Troy Andrews was 4 years old and living in New Orleans’ Treme neighborhood when he picked up a trombone for the first time. It was love at first blow and before long, he was called "Trombone Shorty" because the trombone was almost twice his size.
By the age of 6, Andrews led his own band and today, travels the world with his band Orleans Avenue. He is also a four-time New Orleans Jazz Fest headliner and was nominated for a Grammy. This summer, Trombone Shorty – who has played at Summerfest in previous years – will tour with pop/rock duo Hall & Oates.
Andrews is also dedicated to giving back to the NOLA community that helped nurture his talents. He is particularly interested in paying it forward to the next generation of hopeful musicians.
With that in mind, Andrews started the Trombone Shorty Foundation’s mentorship program that works directly with disadvantaged young musicians in New Orleans to keep them playing, focused, dreaming and business savvy.
Recently, Andrews created an inspiring children’s picture book, called "Trombone Shorty," based on his own life. The full-color book documents his musical journey and his determination to make his dreams come true as a jazz musician.
In the book – and in real life – Andrews brings his trombone to a Bo Diddley concert, and Diddley brings him onstage. This and other poignant details present an authentic look at the New Orleans jazz tradition. The book – a 2016 Caldecott Honor Book – is part memoir, part fairy tale and features whimsical yet life-like drawings by Bryan Collier.
I had the honor of witnessing Trombone Shorty play in both New Orleans and Milwaukee and recently had a conversation with him about his new book, what's in store for him in the future and more.
OnMilwaukee: Was writing a children's book always something you wanted to do? What was your inspiration to write it?
Troy "Trombone Shorty" Andrews: When we decided to start my foundation, it was important that I modeled our programming after my own personal experience and journey. So when I sat down with Bill Taylor, our executive director, we started trading stories of my younger years. And there were some good ones. Out of that initial meeting the idea for the book developed. It seemed that it might inspire others, especially young children, to follow their dreams.
How long did it take you to write it? What was the experience like for you?
Once Bill and I decided to do it, it came pretty quickly. It's like any creative endeavor: once the vision is there, it's about putting the time in to do it right. And since it was my own experience and story, I was pretty familiar with the topic.
Did you have a vision for the artwork or was that all on account of the illustrator?
On that one we really got lucky. Our publisher, Abrams Books out of New York, recommended Bryan. During my annual holiday show in New York City we all got together and there was an instant creative connection. He's the best at what he does, so having him agree to collaborate on this meant so much.
Have you read it to many kids? What have their responses been?
I have. So far they all seem to like it. I think anyone can relate to the idea of finding your passion and pursuing it. That applies to all ages and walks of life. It's a common human experience. It's my hope that young children are able to find that passion like I did. I was lucky.
Think you might write another one?
We are in the process of writing another one right now. This one will probably be less autobiographical and more of a tall tale. We are just starting to put some ideas down. We do know that New Orleans will again play an important role in this story. And luckily Bryan is on board again.
What else is going on with you right now?
We are working on a new record and about to go out on tour with Hall & Oates. It should be a fun summer.
What do you hope kids "get" from the book? What is the lasting message?
Follow your dreams. You never know where it might take you. My dreams took me from Treme all over the world.
Get the book here.
Molly Snyder started writing and publishing her work at the age 10, when her community newspaper printed her poem, "The Unicorn.” Since then, she's expanded beyond the subject of mythical creatures and written in many different mediums but, nearest and dearest to her heart, thousands of articles for OnMilwaukee.
Molly is a regular contributor to FOX6 News and numerous radio stations as well as the co-host of "Dandelions: A Podcast For Women.” She's received five Milwaukee Press Club Awards, served as the Pfister Narrator and is the Wisconsin State Fair’s Celebrity Cream Puff Eating Champion of 2019.