessons reach students on a global scale.

His recent work with the Curated Storefront and Playground Sessions  follow years of being a professor of music at Kent State University and Youngstown State University. 

“This past year really set me free. I’ve never slowed down and pumped the brakes, ever,” Theron says. “I learned that Theron Brown needed to pay a little more attention to Theron Brown.”

With all of the changes Theron has experienced over the past year, he has also been working on his next studio album that is set to be released early 2022. Going with the theme of newness and change, Theron’s album will bring some new sounds to the table.

“This is a project I’ve been working on for a really long time,” Theron says. “I think it’s just now coming to fruition because of the pandemic. I’ve had a lot of time to think, pray, talk to people, and listen.”

The album, titled Spirit Fruit, will be his second full length album. It is inspired by the Fruits of Spirit scripture from Galatians in the Bible. Straying from his norm, Theron has vocalists and various orchestrations accompanying him on this project.

As we wait for its arrival, his debut album, No Concepts, is available for purchase on his website, theronbrownmusic.com. You can also find his music on all major streaming platforms, as well as Bandcamp.

Theron is still able to allot some time for live performances. He is currently slated to be at Lock 4 on August 11 with fellow jazz musician Tommy Lehman. 

You will have the chance to see Theron, as well as other local musicians, perform live. 

August 26-28 at the Rubber City Jazz & Blues Festival in Downtown Akron. Coming off a year of limited live music, this is bound to be one for the record books.

To keep up with Theron on social media, you can check out his Instagram @theronbrown, and Facebook @TheronBrown. His website offers updates and contact information as well.

Laura Lakins is an educator and freelance writer from Akron.

Photos: Ashton Blake

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