A style of turning ideas into t-shirts
Shamarr Allen is known for turning his ideas into t-shirts.
“I don’t really collect t-shirts with slogans, I collect ideas,” he says as he sits on the porch of his home in the Upper Ninth Ward Musicians’ Village. “Once a light goes off in my head with a new slogan, I like to capture that feeling and make it a reality by creating a t-shirt.”
Shamarr quickly provides his own words to tell who he is.
“First, I am just a trumpeter from ‘True Orleans,’ doing what a ‘True Orleanian’ does. I am a musician, entertainer, producer and teacher who is working hard doing my part to make New Orleans a better place through music.
“My style is being myself, and jeans and a ‘tee’ are fine with me.”
Some of his favorite t-shirts include, “The Trumpet is My Weapon,” “Music is My Political Party,” “True Orleans,” and “I’m Next to Satchmo.”
A native New Orleanian, Shamarr graduated from what is now known as New Orleans Charter Math and Science High School, and then attended Xavier University.
“I didn't finish college,” he says. “I had several music and baseball scholarships but chose to stay in town and go to Xavier because I was in Rebirth Brass Band at the time. I was making more money as a musician already than I would as a teacher. It was a hard decision because my parents always preached finish school but when they supported my career it was time to take a chance.”
Today one of Shamarr’s most noteworthy projects is teaching a free music class every Tuesday to anyone wanting to learn.
“My work is just a reflection of who I am as a person. I want to see as many people as I can winning and if I have tools to help someone do that, why not help? Plus the kids think I'm cool so they look up to me and listen to what I have to say right now. My work is fun and it just happens to get me paid. I teach for the fun of it.”
Shamarr says his current passion is the work he does through his foundation. “When I went to the Congo this past summer as a U.S. State Department appointed cultural ambassador I really fell in love with the spirit of the people. There was an orphanage in need of the basic necessities, such as food, water and clothing, so I
organized a collection of funds, with the help of my band (Underdawgs), to buy them food for the month. We realized they needed major help so we started a Go Fund, and with the help of friends and fans in New Orleans, we are able to make sure they eat every month.
Feels good to know you're potentially giving someone a better chance to make a change by changing yourself.”
What does Shamarr love about New Orleans? “I love almost everything, except when people that have never lived here try to tell us how to live. I don't like the experimentation that's happening in the city with the school system. Our children are our future and they are not lab rats to experiment with.”
He says he loves living in the Musicians’ Village.
“I am proud to be here. It’s a magical place for a musician. It’s awesome because if I record, I can call a friend and ask them to come play on some stuff at the house. That friend would also be a neighbor so they walk right over and we do it. It's great living around musicians. There is always music around. Always! It isn’t unusual for someone to be practicing at 4 in the morning.”