WesFest Success Continues

May 1, 2017

Danny Mo’ and the Exciters played an r&b set at the March 12 WesFest Concert at the Baked Potato nightclub in Studio City, CA. From the left: vocalist Kira Small, drummer John “JR” Robinson, and bassist Danny Morris.

Ron Lyon

The memory of Wes Wehmiller ’92 was celebrated in joyous fashion in the annual WesFest concert at the Baked Potato in Studio City, CA, on March 12, 2017. “Wes’s spirit and enthusiasm, his wisdom and compassion, his humor and love of life were fully present and felt in the music,” said Wes’s mother, Paula. And that was bread for the world’s soul.”

During the past 12 years, WesFest has become an extended annual fundraising campaign to support the Wes Wehmiller Endowed Scholarship Fund at Berklee. It’s an impressive example of sustained grassroots fundraising. The value of this scholarship fund now stands at slightly more than $400,000.

The Wes Wehmiller scholarship is awarded annually to a Berklee bass student who best exemplifies the values that Wes represented. As an endowed scholarship, it will honor Wes’s legacy for decades to come.

An impressive opening set of original tunes was led by 2012 Wes Wehmiller Scholarship recipient Hayley Jane Batt ’12. Inaugural Wehmiller Scholarship recipient Will Snyder ’08 was on keyboards, and Eric Jackowitz ’11 and Jonathan Sosin ’08 played drums and guitar respectively.

Danny Mo’ and the Exciters followed a with a powerful r&b set that paid tribute to some major artists that we lost recently: Leon Russell, Prince, and Al Jarreau. This year’s all-star band included alumni Danny Morris ’78, John “JR” Robinson ’75, Kira Small ’93, Marty Walsh, Fred Kron, Krysta Youngs ’05, Ali Handal, and Jennifer Criss Williams. The latest recipient of the scholarship, Jonathan Elyashiv ’18, was featured on bass.

From the left: Paula Wehmiller, Jonathan Elyashiv, and John Wehmiller

Ron Lyon

This year’s headliner, keyboardist Patrice Rushen, delivered a sparkling set, with Ndugu Leon Chancelor (drums), and Reggie Hamilton (bass). They closed the evening jamming on Wayne Shorter’s tune “Footprints” with scholarship recipient Jonathan Elyashiv sitting in on bass.

WesFest cofounder Bryan Beller ’92, who returned to MC this year’s concert, said, “It was really beautiful seeing WesFest bring together a continually growing family of amazing musicians, all in the service of raising money for this great cause. Seeing previous scholarship winners Will Snyder and Hayley Jane Batt open the show set the perfect tone. Hearing Jonathan Elyashiv bring his deep groove and gentle soul to the famous Baked Potato stage was sublime.”

In the words of Danny Morris, Wehmiller’s former teacher, “Wesfest is a special capstone experience for the scholarship recipient each year. It’s an opportunity for friends and extended family to witness the fruit of our work as musicians and teachers and to showcase the recipient performing with some of the best and vibrant soulful musicians I know.

“Something special about this event makes us all perform with magic, knowing that Wes is [somewhere] listening, along with his parents John and Paula Wehmiller in attendance, as we welcome yet another young bassist into the extended family of Wes Wehmiller Scholarship recipients.”

For more on Wes Wehmiller and the scholarship, visit weswehmiller.net.

This article appeared in our alumni magazine, Berklee Today Summer 2017. Learn more about Berklee Today.
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