Wesfest 6 Raises $20,000 for Wes Wehmiller Scholarship Fund

Peter Gordon
April 15, 2011
Danny Morris, Paula Wehmiller, Pino Palladino, Joshua Tyson, and Justin Schornstein
Joshua Tyson
Simon Phillips and Pino Palladino
Photo by John Wehmiller
Photo by John Wehmiller
Photo by Paul Rose

For the third consecutive year, WesFest 6, the sixth annual WesFest benefit concert, raised more than $20,000 for the Wes Wehmiller Endowed Scholarship Fund at Berklee College of Music. The total amount generated by WesFest since its inception in 2006 has now exceeded $90,000, and is projected to top $100,000 in 2012.

Officially supported this year by corporate sponsors Mike Lull Custom Basses and D'Addario, the WesFest concert series serves as the centerpiece for a continuing fundraising drive for the scholarship fund, which honors the legacy of Wes Wehmiller '92, a Berklee graduate and highly accomplished bassist, athlete, and photographer who died of thyroid cancer in January 2005. Established by Wehmiller's family and friends in 2005, the Wes Wehmiller Scholarship is awarded annually to a continuing student at Berklee who best exemplifies the excellence and grace Wehmiller showed as a bassist and as a human being.

The WesFest 6 concert at the Roxy in Los Angeles was headlined by fusion supergroup PSP, composed of drummer Simon Phillips, keyboardist Philippe Saisse, and bassist Pino Palladino. The show marked PSP's live Southern California debut. It also brought a special energy to the event, as Palladino was often cited by Wehmiller himself as his most important musical influence. "For those of us who really knew Wes and loved his extremely fluid, soulful playing style," remarked WesFest coproducer Bryan Beller, "it was like going straight to the energy source. We all stood in awe watching Pino do his thing, and the whole WesFest community got a much deeper appreciation for why Wes's playing was so special." Peter Gordon, director of the Berklee Center in Los Angeles, agreed: "With economic challenges all around us, it's truly impressive that WesFest continues to succeed each year. Having Pino onstage to close the concert was especially poignant and left a very real sense that Wes was 'in the house.'"

In a long-standing WesFest concert tradition, the 2010 Wehmiller Scholarship winner performed at WesFest 6. Bassist Joshua Tyson of East Orange, New Jersey brought a deep sense of groove to the show, anchoring a band of mostly Berklee graduates led by Wehmiller's Berklee bass professor and close friend Danny Morris. Morris is instrumental in selecting the scholarship winner and leads a separate annual concert event in Boston to increase awareness of the scholarship among the Berklee student body. "One of the great pleasures in preparing for WesFest each year is the rehearsal the day prior," says Morris. "It's there that I truly witness the musicianship and personality of the scholarship recipient. Joshua Tyson understands ebb and flow, how to take the listener on a musical journey, and his set-ending solo gave the audience a taste of his groove, originality, soul, and rhythmic beauty."

Other performers at WesFest 6 included many musicians who knew and worked with Wehmiller during his 12 years in Los Angeles: the Rick Musallam Group (a debut performance by one of Wehmiller's close friends), Gryphon Labs (led by Zappa Plays Zappa bassist Pete Griffin), and WesFest veterans Tamara Silvera, Ali Handal, and Colin Keenan. WesFest coproducer Stacey Ferguson affirmed the event's impact. "As we continue to honor Wes through this scholarship, seeing the family of recipients grow and find success makes it undeniable that this is making a big difference in these students' lives. We're extremely grateful for the support we've received through the years from the performers, donors, and attendees of WesFest."

All WesFest-related merchandise—which includes two concert DVDs, the I, Claudius CD Bleed: The Wes Demos and Wicked: Music From The WesFest Community—are available for purchase, with net proceeds also going to benefit the fund. For additional biographical information on Wes Wehmiller, WesFest, and all related merchandise, visit the official Tribute to Wes Wehmiller website.