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Darius Edwards playing
Darius Edwards plays his new soprano saxophone in front of UT’s Natalie L. Haslam Music Center.

UT sophomore music major Darius Edwards just received a care package from Nashville that has helped launch this school year on a sweet note.

Earlier this month, he received a shiny new soprano saxophone and a brand-new alto saxophone will arrive soon. Both are gifts of the country music industry.

Edwards, who is from Antioch, Tennessee and a member of the Pride of the Southland marching band, plays saxophone, recorder, mellophone, and piano and dreams of being a high school band director. Yet until now, Edwards has never owned an instrument of his own; he’s always had to borrow one for practice, class, and performances.

Last spring, Edwards set up a GoFundMe page in hopes of raising enough money to purchase a Silver Yamaha EX alto saxophone, a professional-level horn that would take him through the rest of his undergraduate days and possibly even through graduate school.

He had raised about $443 toward the nearly $6,000 he needed when he got an unexpected helping hand from the Country Music Association Foundation.

Edwards’s former teacher, Antioch High School band director Chris Janowiak, had contacted Tiffany Kerns, community outreach manager at the CMA, and told her about Edwards’s musical aspirations and his efforts to raise money to buy his own saxophone.

Kerns then contacted Edwards and asked him to speak at a CMA Foundation event held in May in Nashville to honor music educators from around the country.

Edwards spoke briefly to the group about the impact music education has had on his life. He also played a short saxophone solo, using a horn borrowed from a high school friend.

Edwards hugs country music star and CMA Foundation member Chris Young after receiving a check to pay for one of his new saxophones. (Photo courtesy of CMA)
Edwards hugs country music star and CMA Foundation member Chris Young after receiving a check to pay for one of his new saxophones. (Photo courtesy of CMA)

Afterward, to Edwards’s surprise, the foundation presented him with the money to purchase his very own silver Yamaha EX alto saxophone.

In addition, country music artist Chris Young, who is a CMA Foundation board member, personally presented Edwards with a second check to purchase a silver soprano saxophone.

“All of this generosity means the world to me,” said Edwards. “It is quite reassuring to see how many people believe in my future as a music educator. School is much less stressful when you know how many people are there willing to support you at any given moment.”

Edwards said he chose UT because he heard that the saxophone studio was topnotch.

“And being a member of the Pride of the Southland is one of the best things you can do at UT,” he said. “I’ve experienced so many awesome moments from just one year of band, like getting to march in the Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Georgia, being a part of a show with [TheVoice winner] Chris Blue, and even receiving the W.J. Julian Scholarship.”

Edwards said he wants to be a band director “so I can share the joy I have for music with my students. Also I want to help my students find what they love to do and push them to become great.”


Amy Blakely (865-974-5034,