Kevin DePree is following his passion for music by performing, composing, teaching and sharing with others. Today, he's made a successful career of teaching private drum lessons to students from as young as 6 years old to adults, playing bass guitar and drums in West Michigan's premier event band "Brena," managing his own audio/video production studio, and developing and sharing his Sound Is Red STEAM Skills educational program to thousands of students across Michigan.
He admits it's a lot on his plate, but also believes it's important to follow his dreams. "You need to find situations that force you to get better. It's OK to be in over your head as long as you can learn to swim quickly."
After graduating in 2007 from Holland Public High School, DePree toured Europe with the Blue Lake Fine Arts Camp big band with director David Jenson. From that experience, DePree knew he had to make music part of his life forever. His love of music started with piano lessons when he was 7 years old. After about three years, his attention turned to drums and he got his first drum set when he was 10 years old. "It was a simple set - a $50 kid-sized set my Mom and Dad picked up at a street fair."
Little did anyone know at the time, but that small investment eventually led to his successful career. He excelled when he started drum lessons, then continued learning and playing by taking every music class he could fit in his high school schedule.
During his STEAM Skills presentation, he tells students following his dream isn't always easy. "Don't let me fool you on stage while showing you all of these things. It only looks easy because I've been working on them for many years."
DePree studied Big Band Jazz with Tim Froncek at Blue Lake Fine Arts Camp. Not long after, DePree started playing gigs as his teachers would pass along jobs. His skills and professionalism led to calls from local bands and artists who had heard of him. He played all kinds of music - big band jazz, combo jazz, blues, funk, classical, r & b, reggae and rock. "Having to learn so many songs and styles while playing in various bands was a challenge but also the most educational experience I could have asked for."
Among his many performance successes, DePree was the studio drummer on an album for nationally-acclaimed blues musician Greg Nagy, which was nominated for a National Blues Music Award. DePree also shared stages with "The Motor City Horns," also known as Bob Seger's "Silver Bullet Band," and internationally-renowned organist Jim Alfredson.
As much as he loved performing, he knew there was more he wanted to do. In 2010 DePree began putting together the pieces he needed to create his own company called Sound Is Red LLC. At first DePree only did electronic music shows, but eventually he adapted what he learned with technology and music into an educational presentation.
"It was an easy switch for me to emphasize STEAM skills because I used them all when working on my first Sound is Red shows. Those same skills also jump started my composition and music production work."
Today all his work has paid off and DePree not only has a successful musical performance career, but also has found success in writing and producing music.
He has worked with producers including Sheridan Tongue, a BFTMA nominee, who has hired DePree on numerous projects including scoring for BBC crime dramas "Silent Witness" and "DCI Banks." DePree has also collaborated and co-written music for globally-renowned scoring houses. His music collaborations and compositions have been played across the United Kingdom and in the United States on television including the popular "Access Hollywood."
"I would credit most of my successes to setting personal goals, doing my homework, showing up on time, and learning like my life depended on it."
Photo: Jenn Marie Photography