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WesFest 5 – 2010

The WesFest 5 benefit concert event was held on February 28, 2010, and raised over $20,000 for the Wes Wehmiller Scholarship at Berklee College Of Music. The headliner for the show was bassist Tal Wilkenfeld and her band of Oz Noy on guitar, John Beasley on keys, and Vinnie Colaiuta on drums. Below you’ll find details about the event, as they were published at the time of its promotion.



Annual event and related fundraising drive activities achieve most aggressive fundraising goal to date

BOSTON (March 30, 2010) — WesFest 5, the fifth annual WesFest benefit concert, was held at The Roxy in Los Angeles on February 28, 2010. The concert both surpassed its previous attendance record and met its most aggressive fundraising goal to date – $20,000 – for the Wes Wehmiller Endowed Scholarship Fund at Berklee College of Music. This is the second consecutive year that the WesFest fundraising drive has raised over $20,000, and the total amount generated by the WesFest concert series and related fundraising drives since its inception in 2006 has now exceeded $70,000.

In addition to concert ticket sales, private donations, and WesFest-related merchandise revenues, WesFest 5 was also officially supported by corporate sponsors Fender Musical Instruments Corporation, Mike Lull Custom Basses, D’Addario & Co, DW Drums, Lurssen Mastering, and EBS Bass Systems (distributed in the USA by Musical Distributors Group). The monies and awareness raised by the WesFest concert series have established the Wes Wehmiller Scholarship as one of the most noted awards given by Berklee College Of Music.

The WesFest 5 concert was headlined by The Tal Wilkenfeld Band. Led by young phenom Wilkenfeld (who just finished up a 3-year stint as Jeff Beck’s bassist), the group included jazz/fusion superstars Oz Noy on guitar, John Beasley on keyboards, and Vinnie Colaiuta on drums, comprising the highest profile headliner in the event’s history and resulting in a whole new level of awareness for both the WesFest concert series and the Wehmiller Scholarship. Keeping with WesFest concert tradition, the current year’s scholarship winner performed a set at the show, and 2009’s recipient Justin Schornstein wowed the crowd of over 300 with his deep, gospel-influenced grooves and advanced musical maturity in a set with Danny Mo & The Exciters, a band 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 further awareness of the scholarship among the Berklee student body.

“This year at the Roxy, Justin Schornstein not only played some righteous bass,” says Morris, “he helped me arrange an energetic set for the Exciters that raised the roof with some high-octane soul and spirited gospel. Performing to a sea of folks movin’ and groovin’ was the highlight of our trip. Every performer on that stage all evening gave it their all, and the night was special beyond expectations.”

Three other acts, all a part of Wes Wehmiller’s broad and diverse musical world, performed at WesFest 5: Brooklyn-based bassist/singer/songwriter John Montagna, a friend of Wes’ from their college days at Berklee; singer/songwriter Joe Brooks, who worked with Wehmiller in Los Angeles; and The WesFest All-Stars, a collection of Wehmiller’s friends and musical compatriots, featuring performances by Tamara Silvera, Kira Small, Ali Handal, I, Claudius, and original WesFest headliner Mike Keneally.

“Each year, the WesFest community grows as more people hear about Wes and this great annual celebration,” says Peter Gordon, the Director of the Berklee Center in Los Angeles. “It’s such a gratifying experience to be part of and it’s exciting to see the momentum keep building!” WesFest co-producer Stacey Ferguson adds, “The love for Wes, coupled with a belief in the importance of music education, makes this event increasingly successful every year, and the phenomenal lineup provided a mind-blowing soundtrack to the true spirit of the event. We look forward to helping more and more students continue their education and develop their gifts at Berklee.”

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.

All WesFest related merchandise – which includes two concert DVD’s, the I, Claudius CD Bleed: The Wes Demos, and the newest CD Wicked: Music From The WesFest Community – are available for purchase at, with net proceeds also going to benefit the fund. For additional biographical information on Wes Wehmiller, WesFest, and all related merchandise, please visit the official Tribute To Wes Wehmiller Website at 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

Berklee College of Music was founded on the revolutionary principle that the best way to prepare students for careers in music was through the study and practice of contemporary music. For over 60 years, the college has evolved constantly to reflect the state of the art of music and the music business. With over a dozen performance and nonperformance majors, a diverse and talented student body representing over 70 countries, and a music industry “who’s who” of alumni, Berklee is the world’s premier learning lab for the music of today – and tomorrow.



