I’ve heard a few people tell me that music helps plants grow. Maybe that’s why the Temple Community Garden at Broad and Diamond streets is always sprouting new life.
The plants are opening their petals to the smooth trombone hums of Andy Conchelos, who plays right across from the garden on his roof.
I first heard about “That Trombone Guy” from a friend of mine on Twitter. She posted a picture of him wailing away.
My introduction to the junior jazz studies major occurred while I tended to the garden, when I heard a nearby melody that appeared to come from somewhere above me. I was taken aback to see a man standing on his apartment roof with a trombone directed toward the sky.
Later, the first thing my eyes shifted to in his apartment was a neat section of musical instruments, each placed delicately on a table, chair or seat. There sits a trombone case, music stand, two keyboards and an amp.
Conchelos opens a tiny, locked wooden door that showcases an unfinished attic. I look up and see a ladder. The next thing I know, I’m on the roof with the best view I’ve seen since my move to North Philadelphia. Ironically, the Diamond Marching Band begins practicing as we sit down on two plastic chairs.
The jazz trombonist grew up an hour north of Los Angeles. He started playing trombone in sixth grade.
“They said, ‘Pick an instrument,’ and I had always wanted to play the trombone since I was little, so it was kind of a calling,” Conchelos said.
His mother, who had a background in music, would sing to him and he would play the notes back on his trombone. She asked him if he were thinking by note while playing but Conchelos said he would just close his eyes and let his hands go.
In high school he was involved in jazz band, wind ensemble, leader of an orchestra and was a teacher of a women’s choir.
He was a part of the music program and tried to be involved in as many programs as he could. Conchelos knew that music was something he needed to pursue, he said.
In Summer 2010, Conchelos began performing on the streets of Venice Beach. He was carrying his case around the town when a spray paint artist asked him to play; the artist then proceeded to rap over the trombone.
“He lent me his spot every time he wasn’t around,” Conchelos said.
His music career at Temple differs a bit from high school; at Boyer College of Music and Dance he focuses strictly on jazz and is a member of the school’s jazz band.
“It has a certain feel to it, there’s not a negative attitude when it comes to jazz,” Conchelos explained of his passion for the style.
When Conchelos and his roommates moved in last September, they took to this roof as a hang out place, often watching the stars at night. The music major thought that it would be a great place to start playing music.
One of his roommates is a guitar major and will sometimes play backup for him, but Conchelos is the only one who plays on the roof alone.
Every day between 3:30-5 p.m. and during mornings and sunsets, Conchelos takes to the roof to blast his trombone for the Broad Street inhabitants.
The roof isn’t just a place for Conchelos to be a roof performer; he said the sunsets, especially in the spring, are unforgettable.
“I’ve made this roof my zen,” Conchelos said.
His first few times on the roof were for himself, he said, just to practice some “licks.” Then, when he started noticing the community taking pictures and videos of him, applauding and smiling – he worked with it. He began playing on the roof everyday.
“My favorite thing about Temple is how he plays on the roof right outside my dorm,” ShaeLynn Trapp said. ShaeLynn is a freshman psychology major who lives in White Hall.
Not only does the rooftop player intrigue Temple students, but members of the community as well. Members of Berean Presbyterian Church, located across from White Hall, heard his music and asked if he and other Temple music students would put on a benefit concert, Conchelos said.
“My favorite is when people walk to the beat of my music,” Conchelos said.
Conchelos would like to see his rooftop become a safe hangout for anyone interested. He even made the suggestion to put chairs out near the community garden and make it a hang out place similar to Beury Beach for Temple students.
“I like how, even with my lack of social media presence, this has really spread by word of mouth,” Conchelos said.
As a junior, Conchelos’s future music plans are to continue with a focus in jazz. Conchelos is a musician on the Temple University’s Jazz Band album, which is nominated for six Grammy awards.
The jazz musician wants people to understand why he plays on top of his apartment.
“I don’t do this for money or attention, I do this because I love music.”
Emily Scott can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org