New Orleans Trumpeter Troy Sawyer Launches Nonprofit Girls Play Trumpets Too To Enhance Representation in Male-Dominated Part of the Music Industry


NEW ORLEANS, April 18, 2023 – When Troy Sawyer got his start as a trumpet player, he was surprised to see very few, if any, professional trumpet players who were women. Now, Sawyer is working to change that statistic – and in changing the statistic, he’s changing lives, too. His nonprofit, Girls Play Trumpets Too, aims to empower girls ages eight through 19 to play the trumpet on a novice and advanced level with the ultimate goal of producing more professional female trumpeters who will have the tools they need to succeed in a male-dominated field. The first class of participants will have their inaugural concert on May 20 at the St. Charles Avenue Baptist Church.

The young ladies shared the stage with Sawyer during a concert back on April 1 at Hynes School’s Fair and shared about their experience thus far. “It’s more than just playing the trumpet,” Sawyer says. “We’re using the trumpet as a tool to open up any possibility and any vision that the girls may have. The Girls Play Trumpets Too mission is to encourage girls to go after their passions and their purpose.”

Sawyer, his assistant and the 15 students meet at St. Charles Avenue Baptist Church every Saturday morning for 90 minutes. Saturday, April 22 will be an open rehearsal for anyone wishing to see what the program offers and meet the current students. Girls Play Trumpets Too starts each practice by buzzing on their mouthpieces and warming up on their instruments, followed by individual practice time and personal reflection time. 

“We check in on how we’re feeling that morning and talk about the past week. That’s important for creating a family vibe,” Sawyer says. “Those girls feel safe to open up. It’s inspirational. The love the girls give each other is amazing.”

The curriculum begins with reading music and listening to notable female trumpet players. Sawyer emphasizes how important it is for his students to see women playing trumpet at a high level. When he was coming up, he did not see the same kind of representation. That lack of representation could be causing other music educators to steer girls away from the trumpet.

 

“I have two or three girls who joined Girls Play Trumpets Too because their school band director told them they could not play the trumpet in school. They had to play the flute – a woman instrument,” Sawyer says. By offering high-quality instruction to young female trumpeters, some of whom may not have otherwise been able to afford or access private trumpet lessons, Sawyer hopes to bridge the gap and show that the trumpet is for everyone.

As an educator, Sawyer aims to be a positive role model and encourages students to express themselves, a challenge in the traditional education system. After teaching music in New Orleans Schools through a fellowship program with Artist Core, Sawyer realized the importance of music education – and the lack of support provided by some schools.

“I learned that the schools don’t value the arts the same way they value subjects like science. It’s all about tests and keeping the charter. So, I had to create my own system,” Sawyer says.Having grown up in New Orleans, Sawyer is prepared to give his students anything that he did not receive during his time as a student. He says he’s proud to have gotten to the point where he can give back all that he has learned.

“Seeing the girls progress blows my mind. Imagine how good they’ll be in the future. Imagine more female trumpet players on a professional level,” Sawyer says.

Sawyer is an accomplished trumpet player himself, continuing the legacy of his great-grandfather, Louis D. James, who played and co-wrote songs with Buddy Bolden. He has opened for and played with his first cousin Leon Bridges in addition to Jon Batiste, Lalah Hathaway, Harry Connick Jr., Wynton Marsalis, Regina Belle, Bill Summers, Raheem Davaughn, Ruben Studdard, George Lopez, and the NBA’s New Orleans Hornets. On the heels of his French Quarter Fest performance, Sawyer’s album Rock Your Soul will be released at an album release party on June 16. The album is a celebration of life and pays homage to his ancestors who have helped shape who he is today.

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