Demarqis “DJ” Frazier hopes to attend Troy State University after he graduates high school, so he can study under his favorite composer
Demarqis “DJ” Frazier did not intend to learn music.
When he was a sixth-grader at Grace Yokley Middle School, in Ontario’s Mountain View School District, he signed up to be part of the school’s Associated Student Body student government class. But he didn’t get in.
“I got my second choice, and I’m so glad I chose it,” said Demarqis, 13, who finished his eighth-grade year at the school on Friday, May 24. “Most of my family isn’t musical, and I wanted to stand out.”
He joined Karen Greenwood’s music class and was handed a clarinet.
“My dad played clarinet for about two weeks and quit,” Demarqis chuckled.
He said he realized he was in the right place on his very first day in music class. And he’s been there ever since.
“I think he decided this year that this was his passion, 100 percent his passion,” said Greenwood, the director of the Grace Yokley Middle School bands. “He’s always had a bright light and he was always doing a great job, but I think something clicked the beginning of this year.”
Earlier this school year, Demarqis came to her with a request: “‘Can I write a piece for the group?’ ‘Sure.’ ‘Can I conduct it if I write a piece?’ I said ‘you certainly can.’”
Greenwood had heard this sort of question before.
“Several kids will always ask, but it doesn’t always pan out,” she said. “High aspirations.”
But Demarqis delivered.
On May 15, the school bands premiered two of Demarqis’ pieces at their end-of-year concert. The beginner band students played his “Legend of Dragon Mountain” and the more advanced students played “Abstract,” both of which Demarqis had written for fun.
“At the end of sixth grade, you have to write your own song,” Demarqis said. “In the middle of seventh grade, I wrote a song for the whole band to perform.”
And he’s only accelerated since then, writing music most days as an eighth-grader.
“I have a lot of pieces I’ve written and not finished, but I want to say I’ve written around 100,” since the middle of seventh grade, Demarqis said. “About 20 of them I created for band.”
He starts by improvising on his keyboard until he hears something worth developing into a larger piece. (He had asked his family for a copy of Finale, the professional composing software as his gift for his 13th birthday.)
Demarqis will be attending Damien High School in the fall. After that, he intends to attend Alabama’s Troy State University and major in music education. Why Troy?
“My favorite composer is the band director there,” Demarqis said.
Specifically, he hopes to study with the school’s band leader, composer Robert W. Smith, who’s composed more than 700 published works, including “Rites of Tamburo,” Demarqis’ favorite of his works.
If you missed Demarqis’ performance on May 15, you’ll have another chance to hear a composition of his played: A currently untitled piece will be performed by the Ontario Chaffey Community Show Band (including Greenwood on French horn) at 10:30 a.m. on the Fourth of July at Ontario Town Square, 224 N Euclid Ave.