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Rashawn Ross to share moment with mother as Rock & Roll Hall of Fame inductee for Dave Matthews Band

Rashawn Ross, a trumpeter from St. Thomas who will be inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in October as a member of Dave Matthews Band, left, poses for a photo with his mother, Beverly Monsanto, and Matthews that was taken in 2021 at the band’s studio in Charlottesville, Virginia.
Source: Beverly Monsanto’s Facebook page
Rashawn Ross, a trumpeter from St. Thomas who will be inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in October as a member of Dave Matthews Band, left, poses for a photo with his mother, Beverly Monsanto, and Matthews that was taken in 2021 at the band’s studio in Charlottesville, Virginia.

ST. CROIX — Rashawn Ross, a trumpeter from St. Thomas whose stellar musical career started at Ulla Muller Elementary School, is looking forward to sharing the moment with his mother at the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame annual induction ceremony as a member of Dave Matthews Band.

Ross and his bandmates from the Grammy Award-winning band founded in 1991 will join other legends of rock ’n’ roll as inductees for music’s highest honor during this year’s ceremony on October 19 at the Rocket Mortgage Fieldhouse in Cleveland.

Ross said his mother, Beverly Monsanto, has been there for him every step of the way throughout his musical journey from the time she helped raise funds at band booster functions when he was a child. He said it will be nice to have her in attendance during his induction ceremony.

“I think out of all of this that’s the most important thing for me, is to have my mom sitting there and be able to witness her son being inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame,” he said by phone from his residence in Las Vegas.

Ross said he thinks his mom is more excited than he is to receive the recognition. He said he is more worried about playing music.

“I just want to be able to share that moment and experience that moment with her,” he said. “That’s the most important part for me. As long as she’s happy, I’m happy.”

Rashawn Ross, a St. Thomian who started playing trumpet in third grade at Ulla Muller Elementary School, will be inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in October as a member of Dave Matthews Band.
Source: Rashawn Ross’ Facebook page
Rashawn Ross, a St. Thomian who started playing trumpet in third grade at Ulla Muller Elementary School, will be inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in October as a member of Dave Matthews Band.

Although Ross’ excitement level might not be as high as his mother’s, he said it is always good to be “acknowledged and celebrated” as a musician.

“We just kind of do our own thing and, you know, let the work speak for itself,” he said about Dave Matthews Band, which won a Grammy Award in 1996 for its song ‘So Much to Say.’ “We’ve never really set out to play music for trophies.”

DMB is a blue-collar kind of band that tours a lot, Ross said, noting the band recently completed a five-week European tour that ended in Lisbon, Portugal.

“Every time we go overseas to Europe, we always try to end in Lisbon, Portugal because, like, that energy that they have is, like, unlike anything we’ve ever played in front of,” he said.

Ross said the band members were in work mode when they got the call about being selected for induction into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. He said they celebrated but pointed out the expression of praise is just as much for the band’s crew of 90 people as it is for the musicians.

“We just love to work, we just love to play music and, you know, if the accolades come, they come,” he said. “It’s great, but we just love to do what we do and that’s tour around the country and around the world and just play music.”

Rashawn Ross, who has toured the world as a member of Dave Matthews Band, left, and his bandmates pose for a photo while on stage during a concert in Lisbon, Portugal.
Source: Rashawn Ross
Rashawn Ross, who has toured the world as a member of Dave Matthews Band, left, and his bandmates pose for a photo while on stage during a concert in Lisbon, Portugal.

Ross has been touring and performing with Dave Matthews Band for the past 18 years since being invited to become a member in 2006 after initially jamming with the band during a sound check before a concert in Pennsylvania in 2003. That was when Ross was living in New York and playing in a couple bands — Soulive and Lettuce.

Ross got a call from Ron Blake, a three-time Grammy Award winner and Emmy Award-winning member of the “Saturday Night Live” house band who grew up on St. Thomas. Blake, a saxophone player who was playing in the band Yerba Buena at the time, asked Ross if he could sit in with the band. Ross’ first gig with Yerba Buena was opening for Dave Matthews Band. Ross recalled warming up in his dressing room when LeRoi Moore, DMB’s founding saxophone player, who died in 2008 following an ATV accident, popped his head in and said, “oh man, you like jazz?”

“We just kind of struck up a friendship from there,” Ross said.

Rashawn Ross, who has been performing with Dave Matthews Band for the past 18 years, left, takes a photo with fellow Virgin Islander Ron Blake, an Emmy Award-winning member of the “Saturday Night Live” house band, on the set of “SNL” in December 2022.
Source: Rashawn Ross
Rashawn Ross, who has been performing with Dave Matthews Band for the past 18 years, left, takes a photo with fellow Virgin Islander Ron Blake, an Emmy Award-winning member of the “Saturday Night Live” house band, on the set of “SNL” in December 2022.

Ross met the rest of DMB and jammed with the band during sound check. He kept in touch with the band members and subsequently played gigs with them at Red Rocks Amphitheatre in Colorado and during the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival before joining as an official member. Ross said he is still trying to grasp the gravity of the whole situation.

“I’m always just about doing work and letting the work speak for itself, so, I mean, being the trumpeter in the Dave Matthews Band is, of course, you know, probably the honor of a lifetime,” he said, adding that he never considered something like that as a career option. “I wanted to just play jazz and figured like, you know, I’d be happy doing that, but this is far more than anything I could have ever imagined for myself, so I’m still kind of in that stage 20 years later.”

