Professional composer, USF alumnus and saxophonist Eric Darius will return to his hometown of USF this weekend, in hopes of giving back to the community that allowed him to explore his musical talent, while honoring one of the nations greatest civil rights activists.
Darius grew up in Tampa, and was the product of two talented musicians whom he said taught him everything he knows about music. With his mother playing piano and his father on the bass, Darius was exposed to a variety of music from a young age.
We explored different types of music together, says Darius. And because of that I was able to bond with my family through the gift of music.
By the age of 11, Darius was chosen to be part of a world tour of elite young musicians, traveling across the country and to Switzerland to take part in the world-renowned
Montreux Jazz Festival.
Upon graduating from Blake High School of the Arts, he released his first album, Crusin, and was accepted to USF in 2001.
Darius joins the ranks of Karmin and Justin Beiber though he came before them as one of many social media sensations.
Social media has been essential in being able to gain listeners, he said. When I first posted videos on YouTube, I was able to reach people who probably wouldnt typically listen to jazz.
Typing his name into the YouTube search bar will lead to a few full pages of his videos, all of which aim to evoke a smile from the audience.
From his cover of the eternally recognizable I Will Always Love You by Whitney Houston to his title track Goin All Out from his 2008 album which reached No. 1 on Billboards Smooth Jazz Songs chart the USF alumnus is able to blur musical genre lines.
During his time at USF, Darius immersed himself in his studies of business and music performance, both of which he is still uses in his professional career as a critically acclaimed musician and a savvy businessman.
After graduating from USF in 2005, Darius continued to live in Tampa, while touring and maintaining his drive to produce soulful contemporary jazz music.
My goal has always been to continue to grow and always get better, he said. I dont
believe Ive mastered the saxophone because theres always so much more to learn.
Though Darius recently moved to Los Angeles the heart of the music industry in an effort to expand on his music, he said he is elated to come back to his hometown for the Tampa Bay Black Heritage Festival, in which he will perform on Sunday at a free outdoor event on N. Ashley Drive.
Coming home means everything to me, he said. Tampa is a huge part of who I am, and being able to celebrate the work that Martin Luther King did for us makes it a really special event.
Darius is currently working on a new album, which he hopes to release late this summer, but in the mean time, he looks forward to reconnecting with his family, and the city that molded him.
Theres nothing like coming home, he said.