WesFest 5
A Concert to Benefit the Wes Wehmiller Scholarship at
Berklee College Of Music

Featuring Tal Wilkenfeld

Also performing:
Joe Brooks
John Montagna
Danny Mo and the Exciters
* featuring 2009 Wes Wehmiller Scholarship Award Winner Justin Schornstein

and The WesFest All-Stars
* featuring music by Mike Keneally, Tamara Silvera, Kira Small, Ali Handal, and I, Claudius.


Sunday, February 28, 2010
The Roxy
9009 West Sunset Blvd.,
West Hollywood, CA 90069


Tal Wilkenfeld

Jeff Beck, not one given to effusive praise, said this about his then-21-year-old wunderkind bassist Tal Wilkenfeld: “How does one describe an astonishing talent? The answer is, you don’t. You listen, and watch, as 45,000 people did in Chicago at the Crossroads Festival 2007. To see all those blues fanatics and guitar freaks go berzerk halfway through her solo left me emotional. The word proud is barely adequate.”

A native of Sydney, Australia, Tal Wilkenfeld moved to Los Angeles to pursue music professionally while still in her teens. Her prodigious talent was quickly recognized in an endorsement by famed luthier Roger Sadowsky. High profile sideman gigs spanning several genres soon followed, with seasoned pros like Russell Ferrante, Kenwood Dennard, Hiram Bullock, Jeff “Tain” Watts, Leni Stern, Susan Tedeschi, and the Allman Brothers Band. Her 2006 debut solo album Transformation, which she composed, arranged, and produced, garnered this from Bass Player Magazine: “Wilkenfeld displays a writing depth and musical presence to complement the buzz about her dynamic-yet-discerning bass approach. Tal has a natural gift for writing in odd meters while retaining an indelible sense of melody and groove. Make no mistake, this lass is poised to soar.”

At just 21, she accompanied jazz giant Chick Corea on his tour of Australia. A month later, she became Jeff Beck’s bassist (forming a rhythm section with uber-drummer Vinnie Colauita), and the now-famous Crossroads Festival gig took place. Since then she’s played with Eric Clapton, Joss Stone, Herbie Hancock, Wayne Shorter, Corinne Bailey Rae, Wayne Krantz, John Beasley, Robben Ford…and the list goes on. Most recently she was seen with Jeff Beck on the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame 25th Anniversary HBO television special.

Rarely has a star risen so quickly for any musician, let alone a bassist, but Tal Wilkenfeld is a very rare talent.

Danny Mo & The Exciters (featuring 2009 Wes Wehmiller Scholarship Award Winner Justin Schornstein)

Since becoming the 4th recipient of the Wes Wehmiller memorial scholarship, New Jersey’s Justin Schornstein has maintained a busy schedule as a student and performer. He’s already graced the stage as bassist for Lalah Hathaway and Paula Cole, and was handpicked to work with producer Don Was during his residency in Berklee’s Music Production and Engineering department. L.A. studio guitarist and Berklee professor Marty Walsh says, “Justin and Don Was hit it off beautifully, and the groove on the tracks are proof positive!”

Justin has studied in the last year with saxophonists Greg Osby and Joe Lovano, trombonist Hal Crook, and master bass teacher Lincoln Goines. He continues to participate in the renowned Gerald Veasley Bass Boot Camps in Philadelphia. He’s also been composing original music, writing orchestral scores, and producing and arranging tracks for Berklee artists. His bass playing and arrangements have appeared on Aryn Michelle’s new album Lockless Heart, and Maddy Zani’s Lifeline EP. He’ll be performing with Berklee Bass Professor Danny Morris and his band The Exciters, featuring guitarist Kristian H., vocalists Theresa Flaminio and Melinda, saxophonist Scott Gillman, and Zappa Plays Zappa band drummer Joe Travers.

