For a guy known as Trombone Shorty, Troy Andrews has always dreamed big.

He grew up in a New Orleans family filled with professional musicians and was leading a neighborhood marching brass band at age 6. Outside of music he dreamed big too, remembering that whenever he put on his Air Jordan sneakers to play basketball, he felt like he’d be able to do anything.

“I remember that I was such a big Michael Jordan fan, that when I put his shoes on I could actually psyche myself into thinking I had super shoes on, that I could do big things,” said Andrews, 26.

His dream now is to have the kind of effect on kids that Jordan had on him, but in a more direct way.

As the leader of Trombone Shorty & Orleans Avenue — a dynamic jazz, rock, funk and hip-hop outfit — Andrews has toured the world, performed on TV, and recorded with a host of artists ranging from Eric Clapton to Lenny Kravitz and Dr. John. His band’s 2010 album “Backatown” topped Billboard’s contemporary jazz chart and was nominated for a Grammy.

Although Andrews tours a lot — he and his band are playing Port City Music Hall in Portland on Wednesday — he acts like he’s on tour even when he’s home in the Big Easy.

Andrews travels to schools and neighborhoods, working on his personal passion: Getting musical instruments into children’s hands. He says he feels “blessed” to have the success he’s had at such a young age, and feels he has a responsibility to help youngsters.

So he partnered with the New Orleans’ city government to create the “Horns for Schools Project.” He started by creating his own line of horns, buying 100 for the program, and donating them to New Orleans schools.

Now the organization is raising funds to buy more instruments for more schools.

“I want to have a positive effect on kids, and for some, an instrument can be a savior. It might give them a chance to go to college, give them something positive to focus on,” said Andrews.

Andrews himself was given his trombone by his musical family, and mentored by his older brother James, a professional musician. “But not everybody is from a musical family like mine. Eventually, as I get more time and the foundation grows, I’d like to put some kids through college,” said Andrews.

Through his older brother, Andrews met New Orleans legends such as Dr. John and the Neville Brothers at an early age. He’s always felt that being in New Orleans was important to his music, and to who he is. He doesn’t consider himself simply a musician playing New Orleans-style music.

That’s why after Hurricane Katrina in 2005, when many the city’s musicians were displaced and relocated to places like Houston and Dallas, Andrews went back to New Orleans as soon as he could. He lived in Dallas for a few months, but knew he had to go back.

“I had to get back, because I feel I have responsibility to help keep the music alive here,” Andrews said.

Andrews enjoys using his trombone to play not only jazz, but to fuse it with funk, hip hop and other styles. Still, he says he’s surprised at the commercial and critical success his band has had, given that there aren’t a lot of household-name-type bands fronted by trombone players.

“It’s very surprising to me. I think a lot of people aren’t even sure what a trombone is,” said Andrews.

Although Andrews is confident in his musical ability, he’s not above looking for a little morale boost in other areas. One thing he’d really like to do while in Maine is visit L.L. Bean. He wants to buy some first-class fishing equipment to impress his friends and neighbors next time he’s out fishing.

“If I get some of that really good gear, then I’ll look like I know what I’m doing,” he said.

Staff Writer Ray Routhier can be contacted at 791-6454 or at:

[email protected]

Twitter: RayRouthier


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