OAKLAND -- Famous horn player Mic Gillette of Tower of Power is returning to his Oakland roots, playing a fundraiser at 7 p.m. Friday with Oakland Tech's jazz band.
"I'm just thrilled," he said.
Gillette, who was a founding member of the 1970s funk soul group famous for its horns, regularly hosts clinics and concerts to benefit music in the schools. But it's the first time that Gillette, who was born in Oakland, has done one in his hometown.
It almost didn't happen. But David Byrd, head of Oakland Tech's jazz department, was watching a Tower of Power concert on television in which the current members were praising trumpeter Gillette's work in schools. Byrd was encouraged to reach out to Gillette.
"He was juiced to have an Oakland school call," Byrd said.
Before joining them for the concert, Gillette, who also plays trombone, will work with students in a master class, sharing tips and tricks about tone and breath that only a pro musician can know.
"You're actually being shown how it's done," he said.
And because Gillette knows that many students have never heard of Tower of Power, which was founded in the late 1960s, he tells them about his work on things such as movies and video game soundtracks.
"It makes it more relevant, what I tell them," he said.
Oakland Tech's jazz program has around 50 students and regularly plays across the Bay Area, including at Yoshi's. But like many schools, money is tight.
"We've got to hustle to make money," Byrd said.
Gillette travels around the country for his "Music in the Schools" program, which he said is getting more popular as school budgets are getting smaller. Schools cover Gillette's travel expenses, then ticket and merchandise sales from the concerts go directly back to the schools' music programs. Gillette sends arrangements for the bands, then works with them before the concert to get them ready.
He is a strong supporter of music for children and credits his own father, Ray Gillette, a big band trombonist who encouraged him from an early age. Gillette says this inspiration -- and attitude -- is what he hopes to pass on to kids.
"You 'play' music, you don't 'work' it," he said.
What: Oakland Tech jazz ensembles featuring Mic Gillette, of Tower of Power
When: 7 p.m. Friday
Where: Oakland Tech auditorium, 4351 Broadway, Oakland
Tickets: $10 (cash only)