Joe Brooks

Based in Los Angeles, singer/songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Joe Brooks blends alternative, pop and rock into one mainstream sound. After radio airplay and success in Canada (including a Juno Award), he moved to Hollywood in 1999 and began collaborating with pop singer Tiffany, co-writing ten tracks for her The Color of Silence album (“one of the year’s best pop records” – Billboard). His songs have been used on many TV shows, including Ugly Betty, Ghost Whisperer, Brothers & Sisters, Desperate Housewives, and One Tree Hill. Most recently, his songs “Strange” and “Lift You Up” were featured on the MTV hit The Hills.

Music Connection Magazine described Joe as an “exceptional talent” and rated his original EP one of 2006’s top 25. In 2008, playing every instrument except drums, Brooks emerged with his latest collection of original material entitled Time Machine.

John Montagna

John’s captivating stage presence and natural gift for bold, melodic bass lines have made him one of New York City’s most sought-after bassists and vocalists. Early on, he studied with bass guitar virtuoso Anthony Jackson and attended Berklee College of Music. He’s since performed and recorded with dozens of Big Apple-based artists such as Francis Dunnery, Amel Larrieux, Chris Orbach, and The Maxes. He’s also toured the world with legendary rockers Alan Parsons, Todd Rundgren, and former Wings guitarist Denny Laine.

John has released four independent solo CDs, showcasing his extraordinary talents as a composer, multi-instrumentalist, arranger and producer. His genre-defying music serves as an ideal context for his fiery bass guitar playing. Onstage, John performs his own music solo, accompanying himself with a 4-string bass guitar.

The WesFest All-Stars

Carrying on the spirit of gathering and celebration of Wes’ life, the WesFest All-Stars are a diverse collection of WesFest veteran performers who were not just friends of Wes, but also played and recorded music with him throughout the years. The acts inside this “community” band are singer songwriter and a vocal/performance coach Tamara Silvera, guitar-driven singer/songwriter Ali Handal, soul/R&B singer/songwriter/keyboardist Kira Small, multi-instrumentalist/composer Mike Keneally, and a reformed version of Wes’ original rock band, the legendary I, Claudius. Musicians include Rick Musallam, Colin Keenan, Griff Peters, Joe Travers, Bryan Beller, and more.


Tamara Silvera

Canadian born singer-songwriter Tamara Silvera’s songs seem deceptively simple – slightly weird pop songs with well placed hooks – but they increase in depth and intensity with repeated listening. Songs from her debut solo album appeared in Buffy The Vampire Slayer and The Ghost Whisperer.

Her second solo release Departures, produced by Grammy award-winner John Whynot, is a collection of songs that chronicle loss, change and personal evolution. It’s also one of the last known works to include Wes Wehmiller on bass. “It was really hard to go back to work on the songs. It took us months to even put the tracks up and give them a listen. Wes has such a powerful presence…we found ourselves really choked up. We just had to keep chipping away. Eventually we got to the place where we could let it go.”

Silvera has lived in Los Angeles since 1989. She writes and records her songs, performs live solo shows, and is a busy vocal coach.

Kira Small

R&B/soul songstress Kira Small likes to hang with the big boys. Her CD, Love In A Dangerous World [Offrow Records, 2006] and her upcoming 2010 Offrow Records release were produced by Bruce Dees (James Brown, Ronnie Milsap), and both feature numerous Motown and Muscle Shoals R&B veterans.

Also an accomplished pianist, songwriter and arranger, her impressive resume includes a stint on Berklee College of Music’s voice faculty and work with Peter Frampton, Wynonna Judd, Martina McBride, Faith Hill, Gretchen Wilson, Ronnie Milsap, Radney Foster, Alan Jackson, Jimmy Hall and Ray Stevens. Grammy award winning songwriter Mike Reid exclaimed, “Girl – you sound like a neat glass of single malt in a world of Michelob Ultra.”

Kira made Wes play country songs with her at Berklee and he was very nice about it.

Ali Handal

This award-winning singer/songwriter has rocked solo and full band live shows on stages from Los Angeles to Japan. LIVE! Magazine said about Ali: “I don’t mean she’s a good guitarist a la folk singer Jewel, or ‘she’s good for a girl.’ I mean she’s a kick-ass guitarist, electric and acoustic, a la Chrissie Hynde meets Ani Difranco meets Prince.”

Ali’s recorded work reaches even further. Songs from her first two albums have aired on national and international radio, on airplanes (Northwest/KLM), at pop concerts in South Africa (Ali’s song “While You’re Here” was recorded by a South African TV star), as well as in film and TV shows such as Sex in the City, Joan of Arcadia, Dawson’s Creek, and other shows on MTV, VH-1, and more.

