Baltimore trumpet player Brandon Woody was first touched by music while riding in his father’s car as a child. His parents had split when he was very young, and on the long drives between their houses, his father would play the Isley Brothers and the Temptations. “Those songs have lots of horns in them,” Woody recalls. “Even at four or five, they inspired me to be interested in the trumpet.”
For Woody, music and community are one. Whether in his band UPENDO, his film scores, or in teaching, he strives to make music that “sounds like my city.” Born and raised in East Baltimore, Woody learned about the city’s rich musical traditions from a young age. After graduating from Baltimore School for the Arts in 2016, he branched out from the city, receiving scholarships for music schools and residencies across the country, and even touring with Solange. But the core of his art has always been in his collaborations within Baltimore. In everything he does, he channels his music back into the community whose love and tradition first formed it.
He started playing the trumpet in elementary school, choosing it over the saxophone because he thought it would be easier. Although he now knows this was far from the case, the difficulty hardly mattered. “As soon as I started getting into it, playing the trumpet gave me butterflies every time,” Woody says. “It was this weird, magical feeling.”
His mother immediately recognized her son’s passion and enrolled him in music programs such as the Peabody Preparatory and the Eubie Blake Jazz Summer Program. “Even if she didn’t have it on her financially, she would make sure that I was in all the programs,” Woody says. “I remember her dropping me off before going to work and picking me up after she got off work.”
She also made sure that he could practice at home. The family was often moving, and new neighbors didn’t always take kindly to the kid practicing his trumpet. Woody recalls his mother fending off, sometimes even cursing out, these neighbors. “I’m very grateful to her,” he says. “Without that practice time at a very young age, who knows if I would be where I am today.”