Headlining WesFest 2 was virtuoso bassist and early Wehmiller influence Stu Hamm, whose technically amazing and personally entertaining set embodied the tone of excellence and warmth for the evening. Co-headlining the event was a band featuring the first recipient of the Wes Wehmiller Scholarship, Berklee student bassist/keyboardist Will Snyder. His outstanding musicianship was on display as he performed with Danny Mo’ and The Exciters, a group led by Wehmiller’s Berklee Bass Professor and close friend Danny Morris, and featuring legendary R&B drummer James Gadson (Bill Withers, Marvin Gaye) on drums. Singers (and former Berklee instructors) Jude Crossen and Kira Small belted out lead vocals for an exciting set of classic R&B, which proved to be an effective contrast to the virtuoso solo set by Stu Hamm. It also served to establish the tradition of Wehmiller scholarship winners playing at the following year’s WesFest event.
Five other acts, all touched by the life and musicality of Wes Wehmiller, performed to round out the six-hour concert. Performers included Janet Robin, Jariya, The Dirty Janks, Jude Crossen, and The WesFest All Stars, a rotating-frontman band consisting of many performers from last year’s show, including original WesFest headliner Mike Keneally.
“It was a pure, unadulterated celebration,” says WesFest 2 producer Bryan Beller. “And 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. Checking out Will Snyder play classic, legit R&B with members of Wes’ Los Angeles musician community brought everyone together in a really organic way. And watching Stu Hamm was just amazing, ridiculous. You get a sense of how broad Wes’ musical world was when you consider all the different influences he drew on. And we’re just trying to carry that spirit on and give something back all at once.”
Established by Wes’ 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 Wes showed as a bassist and as a human being. The WesFest concert series serves as the centerpiece for a continuing fundraising drive for the scholarship fund, which honors the legacy of Wehmiller, a Berklee graduate (‘92) and highly accomplished bassist, athlete, and photographer who died of thyroid cancer in January, 2005.
The original WesFest concert is available on DVD, with net proceeds also going to benefit the fund. For additional biographical information on Wes Wehmiller, WesFest and the WesFest DVD, please visit the official Tribute To Wes Wehmiller Website at www.weswehmiller.net. Pictures of WesFest 2 are available by visiting the site’s front page, clicking “events” and then clicking “WesFest 2”.
For more information on the scholarship, or to find out how to contribute to the fund, please contact Peter Gordon, Director of the Berklee Center in Los Angeles, at (818) 380-3041, or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.