Saving lives with his music

ANDY’S JAZZ CLUB, Chicago — Marques Carroll uses his trumpet to make music and to make change. Hundreds of young men in Chicago have found new lives through Marques and the music program he started in one of the toughest sections of the city.

“What I’m seeing with the music is that it’s saving a lot of these guys, giving them a platform to create,” Marques told me. “We’re graduating a lot of guys and they’re getting off to college or into the work force. Some guys make it, some don’t. But that’s part of the road we’re traveling.” 


When he’s not playing for the Count Basie Band in Moscow or Toyko, or running the “Trumpet Summit” at Andy’s every Thursday in Chicago, or leading his own Chicago Soul Jazz Collective, Marques is teaching kids at a music program he started at the Chicago Jesuit Academy. Before Marques got there twelve years ago, there was no music program at all.

“I fell in love the first day I was there. It was like: I gotta do something because they didn’t have any music. None,” he said. “So I started the music program.

“I brought in some of my friends who play professionally and we brought in instruments, did clinics, and got these kids playing,” he said. “We did a fund raiser, we had people donate instruments. I helped write a curriculum, did 3-5 year projections, and I’ve been there ever since. Going on 12 years now. 


“It’s an all-boys school and we take in some pretty at-risk kids,” he said. “We’re in the middle of an unfortunate gang war in the West Side of Chicago. We are in some pretty dire-need areas.

“We see a lot of guys — maybe dad’s not in the picture — and we show them something other than what they see on the streets,” Marques said. “It’s really important to me that they see another person who looks like them, a black man doing something positive, not on the corner doing God knows what to make ends meet.

Amr Fahmy: Piano

“I’m seeing a lot of guys finding themselves within the improvising style of music. We’ve named the band the Black American Music Ensemble to give them some ownership of this music.”

Marques got his musical start early, too. “My grandfather was a trumpet player and he played for Clark Terry,” he said. “I was about five when I started listening to jazz; I was eight years old when I started playing the trumpet.

“I kind of played around with my grandad’s horn,” he said. “I came home from school one day after baseball practice, and he was in the living room, and he said ‘Hey, listen, I got a horn for you and I want to see if you can get one sound out of it. I got one sound out of it, and next week I was in lessons!”

Marques came to love the trumpet as the most versatile of instruments. 

“The trumpet is so personable; It is literally an amplifier of your voice,” Marques said. “It can do things other instruments can’t. You can make a note bend unlike a saxophone, you know what I mean?

“You can take a note and do this [he plays a note very plainly], or you can do this [he plays a note with a lot of flair]. I mean, saxophones can do that too, but it’s just the way the trumpet plays it. There’s something about it — It’s got brilliance, it’s got darkness, it’s versatile.”

Victor Garcia: Trumpet

Marques also wants to understand what his bandmates are creating with their own instruments.  “I taught myself how to play  saxophone, trombone and bass. I took piano lessons. I’m learning drums. I’m trying to learn all the other instruments to know how my friends approach playing their music. That’s important. You can’t be selfish in this music.”

Similarly, Marques approaches his own solos in an unselfish, environmentally aware fashion. 

“I’m listening to everybody [on my solos],” Marques said. “I’m listening to how the drums might complement the piano player; I’m listing to the bass player is playing in between everybody.

“When I’m listening to the solos [of others], I’m listening for ideas that might inspire me to go off,” he said.

Corey Wilkes: Trumpet

Marques loves his music and he loves his teaching.  “Why teach? Because that’s what life is ALL about,” Marques wrote on his Facebook page recently. “It’s about gaining knowledge and passing it in to the next generation. I really do love teaching as much as playing. They feed my spirit, my creativity and my mind. These young men help me also be a better man, role model and even father.

Isaiah Spencer: Drums

“Music has been a way for me to learn about myself,” he said. “It taught me discipline, it taught me how to give back, it taught me how to deal with my feelings and my emotions and my thoughts. It’s taught me to be serious about matters that matter to me the most.”

It’s not every day that I meet a musician as thoughtful and committed to giving back as Marques Carroll. He’s making a difference. 

Christian Dillingham: Bass


  • Marques Carroll: Trumpet
  • Victor Garcia: Trumpet
  • Corey Wilkes: Trumpet
  • Amr Fahmy: Piano
  • Christian Dillingham: Bass
  • Isaiah Spencer: Drums

Learn more about Marques Carroll:

Buy Marques’ music:



Andy’s Jazz Club

11 E Hubbard St, Chicago, IL 60611

Andy’s is a fantastic jazz venue AND restaurant.  The music is exquisite as is the food.  The menu is creative and eclectic. I highly recommend the Smoked BBQ Ribs, the Crab Cake Duo, the Cajun Shrimp Risotto, and the Caribbean Grilled Salmon. 

And if you’re a desert person, the Creme Brûlée and the Fudge Addiction are awesome. 

The staff, from the guy at the front door to the hostess and the waiters are warmly friendly and will happily talk with you about the musicians they’ve seen (how lucky they are to work at a place like Andy’s!). 

I’m a beer drinker, so I can’t speak to the wines and cocktails (they LOOK great), but I can heartily endorse their beer selection, especially the SnagglePuss and Goose island IPAs, and the Guinness on tap. 

Of course, the music is amazing and extremely robust, and whoever picks the artists is fantastic. 


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