Trombone Shorty Jazzes Up Music Education in New Orleans

The 26-year-old son of Treme talks Katrina and 'Horns for Schools.'

Trombone Shorty & Orleans Avenue are bringing New Orleans' music to the masses. (Photo c/o Kirk Edwards)
Jenny Inglee is a Los Angeles-based journalist and the Education Editor at TakePart.

Seventeen days after Hurricane Katrina, Troy “Trombone Shorty” Andrews stood in the middle of Jackson Square, trying to bring some life to a city facing widespread destruction. Lit up by a few news cameras, Troy and his brother James played their horns to let the city, and the rest of the country, know that New Orleans—and New Orleans’ music—was here to stay.

“New Orleans,” Troy says, “is everything to me.”

Brought up in Treme, the New Orleans neighborhood known as the true birthplace of jazz, Troy comes from a long line of musicians. He has been playing brass instruments for about as long as he could walk, earning his nickname because the trombone he played was twice as long as he was. At six, he was playing the trumpet and trombone in his brother James’ jazz band.

If there is a music program, I want to be a part of it.

Today the 26-year-old prodigy tours around the world with his group and collaborates with the likes of Kid Rock, Jeff Beck and Lenny Kravitz. His sound is a mix of jazz, funk and rock, which he says is best described as “a musical gumbo.” When he’s not on tour, Troy is home in New Orleans, spreading his love for music to the next generation.

Troy founded the Trombone Shorty “Horns for Schools” Program last year to revitalize music programs across New Orleans. “If there is a music program, I want to be a part of it,” Troy says. 

Instead of giving students hand-me-down instruments, Troy dug into his pockets and created a line of highly professional brass instruments. “I thought about the way Michael Jordan tennis shoes had an effect on me when I was young,” he remembers. “When I put them on, I thought I could play better. Hopefully, having an instrument with my name on it will inspire the kids to go further.” 

Going into schools to reach kids, he says, is important because, “There are not a lot of places or communities where we can get a bunch of musicians together at one time.” This is different from when Troy was growing up, playing music in his neighborhood. Post-Katrina, he reiterates, “We’ve got to go inside the schools and reach a bunch of them at once.”

And he is. School by school, Troy is making an impact on New Orleans’ youth. “You’ve got a lot of music there, and the kids are really excited,” he says. “They are taking over soon. I see them playing in the street sometimes, and it’s really a beautiful thing.”

If you haven't seen Trombone Shorty play, check out his music video for the song Do To Me.

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