Shorty visited alma mater to discuss music program
Sitting at the head of a long table in the library of Warren Easton Charter High School, Troy “Trombone Shorty” Andrews – except for being out of school uniform – could easily have been mistaken for a student.
Instead, he was there as a teacher.
Andrews, 26, visited his alma mater at lunchtime on Wednesday (Dec. 19) to introduce band students to his latest venture: the Trombone Shorty Music Academy, the inaugural program of his recently launched 501c3 nonprofit foundation. About two dozen interested students, along with music teacher Asia Muhaimin, postponed their noon meal to chat with Andrews – who, in a comparatively short time, has become one of the school’s most prominent alumni.
The student musicians gathered in the library listened as Andrews shared the philosophy of playing, and working, that’s turned him into one of New Orleans’ fastest-rising young stars – garnering two Billboard top-10 jazz albums, a Grammy nomination, a Downbeat magazine cover and more, all in the past two years.
“Practicing and getting better is an infinity process,” he said. “It’s all about discipline, and going after what you want.”
“You have to be curious – listen to different people, get obsessed with different music.”
Former Tipitina’s Foundation executive director Bill Taylor now heads up the Trombone Shorty Foundation. The groundwork for the new organization was laid, Taylor explained, in 2011, when Andrews worked in partnership with the Mayor Mitch Landrieu's administration to donate instruments to several New Orleans-area schools. It was incorporated as a 501c3 nonprofit and its board of directors put together in early 2012. The Trombone Shorty Music Academy, aimed at high school musicians, is its first official program.
At Warren Easton on Wednesday, Taylor held up a visual aid – a photo of the first class of Tipitina's music interns, with Andrews in the top right corner.
Besides Andrews, the group of young faces included Khris Royal; drummer Joey Peebles and bassist Mike Ballard from Andrews’ Orleans Avenue band, members of the Stooges and the Soul Rebels brass bands and a young Southern University band teacher.
“Almost all the folks in this picture are making a living playing music right now,” Taylor said.
Passion has to come together with professionalism and commitment, Andrews opined, mentioning players he knew who were talented, “but they play in front of the Foot Locker.”
The free after-school program, which will be housed on Tulane’s campus, hopes to instill those values, as well as teaching practical skills like recording and production, business acumen, and of course, musicianship. Andrews will teach when not touring, he said; a visiting cast of Tulane music instructors, music students and local performers will also lend their skills during the weekly sessions, exploring gospel, funk, rock and R&B. And, Andrews pointed out, it won’t be strictly traditionalist.
“You’ve got to keep learning,” he said. “I look at James Brown, Lenny Kravitz, Lil Wayne, Jay-Z.” Students will be welcome to bring their own favorite music to the table, he said.
“By the end of a semester,” Bill Taylor promised, “you’ll have gone through a hundred years of musical history.”
The foundation hopes to book performances for academy students at events like Jazz Fest, and the French Quarter Festival.
“And I’m in the middle of recording an album,” Andrews said. “I might need to use you.”