WesFest 2 Raises $10,000 for Wehmiller Scholarhip

by Peter Gordon and Danny Morris
From the left: Bassist Danny Morris, drummer James Gadson, and keyboardist/bassist Will Snyder jam at WesFest 2 in Hollywood.
From the left: Bassist Danny Morris, drummer James Gadson, and keyboardist/bassist Will Snyder jam at WesFest 2 in Hollywood.

The energy, spirit, and music that defined the inaugural WesFest concert in 2006 were again evident in full force at WesFest 2, held on March 6 at the Gig club in Hollywood. The WesFest concerts are the centerpiece of a continuing fundraising drive for the Wes Wehmiller Scholarship fund, which honors the legacy of Berklee graduate Wes Wehmiller ’92, an accomplished bassist who played with the multiplatinum-selling band Duran Duran and others. Wehmiller died of thyroid cancer in January 2005. This year’s event added $10,000 to the Berklee scholarship fund in Wehmiller’s name.

Headlining this year’s show were renowned bass virtuoso Stu Hamm ’80, along with the 2006 recipient of the Wes Wehmiller Scholarship, bassist/keyboardist Will Snyder. Hamm presented a technically dazzling and entertaining solo set. Next, Snyder played with Danny Mo and the Exciters, a group led by Wehmiller’s Berklee bass professor and close friend Danny Morris. Keeping the beat was legendary r&b drummer James Gadson, who played with Bill Withers and Charles Wright & the Watts 103rd Street Rhythm Band. Singers and former Berklee instructors Jude Crossen and Kira Small belted out lead vocals during the band’s set of classic r&b.

Spanning six hours, the concert featured lots of great music. In addition to Hamm’s set and Morris and company, alumni performers included Bryan Beller, Griff Peters, Colin Keenan, Joe Travers, Tristana Ward, Eve Buigues, Andrea Bensmiller, Roger King, Jr., Dorian Heartsong, and Dawn Bishop.

“It was a pure, unadulterated celebration,” says WesFest 2 producer Bryan Beller. “There’s a reason to celebrate when you can see and hear the results of everyone’s generosity right in front of you and groove to it at the same time.”

Established by the Wehmiller family and friends of Wes in 2005, the Wes Wehmiller Scholarship is awarded annually to a continuing student at Berklee. This year’s scholarship recipient is Berklee bass student Claire Finley, who performed at Danny Mo’s Jam in Boston on March 14.

Bass Department Chair Rich Appleman and Bass Professor Danny Morris select the scholarship recipients. The qualifications for the award are musicianship, spirit, visibility on the Berklee campus as a performer, and the potential to carry on the tradition of Wes Wehmiller, who Morris says had the ability to light up a song through his bass parts.

“The Wes Wehmiller scholarship is the only Berklee scholarship that requires the recipient perform twice, in both Boston and Los Angeles,” says Danny Morris. “Wes loved performing, and these recipients honor him by doing this.”

The 2006 WesFest concert is available on DVD, with net proceeds going to the fund. For information on Wes Wehmiller, the WesFest concert, and the WesFest DVD, visit www.weswehmiller.net.

—Peter Gordon and Danny Morris