Making Music for Herb Pomeroy

By 
Allen Bush
March 7, 2008
Herb Pomeroy
Herb Pomeroy
Photo provided by Bob Kramer
Photo provided by Ken Pullig

On Tuesday, April 1, 2008, Berklee College of Music will present a historic musical event, as colleagues and former students converge to honor the memory of beloved trumpeter and educator Herb Pomeroy, who passed away in August, and whose four decades teaching at Berklee helped the college earn its worldwide reputation as the premier institution for the study of contemporary music. Proceeds from the concert will benefit the Herb Pomeroy Scholarship Fund.

The Herb Pomeroy Tribute Concert begins at 8:15 p.m. at the wheelchair-accessible Berklee Performance Center, 136 Massachusetts Avenue, Boston. Tickets are $10 ($5 for seniors) and can be purchased at the BPC box office. Call 617 747-2261 or visit berkleebpc.com for more ticket information. The Herb Pomeroy Scholarship Fund awards a scholarship each year to two or three outstanding students in Berklee's Jazz Composition Department. Those wishing to make a contribution may send checks (made out to Berklee College of Music) to: Herb Pomeroy Scholarship Fund (Attention: David McKay), Berklee College of Music, 1140 Boylston Street, Boston, MA 02215.

The concert will feature Greg Hopkins and the Berklee Concert Jazz Orchestra performing large ensemble arrangements-many written especially for this concert-by some of Pomeroy's former students who have gone on to become celebrated figures in the music industry. The concert will include compositions and arrangements by Berklee alumni Toshiko Akiyoshi '59, Alan Broadbent '69, Michael Gibbs '63, the late Gordon Brisker '58, Laura Andel '96, and Jackson Stock '71, who will also conduct his composition, as well as Berklee professor Phil Wilson and former faculty Ted Pease '66, Bob Freedman, and the late John LaPorta.

Three renowned guest artists, all Berklee alumni who were members of Pomeroy's student band, will also be featured: saxophonist Joe Lovano '72, pianist Hal Galper '57, and trumpeter Jack Walrath '68. Also performing that evening will be some of the musicians who played with Herb Pomeroy throughout his career as one of the most important figures on New England's jazz scene, including pianist Paul Schmeling, trombonist Phil Wilson, saxophonist Mark Pinto, drummer Fred Buda, bassist John Repucci, and drummer Artie Cabral.

The concert has been organized by Ken Pullig, chair of Berklee's Jazz Composition Department. Says Pullig, "Those of us who had the privilege of studying and working with Herb will always remember his inspirational teaching, the beauty of his playing, his sense of humor, and the warmth of his friendship. By performing music written by those directly inspired by him, we hope to celebrate his artistic legacy. With Herb it was always about the music, and this concert promises to be a most wonderful evening of music and great memories."

Herb Pomeroy, who was 77 when he passed away last August after a struggle with cancer, was, as his idol Duke Ellington once said, "beyond category." A revered member of Berklee's faculty for 40 years, Pomeroy, with Berklee colleagues John LaPorta and Joe Viola, virtually invented formalized jazz education. He was also a versatile trumpeter who made numerous albums as a bandleader and dozens of recordings as coleader and sideman, including sessions with Charlie Parker and Charlie Mariano. Pomeroy took up the trumpet after seeing Louis Armstrong on film. During his freshman year at Harvard, he spent nights sitting in at Boston's jazz clubs before transferring to Schillinger House (now Berklee) for five semesters. Between 1953 and 1955, he spent months on the road with the big bands of Lionel Hampton and Stan Kenton and the Serge Chaloff Sextet. Joining the Berklee faculty full time in 1955, Pomeroy developed classes in line writing, arranging, and Ellingtonian orchestration, earning the reputation as one of jazz music's greatest teachers as he nurtured such future luminaries as the late producer Arif Mardin '61, Simpsons composer Alf Clausen '66, composers and arrangers Alan Broadbent '69 and Rob Mounsey '75, vibraphonist Gary Burton '62, late keyboardist Joe Zawinul '59, bassist Abe Laboriel '72, and film composers Mike Gibbs '63 and Alan Silvestri '70, to name only a few. A public memorial service celebrating Herb Pomeroy's life and music held last September at Emmanuel Church in Boston drew musicians from around the world.

For a detailed biography of Herb Pomeroy, please visit Berklee Today.