John Michael Bradford is poised, at the age of 16, to follow in the footsteps of the elite jazz musicians birthed by New Orleans the home of jazz. Like so many before him, John Michael’s passion for music was sculpted by the spirit, sounds, and fate of New Orleans.
After Hurricane Katrina, John Michael Bradford and his family were forced to evacuate accompanied by some of his older sister’s friends. Among those friends was Sam Williams, of Big Sam’s Funky Nation. It was during this evacuation that he fell in love with the big sound of Sam Williams’ trombone playing, and Mr. Bradford’s love affair with New Orleans music began to blossom. Mr. Bradford begged his parents for a trombone because it is the instrument Big Sam plays, but family could not afford a trombone. Instead, Mr. Bradford’s grandfather gave him his old high school trumpet. This gift came just a few months before Mr. Bradford’s ninth birthday, and within a week of having an instrument he was playing “Second Line”.
At the age of ten Mr. Bradford was invited by a local tuba player, Mark Smith, to play music with him out at Jackson Square in the French Quarter. Mr. Bradford set to work on the streets of New Orleans playing on his grandpa’s old high school trumpet and while doing so he played with and learned from some of the City’s legends. Soon, he began to make money playing his horn at second lines, funerals, private parties, and local festivals. After five months, Mr. Bradford had earned enough to buy himself the professional horn that he still plays today.
Mr. Bradford is now in tenth grade at the NOCCA Academic Studio. Some of his accomplishments include entering the New Orleans Center for Creative Arts, winning the Seeking Satchmo Trumpet Competition for two consecutive years, playing at Carnegie Hall with Preservation Hall Jazz Band, going on tour to Japan with Donald Harrison, Jr. and the Tipitina’s Interns Band, and travelling to Cuba as the trumpet player for the Louis Armstrong Jazz Camp.
Mr. Bradford has performed at many festivals including the famed New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival, Honk Festival, Harvard October Fest, French Quarter Fest, and the Sunset Coca Cola Festival in Charlotte, South Carolina. He has also played at many venues having been invited to share the stage with Donald Harrison Jr.; Treme Brass Band; Shamarr Allen; Jeremy Davenport; Rebelution; Khris Royal & Dark Matter; Jesse McBride; Nicholas Payton; Trombone Shorty; Kidd, Marlon, and Kent Jordan; Clyde Kerr; Wycliff Gordon; Glenn David Andrews; Kenneth Terry; James Andrews; Big Sam’s Funky Nation; Delfeayo, Ellis, and Branford Marsalis; George Porter, Jr.; Preservation Hall Jazz Band; Johnathan Batiste; Christian Scott; Rebirth Brass Band; and most recently with Rebelution at the Hollywood Palladium for New Year’s Eve and the House of Blues.
Mr. Bradford is currently embarking on the path to becoming bandleader, having just recently introduced a new project called “John Michael Bradford and the Vibe”. Previously, Mr. Bradford has been a band member of the Young Fellaz Brass Band, New Orleans Young Traditional Brass Band, Upset, Preservation Hall Jr. Brass Band, Jessie McBride and the Next Generation, Thelonious Monk Ensemble at NOCCA, and the Tipitina’s Interns Band. His personal goal is to bring the sound of New Orleans to the world and a smile to every face just as Louis Armstrong did.
First coming together at the New Orleans Center for the Creative Arts, the trio performs a set with 16-year-old trumpeter Bradford featuring music rooted in the New Orleans jazz tradition. Part of The Music of New Orleans.