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Playing For Keeps: Jazz Legend Hands Out Trumpets And Responsibility

A lot of non-profits preach music education for kids, but a local jazz legend is keeping his simple.

Every year, Freddie Jones hands out about a dozen trumpets to young people with a little talent and a lot of drive. But once the instrument changes hands, the work’s just starting.

Sitting outside an Addison café, Freddie Jones and his bright blue trumpet are a sight.

“This kid walks up to me and says, so what else do you play? Trumpet. Really, c’mon what else do you play? Trumpet. And it was really funny and the kid goes, no, no, no, he plays something else, I’m sure. And I said, ok, I play flugelhorn. Which is a bigger trumpet,” Jones jokes.

A graduate of UNT’s famed jazz school, Jones is a songwriter and performer who’s played all over the world. He has a soft spot for music education, so he launched a program five years ago with a simple mission: get top quality instruments in the hands of kids who want to play.

Credit Willow Blythe / KERA News
Jones looks over the contract agreement he asks all students to sign before receiving a trumpet.

He calls the initiative Trumpets4Kids, and it involves much more than handing over a horn. Every child who receives one has to sign a contract.

“On paper the stipulations are that they need to practice once a day for an hour at least, minimum,” Jones says. “And they have to go back and play for other kids, they have to do that. And they have to be in the band program until they graduate from high school.”

Jones isn’t calling the schools and checking up on his young trumpeters; he trusts the honor system. Take June’s recipient Connell Overstreet, a rising seventh grader at the Dunbar Young Men’s Leadership Academy in Fort Worth.

Credit Courtney Collins / KERA News
Connell Overstreet says practicing trumpet can be tedious, but there's nothing better than when the whole band plays together.

He just started playing trumpet this past fall, but already knows his way around the instrument.

Connell says this new, gleaming horn is no comparison to the loaners at school.

“Rusted up and have holes and dents in them to where the sound quality isn’t as great as it could be if the trumpet was brand new,” Connell says.

Even though he’s new to the horn, he already understands the finer points of being in a band.

“When you’re playing music, because most people think all you’re doing is looking at a sheet and playing a note,” says Connell. “But if you just play the note and mess up the buzz, you can mess up the whole orchestra or the whole band, so you have to have tone and bond with the other instruments so you don’t sound too loud, too low, but perfect.”

He’s committed to treating his new trumpet, and the contract it came with, respectfully. And while it may be a few years before he sounds like benefactor Freddie Jones, if practice makes perfect, Connell’s on his way.

Courtney Collins has been working as a broadcast journalist since graduating from the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University in 2004. Before coming to KERA in 2011, Courtney worked as a reporter for NPR member station WAMU in Washington D.C. While there she covered daily news and reported for the station’s weekly news magazine, Metro Connection.