By Beth Casteel
The slightly crowded room was filled with the sounds of the hustle and bustle of people walking in and out of the restaurant. The air was cool, the beginning stages of winter were slowly making its appearance and many found comfort in the warm atmosphere inside of the restaurant.
After finding a parking spot, Derek McBryde, a first year student at Cleveland State, walked into Café Ah- Roma. So far, his time at the university has been incredibly busy. Between balancing his school work and his band, Tropidelic, McBryde has been able to maintain his hectic schedule while still keeping a smile on his face.
“I made a promise to myself and to my family that when I started this, I would go all the way and get a bachelor’s degree,” McBryde said. “I spent a lot of time on this campus before I started this school, and it seemed like a really cool place to be.”
Transferring from Tri-C, he began his semester at Cleveland State going for a communications degree. When asked why he decided to focus on a major that wasn’t music related, he answered with a mere shrug of his shoulder and put it simply, he’s a bit of a rebel. He went on to say that while music is a huge aspect of his life, not sticking with the same thing as a major was something important to him. He felt that majoring in music could potentially make him lose his passion for playing if he felt forced to study it.
Recently, he got accepted into an online organizational leadership program that will further allow him to balance his work and band. While in this program, he will be learning how to take on leadership roles in a real-world setting, something that he is excited about.
Until the program starts, McBryde is currently taking it a day at a time. With half of his classes online and the other half on campus, everything is trial and error. So far, it’s been working out pretty well for the native Clevelander.
Maintaining high grades, with the lowest grade he’s ever gotten in college being a C, he pushes himself to get the work done. While it’s been a little tricky, he’s found by talking with his professors and keeping up on the work, it’s been easier for him to manage both school work and touring.
“There are times I’m stressed out and I’m tired or whatever, but that doesn’t stop me,” McBryde said. “Even if I feel like I’m about to fall asleep, I get out my flashcards and pull up my book, and I push.”
That push is something he also uses while playing music. He’s played in the low brass since the 5th grade, and while nobody in his family plays any instruments, he’s experimented with different sounds. Three years ago, he decided to pick up the trumpet for a higher frequency of sound.
He hasn’t looked back since.
After joining a few bands, including a Beastie Boys cover band that didn’t go further than his basement in high school, he began going to a few shows with Tropidelic. In a combination of loving the music and getting involved, he found himself as the trumpet player, a title he’s held for the past five years.
With a new album, “Heavy is the Head,” that is currently number one on the iTunes reggae charts and a few shows in the upcoming months that include a headliner on New Years Eve at the Grog Shop, he sees the band’s future continuing to grow.
During the past year, Tropidelic, a reggae band with influences of hip hop and energy funk, have seen growth in their attendance and quality of their shows. After playing three dates with the band 311 and a set at Electric Forest, one of the biggest festivals in the U.S., McBryde hopes that the band will continue to see success.
With the achievements of his band and school, McBryde does find time to do activities outside of his everyday life. While on the road, he enjoys staying fit, and when he gets a chance to travel somewhere coastal, he finds himself going shark fishing.
“I was fishing in the ocean for the first time and I thought to myself [if I got a shark that would be incredible],” McBryde said. “That just grew, and I decided that’s what I’m going to do, I’m going to catch a shark.”
After two years of trying, this past summer in Ocean City, Maryland, he was able to pull in a 250-pound sand tiger shark right off the beach, a proud accomplishment to an unconventional hobby.
In addition to this hobby, in his free time from touring and school, he also spends a lot of time volunteering in the recovering community. Four years sober, McBryde tries to be as involved as he can by speaking at treatment centers and sharing his experiences of what has and hasn’t worked.
Back at the coffee shop, McBryde reflects on his time at Cleveland State. While it’s been a busy few months, the experiences he’s gaining is something he’s sure to remember for years to come.
Recalling a time where he would busk, or play music on the street, he would watch as students would walk by while going to their classes and wish that he could be one of those students. Fast forward a few years later and he’s doing so with a nationally up-and-coming band at his side.
“When I was homeless and totally wrecked, I’d be out here on campus playing guitar, watching everybody walk by with their school books and just wanting that really bad,” McBryde said. “It’s pretty cool I get to be a part of this now.”
To listen to Tropidelic’s new album and upcoming tour dates, visit their website: tropidelic.com