Freddie Jones has played trumpet all over the world. He’s got years of experience and a jam-packed schedule, including a standing gig nearly every Sunday; at AT&T Stadium.
Jones, who grew up in Memphis but is now based out of Dallas, is the Cowboys’ standing trumpet player for home games, performing the National Anthem each time the squad takes to the turf in Arlington. It’s not only an impressive gig but one that is specific just to Dallas, a long-standing tradition that only recently got its spark back.
Here’s what you need to know about Jones and how he ended up front and center every Sunday:
1. Jones Plays the National Anthem at Each Cowboys Home Game
Jones took over National Anthem duties in Dallas last season, the first person in seen years to earn the honor on a regular basis. Prior to Jones, the Cowboys, like most NFL teams, used a vocalist or band prior to each home game during the regular season.
It’s a bit of an overwhelming job at times, particularly when thousands of fans start singing the National Anthem along with him. But Jones can’t deny how much he enjoys each and every performance, telling The Dallas Observer:
I enjoy it quite a bit. I enjoy it more because all my family lives in Memphis. So that Monday night game that they did, you know, everybody in my family could see me play, which was cool. How many does a stadium hold, 80,000? Something like that? So you know, that’s kind of cool, because it was packed.
Jones’ style of play is very particular and he makes sure to stand out – even when he isn’t playing in front of thousands of Cowboys fans – with a bright blue trumpet. He performs on the same blue Martin Committee from the 1980’s each game, the same horn that he’s been playing on for the better part of a decade. It’s just a coincidence that the trumpet matches Dallas Cowboys blue almost perfectly.
2. He Studied at the University of North Texas
After graduating from high school, Jones attended the University of North Texas and earned a degree in jazz studies. Despite protests from the Tennessee native, he was forced to learn a variety of instruments in school and his focus on the trumpet was split between a handful of different musical choices.
“I played bass,” he told The Dallas Observer. “When you go to college, you have that secondary instrument. So somebody made me do it.”
Jones gave up on music for nearly a decade after college, particularly after starting a family. With two children at home, it was difficult to rationalize going out on the road and Jones turned his attention to a slightly different artistic outlet; photography. He worked at a camera shop for nine years before moving to Dallas where he got back into performing when he joined a reggae band and local group called the Earl Harvin Quintet.
3. Jones Started Playing Professionally at 15 & Has Performed Around the World
Jones grew up around music in Memphis, Tennessee and first started playing trumpet at the professional level when he was just 15 years old. He performed in the same band throughout high school, playing Catholic jazz mass at church services every Sunday and taking advantage of whatever area gigs they could get their hands on.
Things are a little bit different now.
His band, the Freddie Jones Jazz Group, has played around the world, including performances across the Unitd States, in Paris, The Hague and Rotterdam. The band has also shared the stage with the likes of Al Green, Isaac Hayes and the Masqueraders.
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4. He Founded Trumpets4Kids to Provide Instruments for Underprivleged Kids
When he isn’t busy playing the National Anthem at AT&T Stadium or traveling the world with his band, Jones is working on helping to jumpstart the next generation of musicians. He founded the organization Trumpets4Kids several years ago as a means of helping kids across the country seize the opportunities that music presents.
Trumpets4Kids provides instruments for kids and helps those same kids perform for their peers. According to the Foundation’s website, its goal is to:
….inspire each other and create a platform for dialogue about their goals and activities when possible. Having kids perform music, such as classical or jazz, at a skill level that shows great musicianship at an early age, can allow children to create and realize their own dreams and activities. Having quartets perform for kids who are homeless, ill, or in other at-risk situations brings a new dimension by which each child may begin to see beyond his or her present situation. Whether the child is the musician or listener, the idea is to create opportunities for each group to see other situations or to be inspired by their peer group.
Trumpets4Kids regularly holds events across the country, encouraging musicians to come out and perform for one another. Jones has been joined by a handful of other well-known trumpeters in his support of the organization, including Arturuo Sandoval and Nicholas Payton.
Aspiring musicians are encouraged to apply for trumpets.
5. Tommy Loy Was the First Trumpet Soloist to Play the Anthem in Dallas
Jones is not the first trumpet player to perform the National Anthem regularly for the Dallas Cowboys.
Tommy Loy was the first trumpet soloist to perform in Arlington and played in front of players and fans for 22 years. After his death in 2007, the tradition was suspended and fans of the singular Dallas tradition were left with just memories of the days when the entire stadium would sing the National Anthem while a solo trumpet played the music.
That was why the Cowboys wanted to return to their pre-game musical roots. Jones explained to The Dallas Observer last year:
That was the original intent. It was to get the people to sing the national anthem again. When they have someone singing the anthem, you’re either quiet and you listen, or you laugh.
Jones was ultimately selected out of 10 trumpet players who auditioned for the chance to replace Loy. He says he still gets nervous every time he picks up his instrument to play but as soon as the millions of fans in the stadium start singing along with the Anthem, those nerves seem to fly out of the metaphorical window.