I’m really excited to share the profile of a former Teen Jazz Artist, now Teen Jazz Influence, trombonist Andrew Boostrom. He is the first of our artists to make the transition from Artist to Influence and I look forward to many more of the up and coming musicians we feature to do the same. I met Andrew at the Jamey Aebersold Summer Jazz Camp back when we were in high school and he has gone on to become a successful performer with Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey.
DO YOU PLAY ANY OTHER INSTRUMENTS?
Mainly I just play trombone but I’m also a vocalist. Then, I would never have a gig with anybody on any of these other instruments, but I also play a little keyboards, bass and drums.
AND HOW LONG HAVE YOU BEEN DOING MUSIC?
Since I was 10 years old, so probably about 16 years now.
DID YOU GO TO UNIVERSITY?
Yeah I went to the University of Illinois in Champaign-Urbana and studied with Jim Pugh the legendary New York studio trombonist.
DID YOU SPECIFICALLY STUDY JAZZ OR CLASSICAL?
Well when I first got there, I had this idea in my head that I would study classical music and get a job with an orchestra and make money playing full-time in an orchestra but play jazz on the side because I liked that more. Very quickly I realized that wasn’t going to work and so I talked with my professor about it and we set it up so that I would switch over to jazz studies after that. So after one year of classical studies I started doing the jazz program which was a pretty new program to that university, but a very good one nonetheless.
AND HOW DID YOU FALL INTO YOUR GIG WITH BARNUM AND BAILEY?
Another guy I went to college with, the guitar player in the circus… He started out because a spot opened up and the band leader called his professor whom he had played with twenty years ago and asked him, “hey do you know anybody who would be interested in this?” He recommended my friend Ian who got the job and about a year and a half or two years later the trombone position opened up and Ian called me and asked me if I was interested. They checked me out to make sure I could play and stuff like that, but besides that, it was a big “who you know” kind of thing.
SO WHAT DO YOU DO WITH THEM?
Well, I’m the trombonist and the backup conductor. And I play mainly trombone in the pit. It’s a nine-piece band and the music is very cinematic. It’s very much about following what’s happening on the floor. It’s not that old style of marches and things like that. It’s very much more like a movie experience as you’re watching it. It’s very cinematic.
DID YOU TAKE CONDUCTING CLASSES?
I took a conducting class in college because we were forced to which was very early in the morning and I didn’t like to go to it. But I learned enough in there that it helped out with this. And with enough of what I’m doing, I find it very beneficial to have taken it, although I don’t think I did very well in the class!
WHO ARE SOME OF YOUR BIG INFLUENCES FOR PLAYING?
Growing up my first influence was JJ Johnson and then Carl Fontana became a really big one because all of those, and Frank Rosolino. Those guys are some of the main “older” influences that a lot of guys pull. There’s a guy named Elliot Mason that I like a lot. He plays with Wynton Marsalis and the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra and he’s just a phenomenal player. He makes the trombone sound like it’s easier to play than it is. And there are a few other guys but he’s the main one right now. But mostly I don’t listen to a lot of trombone players any more. I focus on listening to other instruments and trying to develop my own techniques on the trombone if I can. But yea, Elliot Mason and other guys of that caliber.
DO YOU GET TO DO A LOT OF IMPROVISATION WHERE YOU’RE AT?
During the show there is some improvisation but not a lot. Not a lot for the horn players anyway. But there are a couple small spots where even if there isn’t a solo, there is some freedom to kind of interpret the music a little bit more. But for the most part, for most tours, there’s not a whole lot of opportunity to do stuff outside of the show. We’re just constantly on the move and we’re playing so many shows that everybody’s kind of burned out. It’s a little unfortunate, but if you made the effort, you could definitely get out and do it and play more often.
SO YOUR GIG WITH BARNUM AND BAILEY REALLY FILLS OUT YOUR CALENDAR?
Oh yeah. This job is 11 months touring out of the year.
AND HOW MANY NIGHTS A WEEK DO YOU PLAY?
At least five nights a week.
AND MULTIPLE SHOWS PER NIGHT?
Yeah, you’re guaranteed to be playing three shows on Saturday starting at 11am. There’s only been one time since I’ve been out here that we’ve had a Saturday that wasn’t three shows on that day.
HOW DO YOU DEAL WITH THAT KIND OF SCHEDULE?
I treat it very mentally. I look at it like it’s a Monday for everybody else. It’s the hardest show day that we have – a three show day is the hardest one we’re going to do and instead of being upset about, you just got to realize it’s happening no matter how you feel. You just have to walk into it thinking “this is my Monday schedule and it’s going to be tough but no matter how much I want to moan about it I have to do it so I’m going to do it the best I possibly can because people are coming out to hear the greatest show on earth.” And I want to give them the greatest performance that I can.
THAT’S A REALLY GREAT MENTALITY TO HAVE. WHAT OTHER THINGS DO YOU THINK YOU DO THAT MAKE YOU A SUCCESSFUL PERFORMER?
I think attitude is the number one thing that makes someone a great performer. You know, walking into it with a positive attitude or whatever it is. You just have to stick with it. Whenever I play something, especially jazz related, I put on a different hat. I step into it with a different mindset. But for this, I walk into it thinking about if I can be more perfect. Can I make this sound better? How can I be more consistent? And you just step into with a positive mindset because really,the show changes all the time. You have to focus on the animals and the people doing their tricks and change the music around for them. There’s never a show that comes out the same as the one before it. So a big thing for me is staying focused. And not only during the show staying focused, but learning how to do things before and after the show to help stay focused. Things I’m noticing lately are drinking vegetable juice and eating more natural foods help keep my focus a little stronger and help keep my energy up. And then doing some stretching and thing like that. Just doing things that help you feel a little better physically and that help you step into the show with a little bit better edge.
