Theo Croker to Play Instrument of Hope at Segerstrom

Courtesy of Craig Carpenter.

One of the most mysterious and often underappreciated things about music is its ability to heal. Just think about that album that reminds you of someone you haven’t seen in awhile or that song you listen to after a long day, and you’ll find that good music has a way of making us feel better. This is the power that the Instrument of Hope is intended to transfer. Designed and hand-crafted by New York City instrument specialist Josh Landress, the Instrument of Hope is a trumpet unlike any other.

The project was initiated by a group of students and parents from Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, which was terrorized by a mass shooting last year. The Instrument of Hope was made from a hundred spent bullet casings, which is the same number of shots fired during the attack. According to NPR, under the name Shine MSD, the organization’s “mission is to promote healing through the arts—and through this instrument, which is touring the country.”

This Friday, jazz trumpeter and composer Theo Croker plays the Instrument of Hope during the final Free Summer Jazz concert at the Segerstrom Center for the Arts in Costa Mesa. Croker, a three-time Echo Award nominee and Theodore Presser Award recipient, is one of the most prolific and innovative young voices in contemporary jazz. In addition to his own five solo albums, including this year’s Star People Nation, Croker has been featured on works by J. Cole, Ari Lennox and hip-hop legend Common.

Despite this level of success, Croker is surprisingly soft-spoken and humble, especially about this upcoming performance. “I mean, I find it to be very powerful,” he says. “I’m, first of all, honored to even be involved. And I very much believe–it’s quite conflicting, I know the times–in the fact that you can take that kind of energy and transmute into something positive; something hopeful.”

Courtesy of Instrument of Hope.

In recent months, the Instrument of Hope has been played by the likes of Keyon Harrold, Big Bad Voodoo Daddy and Panic! At the Disco. Since Croker’s been touring nonstop in support of Star People Nation while the horn has been traveling around the country, this Friday will be the first time the two meet. Croker hopes that this will allow for an organic performance. “I should be able to feel the soul of the horn itself when I play it,” he says. “Actually, the best horns historically have always been horns that were made after, I think it was World War II, when they melted down all the shell cases and leftover ammunitions.”

Croker will not be accompanied by a band during this performance. For 15 minutes, it will just be him and the Instrument of Hope on stage. “Probably, I’ll just be blessing the space, which you would call an alapa. Like in Indian music, that’s what they do for the first hour before they actually start playing the pieces,” he explains.

It will surely be a meditative moment when Croker plays the Instrument of Hope for the first time on stage. For him, the fact that he hasn’t even held the horn yet makes it all that more powerful. He plans on “just reacting to the vibrations. I don’t want to dictate or think anything of it because I really want the organic soul of the instrument to do what it does.”

“Literally, I’m going to put air into it,” he says with a laugh.

Instrument of Hope with Theo Croker at the Segerstrom Center for the Arts, Julianne and George Argyros Plaza, 600 Town Center Dr., Costa Mesa, (714) 556-2787; Fri., Aug. 30, 8 p.m. Free.


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