Many fans seated in the stands of Doak Campbell Stadium await the much anticipated and familiar announcement that the Florida State University Marching Chiefs are taking the field. Musician Greg Akridge, an alumnus of the band, is proud to have been a part of the group in the 1970s when it went global and its members performed in Damascus, Syria and Amman, Jordan as music ambassadors.
“We came back as a world renowned group,” says Akridge. “I never would have done that without music being the vehicle.”
Akridge’s trusty trombone has traveled with him across the world, getting performance time locally with the TCC Jazz Band, Capital City Band and Tallahassee Winds and as far out as the Sydney Opera House in Australia.
As co-founder and member of Tallahassee’s community big band, the Thursday Night Music Club, he especially looks forward to the annual jazz showcase as it enters its 11th year and will fill up Ruby Diamond Concert Hall on Thursday, Aug. 16.
Music was a staple in Akridge’s household as both his parents were cloggers and square dancers, which exposed him to many different genres. His first trombone was a gift from his uncle. Listening to his uncle practice on the horn and watching him perform as a part of a marching band, Akridge was immediately enthralled with the instrument.
“Trombones were always right up at the front of the band,” says Akridge. “I thought that was really cool as a kid.”
A panhandle native, he attended Tallahassee’s Tri-State Jazz Festival every year and looked up to jazz musicians like Count Basie, Buddy Rich and Stan Kenton. Akridge also admired the large horn sections in popular R& B and funk super groups like Earth, Wind & Fire; Blood, Sweat & Tears and Chicago.
He continued perfecting his technique on the trombone from fifth grade throughout junior high and high school under the direction of Dr. Bentley Shellahamer. Playing at the Tampa Fairgrounds, he was part of the Rickards High School jazz band when it was ranked number five in the state of Florida. He says that Dr. Bentley was not only a great connection and mentor, but was the reason he was motivated to do his best and continue onwards with music in college.
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