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Jazz Philadelphia's Hometown Heroes: Spotlight on Trumpeter Terrell Stafford

Courtesy of the artrist
Terrelll Stafford

Trumpeter Terell Stafford has been hailed as “one of the great players of our time, a fabulous trumpet player” by the late piano legend McCoy Tyner. The acclaimed bandleader and recording artist has appeared on dozens of albums, including five of his own, and is a soloist with the Grammy-winning Village Vanguard Jazz Orchestra.

Born in Miami and raised in both Chicago and Silver Spring, Maryland, Stafford recalled being transfixed when at age nine he happened upon a trumpet while visiting his grandparents’ sharecropper’s farm.

“To just hold this instrument in my hand because I was always fascinated by how all this music came from, like, three valves; what’s the secret behind it? In sixth grade I was able to play the trumpet—and it hasn’t left my hand since.”

Originally a classical trumpet player, Stafford soon branched out to jazz with the University of Maryland jazz band and spent five years touring and recording with Bobby Watson’s quintet, Horizon, along with co-leader Victor Lewis and Shirley Scott. Eventually, Scott invited Stafford to join her quintet, play alongside Tim Warfield and begin their ongoing musical collaborations.

Stafford says the knowledge he gained while working with Scott enhanced his education beyond the bandstand. “It taught me about community. The music lifted us: we listened to the music, we learned the music, and we came up with things to complement the music as a team.”

Currently the director of jazz studies at the Boyer College of Music and Dance at Temple University, Stafford has high hopes for the ever-evolving Philadelphia jazz scene.

“Teaching at a college has been incredibly inspiring ... I’ve been at Temple University for 24 years and, more or less, came to the Philadelphia area a couple of years before that,” said Stafford. “I was speaking to a student yesterday who was interested, and the mother of the student said, ‘Why Philly?’ and I said, ‘Well, why not?’ What is there to doubt if you look at the history, and you look at the great musicians that have come from here and the great musicians who continue to come here, and the institutions and the music scene that we have—there’s no other music scene like this.”

Bobbi I. Booker is an award-winning multimedia journalist and radio personality whose velvety voice has been a mainstay in the Delaware Valley for over two decades. She can be heard on Spirit Soul Music, Sundays from 6 to 9 a.m., and Jazz Through the Night, weeknights from 12 midnight to 6 a.m.