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Blowing Up: Fledgling Trombone Shorty Foundation Gives Back

Nearly 40 students ranging from the 8th to 12th grades showed up to Tulane University’s Dixon Hall Music Room the afternoon of January 14 to audition for the inaugural class of the Trombone Shorty Music Academy.

Bill Taylor, founding executive director of the Troy “Trombone Shorty” Andrews Foundation, called the marathon five-hour session “amazing. We saw the next generation of New Orleans greats.”

The after-school program is a partnership between the foundation and the New Orleans Center for the Gulf South at Tulane, in which young musicians will explore the rich musical traditions of the region, from gospel to rock ’n’ roll. Additionally, students will learn the basics of the music business, copyright matters and other practical skills.

Trombone Shorty Foundation, photo

Taylor explained the genesis of the program: “I spent some time with Troy and I had him earmark certain moments that he felt were important in his development as an artist and as a person. As we started to develop a concept for the foundation, the idea was twofold: One was music education and the other was mentoring, because he had a number of individuals come into his life at certain critical points that really helped him grow.”

Enter Tulane University, which had just started its own program in collaboration with the post-Katrina Music Rising effort. Tulane’s new curriculum happened to dovetail with Andrews’ planned approach of education, mentoring and ensemble performance. Even more serendipitously, Andrews had just received the President’s Medal from the university. The partnership made sense, and the first Trombone Shorty Academy launched January 21 with a class of 15.

But the after-school program is just one facet of the fledging foundation—an evolving outreach by its namesake to give back to the city he feels raised him. Along with the once weekly, semester-long academy, plans are in the works for a children’s book based on Andrews’ formative years.

“When I was sitting down with him and some others that are very close to him who have known him for his whole life, these stories started coming out about him as a little kid,” Taylor said, sharing a legendary anecdote in which a then 4-year-old Andrews stole the Jazz Fest stage from Bo Diddley. Taylor bounced the idea of a children’s book to a photographer friend in New York City who had just signed with publishing giant Abrams, who in turn hooked Andrews up with award-winning illustrator Bryan Collier.

“Everybody’s on board and it’s gonna happen,” Taylor said, adding that “[Abrams] totally got it—they were like, ‘Put as much New Orleans character into it as possible.’” The forthcoming book, geared toward ages 4-8, is expected on shelves by Christmas 2013 and will benefit the foundation’s efforts to nurture the next generation of Trombone Shortys.

“It’s about how a musical instrument transformed a young boy’s life,” Taylor said. “It’s a great tool, a great way to tell that story. It captures the essence of the message of why this kid is so special. And why certain opportunities can really change somebody’s life. That’s the even bigger picture—it’s like [Andrews] getting that trombone, taking advantage of these little moments.”

CBS Evening News will air a segment on Andrews Friday, February 1 as part of its Super Bowl weekend coverage.