Trombone helps make UNO student all the things he is

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Playing the trombone since fifth grade, jazz is his life.

That thing on his face?

It’s pretty obvious most days – that dark, pink circle on his lips. But there’s not a lot UNO senior Andrew Brown can do about it.

“I tried to grow the beard to cover it up,” the music education major says. “But unfortunately after playing for a couple of hours, I always get this nice ‘trombone hickey,’ as they call it, right on my face.”

He smiles.

“It’s the sign of a good practicer.”

Andrew, this year’s winner of the Jazz Spirit Award Scholarship at UNO, loves the trombone. He loves jazz. He loves practicing the trombone as much as he can here in a practice room in the Strauss Performing Arts Center on campus.

He’s heard that you have to practice at least four hours every day for 10 years to become a professional musician.

“This song is called, ‘All the Things You Are.’ It’s a very old standard. You could probably find 500 different versions of it if you typed it into Google.

“The nice thing about jazz is that when you hear something, it’s always different every time. That’s what makes jazz unique.”

He presses his lips to the mouthpiece, and his music seems to make the room swing.

A student named Jared Smith, a flutist, sits on the floor outside. (“This guy right here – he’s the man,” Jared says later. “I try to sneak and listen to him practice and all that, and try to steal some ideas from this guy.”)

The Jazz Spirit Award Scholarship goes to a UNO student who holds jazz to be the highest art form there is and who respects it and does whatever they can do to ensure that it’s respected.

Jazz is my life.

That’s what Andrew wrote in a thank you letter to the donors of the scholarship. Andrew started playing the trombone in fifth grade. At Omaha’s Burke High, he once got to play with the New Orleans Jazz Orchestra.

“I remember sitting there with the trombone section, talking to them about mouth pieces – maybe the nerdiest conversation you could have. And I remember thinking, ‘This is what I want to do for the rest of my life. This is the best thing there is.’

“Jazz has been an essential part of my life forever. That’s the entire reason why I’m a music major right now and why I want to be a music teacher.”

He graduates this May. The $1,000 from the Jazz Spirit Award Scholarship helped him travel around the country to audition for grad schools. Next fall, he’ll study trombone at the University of Missouri.

He’s never seen the face of the private donors who created the Jazz Spirit Award – they want to stay anonymous.

He dedicates this song to them.

“Thank you,” Andrew says. “The Jazz Spirit Award to me means recognition for all the hard work I’ve been putting in all these years. It means someone is taking notice – someone who loves jazz, too. I know you wish to remain anonymous. But now you have a face to put with your donation.”

A face with a trombone hickey from all that practice, all that jazz.

Student support is a top priority of the Campaign for Nebraska. If you’d also like to help a UNO music student like Andrew, please consider giving online to the Jazz Spirit Award Scholarship fund or to the UNO Student Scholarship Fund, or contact the foundation’s Renee Reding at 800-432-3216.

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