Ross, who can be seen wearing different Virgin Islands baseball hats in various photos and videos of him performing, lives in Las Vegas but routinely returns to the Virgin Islands to visit family and friends. He said he makes the trip at least three to four times a year, noting that his mother spends half the year on St. Thomas and half the year with him in Las Vegas.

In addition to visiting family on St. Thomas, Ross said he spends time with his late father’s side of the family on St. Croix. His father, Randy Ross Sr., who died in 2004, had a collection of jazz records and CDs he used to listen to when he was in junior high and high school.

“I do my best to honor him however I can,” Ross said about his father. “My only regret is that he’s not here to see any of this because he passed away before any of this happened. And to know that he was a big part of it, it means a lot to me to honor him in that way.”

Rashawn Ross, a trumpeter from St. Thomas who will be inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in October as a member of Dave Matthews Band, left, poses for a photo with music producer and performer Pharrell Williams, middle, and Matthews.
Source: Rashawn Ross
Rashawn Ross, a trumpeter from St. Thomas who will be inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in October as a member of Dave Matthews Band, left, poses for a photo with music producer and performer Pharrell Williams, middle, and Matthews.

When Ross was listening to his dad’s jazz albums as a young teenager, he was already performing with the St. Thomas soca band Imaginations Brass. He played with Jam Band, the legendary Virgin Islands Carnival Road March champions, when he was in college. It all started when he picked up the trumpet in third grade at Ulla Muller Elementary School under band director Joe Francis. Ross said he selected the instrument because that’s what all the boys were choosing, noting that the trumpet supply was quickly running low.

“I was lucky to be able to pick the trumpet, and I took a really early liking to it, so Ulla Muller was the beginning,” he said.

Ross continued developing his skills at Addelita Cancryn Junior High School under the direction of Juan Harrigan, Arthur Williams, and Louis Taylor. He said Taylor was instrumental in his progression when it came to improvisation.

“He got me on that path really quickly once I got to junior high school to the point where, you know, he would have me come down to his gigs at Gladys’ Cafe to sit in at night on Friday nights and Saturday nights,” Ross said, adding that Harrigan and Williams also contributed to his familiarity with improvising.

Ross started playing in the school band at Charlotte Amalie High School under the direction of Georgia Francis when he was still in junior high school. He continued performing with the CAHS band until his graduation in 1996. He went on to further develop his talent at Berklee College of Music in Boston, graduating in 2000.

Ross said a lot of his old classmates are now school music teachers, including Niels Gooding and Malvern Gumbs, who recently won his 10th Virgin Islands Carnival Road March title with Spectrum Band and had the St. Thomas Village named in his honor. Ross said he donates Bach trumpets that were made for him to local schools when he is finished playing them.

“I always try to give back and do things to, you know, give back to the community that nurtured me,” he said.

Rashawn Ross, a St. Thomas native who plays trumpet for Dave Matthews Band, donates one of his Bach trumpets to officials from his former middle school, Addelita Cancryn Junior High School. (Left to right) Niels Gooding, school band director; Ross; and Lisa Hassell-Forde, school principal.
Source: Rashawn Ross
Rashawn Ross, a St. Thomas native who plays trumpet for Dave Matthews Band, donates one of his Bach trumpets to officials from his former middle school, Addelita Cancryn Junior High School. (Left to right) Niels Gooding, school band director; Ross; and Lisa Hassell-Forde, school principal.

After learning to play trumpet from some of the territory’s best musicians and performing worldwide with Dave Matthews Band during the past 18 years, Ross said he and his bandmates are looking forward to being inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. He said it will be a thrill for him to be inducted along with Kool & the Gang because they were the first band he saw in concert as a child, and he was inspired by their trumpet player.

“I think everybody’s looking forward to it,” Ross said. “It’s a nice accolade, especially in light of the other nominees and the other inductees that we are going to be inducted with.”

Dave Matthews Band and Kool & the Gang are among this year’s inductees in the performer category along with Mary J. Blige, Cher, Foreigner, Peter Frampton, Ozzy Osbourne, and A Tribe Called Quest. The three inductees for the Musical Influence Award are Alexis Korner, John Mayall, and Big Mama Thornton. The four inductees for the Musical Excellence Award are Jimmy Buffett, MC5, Dionne Warwick, and Norman Whitfield. The non-performing industry professional who will receive the Ahmet Ertegun Award is Suzanne de Passe.

The Rock & Roll Hall of Fame induction will stream live October 19 on Disney+ with a special airing on ABC at a later date and be available on Hulu the next day.

Tom Eader is the Chief Reporter for WTJX. Originally from South Bend, Indiana, Eader received his bachelor's degree in journalism from Ball State University, where he wrote for his college newspaper. He moved to St. Croix in 2003, after landing a job as a reporter for the St. Croix Avis. Eader worked at the Avis for 20 years, as both a reporter and photographer, and served as Bureau Chief from 2013 until their closure at the beginning of 2024. Eader is an award-winning journalist, known for his thorough and detailed reporting on multiple topics important to the Virgin Islands community. Joining the WTJX team in January of 2024, Eader brings a wealth of experience and knowledge to the newsroom. Email: teader@wtjx.org | Phone: 340-227-4463
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