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Will Play for TuitionThe Dupont Brass Band brightens your morning while finding a creative way to fight against high college costs

Dupont Brass started as five Howard University music majors

These Howard University student musicians aren't your average buskers.
So you think you can just pick up an instrument, play outside of a D.C. metro station and get paid big bucks?
It’s not that easy, says Jared Bailey, co-founder of the Dupont Brass Band. “Not discrediting them, but lots of groups that you see busking are great, but we do this as a profession, whereas they might do it because they like to do it. So we're taking it that much more seriously.” 
The Dupont Brass Band was founded in 2011 by five members of Howard University’s marching band. Each member has at least ten years of musicianship experience, most playing since they were children.
Busking, or playing music on the street for money, is not uncommon in D.C. However, the Dupont Brass Band’s goals are unique. With the costs of higher education at an all-time high, the group began playing to raise money to stay in school.
“We have a sign that says we play for tuition,” says Bailey, who has played the trumpet since elementary school. “Sometimes people don't believe us, but that’s actually where it goes.”
While Bailey wouldn’t disclose how much money the band has accumulated over the years, he says it has helped each member a great deal. 
In its infancy, the band received notoriety while playing at the Dupont Circle metro station (hence the name). They’d wake up at 5:45am, pack up their instruments and leave by 6:30am in order to make the morning rush hour. Playing everything from classical to jazz to contemporary music, they would typically serenade audiences for at least two hours almost every day.
Over time, they increased performances, often playing twice a day. They’ve also expanded locations. Farragut West metro station has been a recent hit.
“Crowds of people will stop and watch us,” says Bailey. “They’re like ‘I have to go into work, but who cares, I’ll be a little late to listen to you guys.’ They turn it into a concert and they're always so nice and stop and talk to us. Even if they don’t have cash, they'll go and bring us Starbucks--it’s just a really great environment.”
The band arranges their own music, from interpretations of songs by Jill Scott and Miles Davis to their own originals. In 2014, they released a Christmas album called Christmas Time of Year. That summer, they released another album called Crewsin: Sounds of the City.
Bailey graduated from Howard in 2013. He now attends Rutgers University as a jazz performance major. He is one of two group members who moved out of the District to attend graduate school, causing the band to now play only during breaks from school.
However, they always come back to town for special events, whether weddings, political functions or concerts for students at Bailey’s alma mater, Charles Herbert Flowers High School in Springdale, Md.
“The kids always get really excited when we come back,” says the 24-year-old. “Because it’s just cool to see kids their age playing an instrument. [People] make it seem like it has to be an old guy in a suit playing the blues to be a professional musician, but it doesn’t.”

Read more articles by Christina Sturdivant.

Christina Sturdivant is a native Washingtonian who's always watching and writing about the latest cultural, community and innovative trends in the city. She's interested in people and companies that create equitable opportunities for longtime residents and transplants alike.
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