ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — If there was a true man about town in Rochester, it might be Herb Smith. A cool and laid back cat, but towering with a 6’4″ frame, Smith is equally present at area dive bars, jazz gigs, and his regular performances with the Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra.
While he has always given back to the community, his new program Herb’s City Trumpets, aims to bridge the same divides he faced, while supporting Rochester kids. If you want to sign up a student, click the link above.
And it all started with a night in jail.
“In that one day, every male that I came in contact with was young and Black. I was the oldest one there… What happened to me where I didn’t get there?,” Smith said outside of his Herb’s City Trumpets classroom.
Smith concluded that for him, the difference was music, and a strong support system. As a kid in Cincinnati, he had a strong support system. Now that he lives in Rochester, he wanted to pass along that support program.
Herb’s City Trumpets is a collaborative program between The City of Rochester, ROCMusic — a local youth education program — and My Brother’s Keeper.
In it families and kids from all over Rochester get together for a place to play, learn the basics of their instruments and music theory, and learn tunes like Strauss’s “Zarathustra,” “Amazing Grace,” “When the Saints Go Marching In,” to new songs like “Believer” from Imagine Dragons.
But what is so unusual for a program like this is that Smith’s trumpet sponsor, Conn-Selmer, is able to provide each student with a brand new professional trumpet. Each runs $1,200.
“I felt like I was holding a baby in my hands,” remarked Vaughn Vierk.
They meet every Friday for a group practice session, and every time it ends with a meal. So this place of community, gives kids a chance to express themselves in a safe space.
“The goal for them is to have some kind of outlet,” Smith said “T-A-F-F. Time away from foolishness.”
“It helps the community out to get people out of the streets and drugs, the kids in there, so they don’t have to grow up to be a bad person,” said student Naven Guttierez.
But seeing all these kids holding trumpets is special for Smith.
“When I was growing up in school, when I started the trumpet, when I was in high school, when I was in college,” he said. “It is fantastic to see so many black kids playing trumpet. I have never seen this in my life “