Tapping the Pulse of Today's Generation: D Sharp, Violinist, DJ, Composer
The violin offers many avenues of personal expression. When you learn music, especially on an instrument that is as versatile as the violin, the connections and applications are truly endless. As we continue to celebrate great violinists this month, this next installment focuses on an artist who has used the violin to establish his art in hip-hop, electronic dance, and classical music, creating a unique sound that resonates with younger generations throughout the world.
Derryck Gleaton, better known as D Sharp, is an American composer, DJ, violinist, and musician. His rapid rise in popularity springs partly from his down-to-earth personality, partly from his incredible talent, but also partly because of his spontaneous creativity.
History and Background
Artist D Sharp was born August 30, 1988 in South Carolina. Growing up, he attended grade school in Columbus, Georgia, where at the age of 11, he began learning music. Given a choice between the school band, a stringed instrument, or art class elective, he initially chose a trumpet; but after realizing that the investment would be too expensive, he switched to strings, using the school loaner viola. Speaking in a 2009 interview with the Tuscaloosa News he said, “When anybody starts playing a string instrument, it’s going to sound like a dying cat.” However, that didn’t daunt him. At first mystified by the viola itself, he rapidly became enamored.
Yet, after earning a place in Greater Columbus youth String Orchestra, his father’s job as a military mechanic required that the family move to Anniston, Alabama, where no string class was offered. However, instead of less opportunity, the move actually helped him expand his talent. Driving 45 minutes twice a week, his parents made sure that he could play in the Etowah Youth Orchestra and the Etowah Youth Orchestra Honor Strings, as well as in the Jacksonville State Community Orchestra. These activities brought him into contact with a variety of music styles and provided the opportunity for Gleaton to travel to other cities, including London. During this time he also studied classical music under private tutor, Bill Brazelton, who helped him refine his violin technique.
However, feeling that there was little room for personal expression when playing classical music, Gleaton began to expand his ability on his own, often mimicking songs he’d heard on the radio or television. Although he didn’t know it, it was this early development of improvisation, playing by ear, and incorporating all sorts of musical genres into his playing that set the stage for his career as a musician and helped shape his personal style. In 2006, playing Amateur Night at the Apollo Theater in Harlem, his performance brought the crowd to their feet in appreciation.
After graduating high school in 2006, he earned a music scholarship to the University of Alabama saying in the same interview that he “really wanted more culture… [and didn’t] want to become close-minded.” He transferred to Georgia State University in Atlanta in 2010.
This relatively young artist is best recognized for his trademark colored violins. In addition to composing his own music, D Sharp has played with numerous professionals around the globe including Smokey Robinson, The Dave Matthews Tribute Band, and American DJ Kaskade.
In 2009, The University of Alabama requested an original composition for the unveiling ceremony of an African-American art collection that had been donated to the school, and in 2012, D Sharp played on four tracks of the album by Rick Ross, “God Forgives, I Don’t.” Last year he filmed a music video in New Zealand; and it is this eclectic combination of styles that makes D Sharp such an outstanding and versatile musician.
You can see videos of his original compositions and his entertaining performances on his YouTube channel, iamDSharp and his website, whoisdsharp.com. A recent 6x60 entry on the Huffington Post also showcases his incredible talent.
What makes D Sharp one of today’s great violinists is his unique approach to music creation. By incorporating emotion, sound, and personal style, his arrangements and classical-to-hip hop, electronic dance, and R&B interpretations resonate with today’s youth. Moreover, as this artist is still in his twenties, who knows where his talent will lead him next.