Student gets custom trombone, peers get music knowledge

Troy “Trombone Shorty” Andrews warms up during a sound check at the House of Blues in New Orleans.

NEW ORLEANS — Troy “Trombone Shorty” Andrews is no stranger to New Orleans’ music scene, having grown up inside it.

He was 4 years old when he began learning at the knee of his R&B artist-grandfather, Jessie Hill, and his older brother, James, a jazz trumpeter.

That type of experience, he says, is what he hopes to bring to students participating in the Trombone Shorty Foundation, which provides a program of music education, business instruction, mentorship and performance to high school-age musicians.

“I wanted to be able to give back to my community,” he told a group of reporters when asked why the foundation was created. “I wanted to give kids the proper foundation so they could learn the fundamentals.”

Thursday’s media availability came as Andrews prepared to host the fourth annual Shorty Fest, a benefit concert featuring up-and-coming musicians from the Trombone Shorty Academy. One of those students, Prince Jones, a senior at St. Augustine High School, will receive a custom trombone.

Bill Taylor, the foundation’s executive director who used to tutor Andrews in middle school and has watched him grow up, said the things Andrews learned from his musical family are not things that emerging artists are receiving.

“It’s just not being passed on as organically as it once was,” Taylor said. “Our mission is to make sure that next generation of musicians learns the traditional language of New Orleans music. It’s not just jazz or blues or funk or street rhythms.”

In addition to the Trombone Shorty Academy, the foundation sponsors the Fredman Music Business Institute and a program called Trad Jazz Fridays at the New Orleans Center for Creative Arts. The free programs are held from September through June.

Students in the business academy join Tulane business students in helping with the production and marketing of Shorty Fest. Andrews said when his schedule allows, he delves right in to the teaching. “We help them read music, learn music theory and some recording engineering. We want to cover all the basics,” he said.

The participants’ response, he said, has been most rewarding.

“They call me sometimes with questions and I can hear their excitement,” he said. “This has nothing to do with their regular schools. They’re not being graded, so I know they’re coming to learn. We know they know how to play, that they’re talented, but they might not be the best at the business side. I used to book my own shows and it was hit-or-miss. That was a component I had to learn along the way.”