Music Connection Magazine said it best: “[Ali Handal is] Earthy, natural, real and loaded with talent…a singer/songwriter with something to say…a gifted artist who brings insight and intelligence to her art.”

Mike Keneally

Long acclaimed as one of the world’s most creative and intense guitar players, Mike Keneally’s talents as a vocalist, songwriter, arranger, producer and multi-instrumentalist are nearly unequalled in rock music. Keneally has released nine albums of his original music since 1992, and has built a body of work of remarkable inventiveness and originality.

Keneally played in Frank Zappa’s last touring band, performing as a vocalist, guitarist and keyboardist. He’s appeared on many Zappa albums, and has also recorded or performed with Robert Fripp, Wayne Kramer, Sting, Kevin Gilbert, Steve Vai, The Loud Family, Henry Kaiser, Michael Manring, Screamin’ Jay Hawkins, Andy Prieboy, Mullmuzzler, The Persuasions and many others.

Known for his innovative, unpredictable live shows, Keneally plays extensively in the United States and Europe. Matt Resnicoff wrote in Time Out New York: “This band, with such a peculiar genius leading it, is a thing to savor.”

He’s currently the touring guitarist with [adult swim] cartoon metal sensation Dethklok, and his most recent release is Scambot: One. Keneally’s music streams 24 hours a day for free on

I, Claudius

Formed by Berklee alums Wes Wehmiller and Colin Keenan in the 90’s, I, Claudius’s ironically-tinged, heavy-toned sound combined pathos and humor, attitude and insecurity to create “the band no one cared about…especially the band itself.” Fans of their boulder-heavy riffing and live performances begged to differ.

Now, more than a decade after the band’s inception, their original demos – many constructed by Wes Wehmiller himself – have been built upon with additional tracking from guitarist Griff Peters and singer Colin Keenan to finally create a full-length I, Claudius CD. The proceeds of the Claudius CD go to benefit the Wehmiller Scholarship Fund. Their live performance lineup includes founding members Keenan and Peters, along with Bryan Beller on bass and Joe Travers on drums.



Justin Schornstein Named 2009 Wehmiller Scholarship Winner

Thursday, August 6th, 2009

Welcome Justin Schornstein, 2009 recipient of the Wes Wehmiller Scholarship! I was introduced to Justin’s musicianship thru an essay he composed for my Survey of Bass Styles class. After being thoroughly intrigued by his thoughts on music, I invited Justin to play bass with me on Ellington’s “Come Sunday”. Justin immediately reminded me of all the precious qualities that Wes had on the instrument, music as conversation, sharing expressive thoughts thru sound.

Wes and I would listen and study music for countless hours at my house in Cambridge around the time he was a Berklee student. We used to listen to Aretha and marvel at her rhythm piano playing supported by the brevity and genius of Tommy Cogbill’s bass lines. We would listen to Monk and dissect the changes, the harmonic sophistication of his profound musical syntax.

Justin has the same vibe, as he too is a true listener. As I dug into his residency as a Berklee student, a wealth of appreciation surfaced from many faculty and students who have already been graced with his bass playing contributions. Justin is extremely popular as one of Berklee’s in demand student bassists and is regularly featured around campus at student recitals and high profile Berklee Performance Center showcases.

When preparing for my annual March show in Boston formerly titled “Danny Mo’s Jam”, and this past year renamed by Bass Department Chairman Rich Appleman as “Danny Mo’s Family Reunion” I was impressed with Justin’s skills as an arranger, his leadership while rehearsing, and ultimately performing. Along with his large ensemble, Justin energized the capacity crowd with some of the heaviest Gospel infused grooves I have ever experienced around Berklee. Justin displays tremendous musicianship on both the bass and piano. As the fourth recipient of this distinguished scholarship, I am honored and pleased to welcome Justin into this growing family of talented musicians.

We will be performing together in Los Angles at Wesfest 5 in February 2010. On March 10, 2010 we will be at David Friend Recital Hall in Boston for “Danny Mo’s Family Reunion”. Hope to see many of you there as you are already on the guest list!

Peace and groove,

Danny Mo