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January 4, 2016IM -
For Freddie Jones trumpet is everything. It has been a huge part of his life ever since he picked the instrument up at around age 12. Raised in Memphis, Tennessee, his mom had a beauty salon on the corner near Stax Records. The young musician was immersed in the local music scene. Brothers Willy Mitchell (trumpet) and James Mitchell (saxophone) who founded the Memphis Horns; Mickey Gregory who played with Isaac Hayes; and Ben Cauley—were among his heroes.
“They were neighborhood guys; it was very inspirational. You had all that music coming out of Memphis and we were playing it in high school and junior high,” he says. “I was probably in the 6th grade when the Bar-Kays came out with Soul Finger.”
Jones began playing trumpet professionally as a teenager, first joining AFM Local 71 (Memphis, TN). “I’ve been in four different unions,” says the now Local 72-147 (Dallas-Ft. Worth, TX) member. “I think it’s important to have a consortium of people you can talk to.”
While still in high school, he was hired as part of an opening act for Bobby Womack, and was thrilled when he was invited by Ben Cauley himself to sit in with the main act. He says that experience was amazing. “Just to be in those places … but instead of hanging out I got to play.”
After graduating from high school, Jones began college at Memphis State, then attended Central State University in Ohio, though he admits he was out on the road gigging much of the time. He traveled through the Dallas/Fort Worth area several times with different bands and eventually transferred to the University of North Texas where he earned a degree in jazz studies.
Following college, Jones stayed in the area and slowly built a career. Aside from his many gigs in the Dallas/Fort Worth Metroplex, he has performed throughout the Southwest, and even overseas. His band, the Freddie Jones Jazz Group, has been together for almost 10 years. Jones has put out five CDs, including his most recent album, Your Last Move (2012), which he describes at a funky mixture of sounds that started out as a smooth jazz record.
Jones may be most well-known in the Dallas area as the trumpet player for the Dallas Cowboys, performing the National Anthem on solo trumpet before every home game since 2013. That gig, which has him routinely playing for 80,000 people at AT&T Stadium, was not something he ever thought he’d be doing.
Not a huge football fan, Jones says it was kind of ironic that he was asked to audition. He knew a couple former players. Emmitt Smith, Drew Pearson, and others would come see Jones play around Dallas. Coincidentally, the blue Martin Committee trumpet that he’s been playing since the 1980s is almost a perfect match for Cowboy blue.
Of all of Jones’ work, the one accomplishment he seems most proud of is the founding of the nonprofit Trumpets4Kids. The organization uses music as a tool to help children learn and shape their lives. “Music fosters the development of attention and listening skills; it assists in emotional development; and music involvement is known to enhance self-esteem and confidence,” explains the Trumpets4Kids.com website.
“The goal of the organization is to empower youth to create together and independently in order to have a future,” Jones says. “We donate trumpets to students who have a need. We give them a trumpet they can be proud of, and let that push them towards their goals.” The trumpets given out are all good quality instruments—sometimes former instruments of professional players. He says the trumpet community has been “amazingly” supportive of the program.
But Trumpets4Kids is about more than just donating instruments; it’s a whole program with built-in lessons in responsibility and playing opportunities. The students selected in about 9th grade are interviewed by Jones himself. Before handing over the trumpets, the kids are asked to sign a contract agreeing to practice one hour per day, maintain the trumpet, as well as teach, help, and perform for other kids.
One Trumpets4Kids event that has grown over the years is Trumpet Wars. This activity was inspired by Jones’ days as a teenager in Memphis when he’d meet up with other musicians on street corners to challenge each other. The next Trumpet War will be held at Texas Wesleyan University, Fort Worth, on March 7 and will include competitions between trumpet trios, quartets, and quintets from all over the area.
“You can’t play trumpet by yourself all the time,” says Jones. Participants in the program also attend Interlochen music programs, and play in the Fort Worth Youth Orchestra, as well as the Dallas Youth Orchestra.
Trumpets4Kids’ mission is to help children succeed, no matter what career they choose to follow. But Jones has some special advice for young people launching a career in music. You have to be very diligent and focused on music, and get an education. And finally, he concludes, “I believe we all need somebody to help us at some point.”