Passenger Profile: Derek Handy

 by Kenny Kerner
Derek Handy    
Derek Handy 
Being the youngest of five children who all played musical instruments, it's no wonder that Derek Handy chose music as a career. Currently an elementary school music school teacher, Derek credits TAXI with being there before anyone. Here's his story:

Do you come from a musical family?
Yes, my parents, siblings, and a host of uncles and cousins all have musical talent. This includes my own two kids of ages 3 and 9.

What instruments do you play and when did you first learn?
As I mentioned, my parents and siblings had musical talents and played instruments. Therefore, whatever instrument they played, I Played. By the way, I am the youngest of five children (three boys and two girls), so I didn't always have permission to play on their instruments. But, when the coast was clear I would sneak to play one of my brother's saxophones, which later became my main instrument. Perhaps tired of me messing with his sax, he found a good deal on an alto saxophone and at the age of 12 I had my own instrument, which I still have and play today. Prior to that, we had a piano in the house, which I played and began to develop my songwriting abilities. I wrote my first song with lyrics at the age of eleven. Other instruments include the flute and guitar.

When did you first decide to make music a career?
I think the decision to make music a career was decided in the womb. For as long as I can remember, music is what I wanted to do. I didn't always know the specifics of what and how, but I just knew I would be doing it. I started out writing songs at an early age and thought maybe I would be a singer/songwriter. When you are young, everyone wants to be the star or the front man. As I got more into the saxophone, I thought maybe a Jazz artist as well. As I got older I learned of other opportunities in the field. So I felt I could be a behind the scenes person, where I would write for others and produce other artist. I was beginning to think economically at that point. TAXI was very instrumental in my decision to re-invent myself by pursuing a career in TV/Film.

Your bio says you are an elementary school teacher. Does this mean that music as a career was an after-thought?
Music was always a first thought, never an after thought. Becoming an elementary music teacher wasn't a thought at all. Not that it's a bad gig, I just didn't think about that aspect of a career in music. In college, I started out as a music performance major. As I excelled in college as a freshman, there were several articles written about me. That was fine until one day my mother said, "Why do they keep saying you're a music performance major?" I responded, "because I am." After a short one-sided conversation, I became a music education major. While I'm from a family of musicians, I'm also from a family of educators. They obviously felt that going into education would be more stable and today I'm thankful for their decision for me. In my thoughts of a musical career, teaching was not one of them, but it has allowed me the means to pursue a career in TV/Film music.

What gave you the idea to score music to the QuickTime videos and have them critiqued? Please explain how this works.
As my interest in TV/Film grew, my interest in learning how to score to picture grew. I did an Internet search, which lead me to an online scoring course. I had a working composer as a mentor during the course. I received manuals and QuickTime videos for my lessons. Each lesson had musical direction notes, including time codes where specific things should happen. When I finished the lesson, I inserted a 2 pop, and sent my mentor an mp3 of the lesson. He then was able to pull it up and e-mail me a critique of my work. It covered various styles of music and scenes (dramatic, action, suspense, comedy, etc.). That was a few years ago and to this day the mentor is still affording me opportunities and has published many of my tracks. In fact he is responsible for my music being played in over 40 different episodes of the biggest and longest running daytime talk show. Not to mention the re-runs. The knowledge I gained was invaluable, especially technically.

You do basically everything on your tracks including performing, producing, engineering, recording, arranging, etc. Can you truly be objective doing that?
As for me doing everything on my tracks, I really don't have a choice. If I could afford it I would love to hire other people to do some of the things I do to complete a track. But fortunately, my wife is really good at the technical end. She gets in there and figures it out. For me, I would just rather compose. Call me in when it's ready to go. With doing everything, I can be as objective as I can be. Often I'll let my wife (who's also a musician) listen, and give me her thoughts. I would even ask my 9-year old-daughter. If I'm writing a comedy, I'll call in my 3-year-old son and watch his response.

What is the one achievement you are most proud of to date?
Hearing my music on television for the first time.  [Download Torment (Revision).mp3]

With all of the major companies you signed publishing agreements with, why did you decide to become a TAXI member?
Simple, there wouldn't be any publishing agreements without TAXI. With the exception of the opportunities and publishing agreements that came as a result of the online scoring course I took. And indirectly, TAXI helped my music get to a certain level for when I took the course. First there was TAXI then there were the publishing agreements.

How has TAXI helped your career?
TAXI has and still is driving my career. It provides objectivity and professional advice that allowed my music to improve and go to the next level. It has kept me excited about writing and kept me focused. I first joined TAXI in the first year of its existence. I was in artist mode, where I was strictly writing songs. I got good reviews on my songwriting ability, but had production issues. After a couple of years I didn't renew membership. I later joined again in 2000, a couple of years later, with the advice of my wife. She recommended I try some of the instrumental listings. I took her advice and also utilized the Dispatch service, and the rest is history. I have no thoughts of not renewing again.

What are your goals for 2009?
My goal for 2009 is to continue growing. I want to increase my catalog, publishing agreements, and placements.

Name: Derek Handy
Residence: Montgomery, Alabama
Age: 37
Occupation: Elementary School Music Teacher
Year Joined TAXI: 2000

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— Jimmy Clark,
TAXI Member

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TAXI Member

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TAXI Member

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"Thanks to TAXI I no longer have a day job! The membership fee was a drop in the bucket compared to what I have earned because of TAXI."
— George Nelson,
TAXI Member