SO, WHAT’S NEXT FOR YOU? WHAT ARE YOUR GOALS FOR THE FUTURE?
Well right now I really like doing this so I’d like that the job lasts for a long time and that I can leave whenever I decide that it’s time for me to leave. But the ultimate dream would be to play in a horn section for Stevie Wonder! But, I mean, that’s the ideal thing – to be able to play with my idols. But as far as the rest of it, I leave it very much up to the universe and hope for the best and constantly follow a “thoughts become things” kind of mindset. Just know that everything will work out no matter what I do. And if the time comes that I decide to part from this gig, that something else will show up in its place. But I’m very fluid about it. I just want it to happen on it’s own. And not concentrate on anything particular to hard unless… I would love to do a Cirque du Soleil job actually. That would be another job I would really love to step into but other than that, I’m very fluid about it.
WHAT ARE SOME MEMORABLE MOMENTS YOU’VE HAD FROM PERFORMANCES?
As far as circus goes, it’s really beautiful to watch somebody fail and then think that they aren’t going to step up again but they step up immediately and stick their trick. The audience goes crazy, the band goes crazy… Everybody is just so excited for them and it’s really, really nice to see things like that happen. And it’s great for us musically – we play so many shows. We do about 400 shows a year and it’s really exhausting but there are some moments where things really tighten up with the band and everybody seems to be on their game. And it’s really nice to be a part of that when it’s happening, when things are just locking in. It’s great to be a part of band that’s this strong and can pull that off.
And other great memories, are things that are sometimes out of the musical nature of it. The fact that I’ve been able to go on tour so much and I’ve been able to go on cruise ships and things like that. I’ve been able to see a lot of parts of the world, parts of the US. It’s been a real blessing to go out and check out other cultures. I think that makes up a lot of my favorite memories.
SO WITH 400 SHOWS A YEAR, DO YOU FIND TIME FOR OTHER HOBBIES?
You have as much time as you give yourself. Sometimes the schedule takes up so much of our time and then since we travel we want to see so much stuff that we don’t always get the time to work on things that we may have enjoyed when we were settled somewhere. But I’m slowly getting my things together and trying to work on my singing career or my songwriting career, if you want to call it that. I also have a bar tending thing that I’m really into. I really like to invent old-style cocktails. There is time for anything you want. And the fact that we get to hang out with some of the most elite athletes in the world also gives you the time to realize that you need to get more in shape. So, as far as other hobbies, working out sometimes with the entertainers and some of the performers. There’s definitely time for it, but you have to slot it in otherwise it’s really easy to be lazy and not do anything.
IF YOU HAD ONE PIECE OF ADVICE FOR AN UP AND COMING ARTIST, WHAT WOULD THAT BE?
Go out and see shows. Absolutely go out. It doesn’t matter what it costs as far as gas money or cover charges. Just go out and listen to all the music that you want to listen to. You need to go hear everybody live. Meet them, say hi, take any opportunity you can to sit in. Just meet everybody. Because at some point you’re going to run into somebody that gives you gig and then that gig gets you another gig and then that gig gets you another gig… And that just keeps building. You have to go out and meet everybody. If you don’t go out and support them, you can’t expect them to come out and support you.
THAT’S GREAT ADVICE. SO, WHERE CAN PEOPLE GO TO FIND YOUR MUSIC?
EARLIER ON, YOU MENTIONED THAT YOU WERE FOCUSING MORE ON YOUR SINGER-SONGWRITER CAREER. CAN YOU TALK A BIT MORE ABOUT THAT?
It’s something that all started because I sang in front of a girl one time and she really liked it a lot and so I realized that I could maybe get girlfriends from it. (laughs) So I started singing more often and then one bad breakup happened so I wrote a couple songs and people liked them so it all kind of built up from there. The style comes from one of my favorite bands. It’s a British disco-funk band called Jamiroquai. They’re very funky, very disco, very acid jazz, and pop music. It’s a lot of the styles of music that I like to listen to. It’s the perfect blend for me.
So I started writing music, not really aiming to sound like everybody, but because I liked that music so much it just kind of came out that way. It’s a bit Jamiroquai meets Stevie Wonder and I want it to sound a little bit more D’Angelo and Barry White as well. Just kind of fun, sexy music really. Something you can groove to and enjoy. And all the music has really strong jazz influence and nearly every song has some kind of soloing on it because I can’t perform and not leave room for somebody to improvise. It’s just not in my background.
HOW ARE YOU RECORDING ALL THIS?
Some of it was recorded in a friend’s basement in his recording studio but now that I’m on the circus train (we all live on a train in tiny compartments), I bought some microphone stands, a performing microphone and a Zune… I’m just kind of recording into the computer and trying to figure out how to best do it. Actually one of the guys that I work with out here, one of the keyboard players, recorded an entire album on the train.You can find his stuff online too. His name is Ryan States. He recorded an entire album out here. He recorded most of it on the train, but he also sent it out to people and them record and then email him their recordings. And he just edited it all and it sounds amazing.