“Cyntje, why you pick the trombone? You should have played saxophone.” My answer is the trombone picked me.
At my elementary school in Savan (St. Thomas, USVI), I was walking towards the cafeteria and saw this six grader demonstrating a funny looking instrument in his music class. I did not know the name…but I liked the way it looked.
When I got home from school, Randy, Chip, Ricky, Kevin, OJ and myself played outside. We would run up the hill barefoot because we felt shoes slowed us down. One day we were hanging out at Chip’s house and he had a similar funny looking instrument. His older brother played that instrument in “Imagination Brass” (a local calypso band in St. Thomas). Chip let me try his instrument. He said it was called the trombone. It was fun to try. I liked it.
Jason, my cousin, also had a trombone. He started learning how to play in elementary school. My elementary school did not have a band program so…I had fun with a recorder.
After graduating from elementary school, I was ready to attend junior high with all my friends but “they” found out we lived in the “country” and transferred me and my sister to “country school.” We had neighborhood friends who attended Bertha but most of our school friends were going to school “In-Town.”
WOW, I am now a seventh grader in a school with people I don’t know. I am catching the bus to school! WOW…I got up early. Correction, my father woke me up. I took a shower and got dressed to get to the bus stop in time to catch the bus. “Andy, get up and get ready. I don’t want you to miss the bus.” My father said this until I woke up on my own. If I missed the bus, he would drop me to school or to “four winds” to catch another bus.
I got my schedule for the school year and saw I had different classes in different places. Seven different periods…Very new to me. The first thing on my schedule, Band. Huh? Band? What? I was in beginning band. After weeks of theory the time came to pick the instrument. The girls in my class went towards flutes and clarinets. The boys in the class picked trumpet, saxophone and drums. My turn came and I saw the choices and picked the trombone. In my class there were two trombone players one girl and me…I felt the instrument call me plus it kept re-appearing since elementary school.
The quest to learn began. I practiced and practiced. Mr. Arri, my first band director, guided me through the basics. At the end of the school year, Mr. Arri talked with me and my parents about attending a summer band program. They agreed and I was excited. Unfortunately I did not have a personal instrument so I borrowed my cousin’s until my parents bought a used one.
It was the summer of 1988 and I was about to learn and study with Dr. Leroy Trotman. He was the island’s trombone teacher. Many great trombone players from St. Thomas studied with Dr. Trotman. I had no idea who he was but I was taking in all the info he provided. I practiced daily. At that summer program, Dr. Trotman introduced me to Dion Parson. “Andy, this is Mr. Dion Parson. He use to play trombone.” Dion replies humorously, “Yeah I use to play trombone but I switch to drums because it was too hard.” Dion Parson is the drummer and leader of “The 21st Century Band”
When the summer program ended, Dr. Trotman spoke with my parents about me continuing to study the trombone. They agreed and now I had a private instructor. Luckily, my parents did not have to pay a dime. WOW!
Eight grade came around and I was sitting at the last seat in Advance band. I practiced everyday and in a few weeks I was sitting next to the schools best trombonist. Everyone was shocked. I was serious.
The trombone picked me and our journey together began. I felt a connection to the sound of the instrument. It quickly became my voice. Music allowed me to instantly express a plethora of emotions without saying a word. A useful therapeutic tool.