2016 CSK Illustrator Award Acceptance by Bryan Collier

andrew_trombone shortyI would like to give thanks to all the members of the Coretta Scott King Book Awards committee for their hard work in shining a light on Trombone Shorty, as well as on many other important books. A special thanks goes out to my agent, Marcia Wernick, and to the staff of Abrams Books, especially Tamar Brazis and Chad Beckerman, for all their thoughtful creativity that went into this project. Most of all, I want to thank God that the whole world can now read, experience, and bear witness through Troy “Trombone Shorty” Andrews, whose hard work, talent, and determination make the world sing, dance, and celebrate.

I’ve been visiting New Orleans nearly every year for the last eighteen years of my life and have enjoyed many of the sights, sounds, and aromas that the city has to offer. I soon realized that New Orleans, and all of its colorful people and neighborhoods, is not just a destination, but its own planet — with its own galaxy of stars that surrounds it. It has its own language: “Where y’at? Where y’at?” Those are the words that Trombone Shorty calls out on the first page of our book and during every live performance. (It works best in New Orleans.) It has its own menu: gumbo, jambalaya, king cake, and beignets. (It tastes best in New Orleans.) And it has its own music: the ritualistic sound of drums and the brass section of horns chanting back and forth in a call-and-response movement. (It sounds best in New Orleans.) That’s the sound of a people in search of freedom — the sound that gave birth to jazz.

Just as in the book, I’d like us to now take a trip back in time in a hot-air balloon. On our trip we will find an African American boy named Louis Armstrong who was born in extreme poverty in New Orleans. Somehow and someway, he stumbled upon a trumpet, and with his God-given talent and determination, he learned to play that trumpet well. Louis grew up and developed a new sound with his horn that was beautiful, bright, and strong. Louis Armstrong pointed his horn upward and blew a tune that was like liquid sonic sunshine! And in doing so, he also poured out a little taste to honor the musicians who have come and gone, and to honor those who are to come.

On our trip we will encounter countless other musicians from New Orleans who played many styles of music: Fats Domino, Jelly Roll Morton, Mahalia Jackson, the Marsalis family, the Neville Brothers, Allen Toussaint, Dr. John, the Preservation Hall Jazz Band.

Finally, our hot-air balloon will take us to visit Troy “Trombone Shorty” Andrews, who fused jazz, funk, R&B, rock, and hip-hop to create a unique, steaming pot of musical gumbo all his own. He is another African American boy, born in Tremé, who made his own instruments at home until he found a broken trombone and learned how to play it. Something that could only happen in New Orleans. He was a boy who admired his big brother James, who played the trumpet. James played so bright and strong, you could hear him all the way across town. He had his own band and would always say to the young Troy, “Follow me,” as he played in parades, concerts, parties, festivals, and funerals. James would lift his trumpet upward and blow power into the sky and then pour a little on the ground out of respect for the past and for the future.

With a trombone that was twice his size, Troy soon earned his nickname, Trombone Shorty, which was given to him by his brother. Shorty took his horn everywhere — he even kept it next to him when he slept. Through hard work and determination, today Trombone Shorty is a world-class musician who travels all around the world with his band, from New Orleans to New York to Paris and back. And if his music alone wasn’t already a gift to the world, he also created the Trombone Shorty Foundation, whose mission is to mentor and nurture young musicians in the New Orleans area. He, too, is pouring a little on the ground for the next generation to come. Troy Andrews lifts his trombone upward and blows fire into the sky.

Bryan Collier is the winner of the 2016 Coretta Scott King Illustrator Award for Trombone Shorty, written by Troy “Trombone Shorty” Andrews and published by Abrams. His acceptance speech was delivered at the annual conference of the American Library Association in Orlando on June 26, 2016. From the July/August 2016 issue of The Horn Book Magazine: Special Issue: Awards. For more speeches, profiles, and articles click the tag ALA 2016.
Bryan Collier
Bryan Collier
Bryan Collier is the winner of the 2016 Coretta Scott King Illustrator Award for Trombone Shorty, written by Troy “Trombone Shorty” Andrews and published by Abrams.

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