BALTIMORE, Md. - The pitches Brandon Woody has bent on the trumpet have brought him to places many kids who were born in West Baltimore and grew up over East Baltimore only dream of.
“The trumpet has allowed me to fly,” Woody said. “It’s allowed me to leave my city. It’s allowed me to go college in New York and California for free.”
He started out playing drums at Leith Walk Elementary in East Baltimore.
He quickly realized he wanted to make a change from percussion to brass.
“I couldn’t take the instrument home for a whole two weeks, because we couldn’t take an instrument home until we got a sound out of it. Until we were able to play it.”
After two weeks he could make a sound and has been bending pitches since.
He’s been able to meet his idols like Theljon Allen, Christian Scott, and Clarence Ward.
“They have made me more curious about being a black creator. About pushing the envelope, pushing the boundaries of the trumpet. Not putting it in a box. People that just inspired me to be myself my 100% raw self.”
He said music saved his life and has allowed him to grow from the rich flow of musical culture in his hometown while creating his own sound.
“It’s not really real if you’re not acknowledging where the notes, the culture, the sound, the tone, the intonation that you’re playing, where that was influenced by.”
According to the press notes from Calvin Klein, the goal of campaign is to highlight young voices against the backdrops of their hometowns.
Here’s a quote from Woody in one of the ads.
“They make us out to be so angry, so violent, so hateful. We need to normalize our vulnerability, our honesty, our sensitivity.”
Woody is appreciative of the opportunity to showcase his and his friend's talents.
More importantly, he hopes connecting with the global company creates a path forward for the city and its young people.
“Who are the young kids with potential that want to play the trumpet or that already play the trumpet?” Woody said. “How can I make it easier for you? How can I bridge the gap?”
The name of his band is Upendo, which means love in Swahili.
They are in talks to do virtual lessons for kids.
Drummer Devron Dennis teaches in Baltimore City.
“My main goal is to inspire in any way I can,” Dennis said. “I like to do that by playing drums and teaching.”
Keyboardist Troy Long’s fingers found the keys when he couldn’t walk or play trumpet because of back surgery.
“I just got this keyboard a month before surgery. While I was in recovery, I taught myself how to play.”
With his friends by his side and his trumpet in his hands, he’s pushing the limit of three valves and creating a sound that’s his own.
“I can play like ya know a young man that’s growing up in Baltimore and had experiences that you have when you grow up in Baltimore,” said Woody. “That’s all I can sound like. I can’t sound like nothing else.”
Proud sons of Baltimore showing the beauty that lives in our city.
Woody plans on releasing his first album sometime next year
This story was first reported by Eddie Kadhim at WMAR in Baltimore, Maryland.