After a time of great tragedy, John Michael Bradford was fortunate to discover his musical talent as a trombone player. Hurricane Katrina was threatening his community in Louisiana and he was forced to evacuate his home with his family. They quickly left everything behind and moved to San Antonio, Texas to stay at a family friend’s house.
On his trip, John Michael met Sam Williams, a trombone player that had been a part of the brass band called the Dirty Dozen, and he is now the leader of the band called Big Sam’s Funky Nation. “We were listening to some music in the car, singing along and I pretended to play the trombone,” recalls John Michael. Music was always part of John Michael’s life, as his mom and sister are singers, and his grandfather played the trumpet in high school. At a very challenging time when his family had to uproot their lives, music became a wonderful way to bring everyone together and Sam changed his life forever.
Today, John Michael is a celebrated artist in the brass community and he is recognized for his talents. He has performed in New Orleans, Japan, Cuba, Switzerland, The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, as well as played at the GRAMMYS, and Carnegie Hall. A former Berklee City Music alumnus, John Michael is soon to complete Berklee College of Music with a Bachelor degree of Music in Performance. His first album came out last year called, “Something Old, Something New,” and he was awarded a full-tuition scholarship.
“Sam was the first time I had been around a trombone, and his sound is so big and warm. It really made me feel good to hear music and that New Orleans funky style.”
– John Michael Bradford
Recently, John Michael was featured on CNN in a personal interview, as he recounts his experiences and ability to rise above the tragic events of Katrina “My favorite thing is about playing and making people feel good. It’s incredible because I always think back to Katrina,” recalls John. After the storm passed, John Michael went back to his hometown to nurture his talents and signed up for lessons using his grandfather’s instrument. He wanted to play the trombone and he became one of the youngest members to join the Tipitina’s Foundation. Donald Harrison, a Berklee alum and the Program Director, recognized John’s gift of musical performance. The after-school program is a Berklee City Music Network member and focuses on jazz performance for young artists. Many students that have completed the program have been selected to receive summer scholarships to Berklee City Music’s Five-Week intensive training.
John Michael recalls, “As far back as I can remember, I looked up to Donald and I wanted to follow in his footsteps at Berklee College of Music. Donald taught me everything about jazz and I gained his respect.” At 21-years-old, John Michael has been fortunate to meet and perform with many popular musicians early on in his career. He had the opportunity to work with The Meters guitarist, Leo Nocentelli, a Recording Academy’s Lifetime Achievement Award recipient, as well as with trumpeters Christian Scott, and study under the guidance of Sean Jones, Berklee’s chair of the Brass Department.
Over the years, John Michael has been influenced by other musicians including Louis Armstrong, Clifford Brown, Herbie Hancock, Justin Timberlake and Bruno Mars. “Bruno is great and he has an amazing ability to do all styles of music that appeals to different audiences. I would love an opportunity to work with him in the future, as well as JT.”
Music is the universal language that brings people together from around the world. John Michael aspires to become one of the many great jazz performers idolized by others after he graduates Berklee. At a young age, he has meet with many influential people during a difficult circumstance and turn it into a rewarding opportunity. “For me, it was a tragedy turned into a blessing,” John Michael says. “I think music can turn a tragedy into something that’s beautiful because it can touch so many people.”