All That Jazz

Photo credit: Jeremey Theron Kirby.

Hermon Mehari (B.M. ’10), the winner of a  National Trumpet Competition, a semi-finalist in the prestigious Thelonious Monk Competition and winner of the Carmine Caruso International Jazz Trumpet Solo Competition, first picked up the trumpet in sixth grade. Within a year, he had fallen in love with jazz and embarked on the path toward his future career as one of the art form’s brightest global stars.

Though Mehari participates—and wins—many competitions, for him, it’s all about the music.

“Music is a method of expression that allows me to make others feel something,” he says. “This something can be anything—relief, love, happiness, sadness, grief, et cetera. It allows me to communicate with people around the world.”

Mehari enrolled at UMKC thanks to a  conversation with Grammy-nominated UMKC endowed professor Bobby Watson.

“I received a phone call from Bobby Watson saying he wanted me to come to the Conservatory. It’s hard to say no to a legend you admire,” Mehari recalls. “I distinctly remember one of his CDs being next to me when I received the call from him.”

Mehari is the 2017 UMKC Alumni Association Spotlight Award winner and is known as an ambassador for Kansas City jazz around the world.

Locally, he can be found playing gigs with one of his numerous groups, including Diverse, a combo he put together with his best friends before graduating from UMKC. The group won a recording contract in 2008 when they took first place at the Gene Harris Jazz Competition at Boise State University. That recording contract led to the creation of their first album, which made the Top 40 on the Jazz Week Radio Charts.

While Mehari travels the globe playing with all-star musicians like Logan Richardson, Jaleel Shaw and Randy Brecker, he keeps in mind the importance of the community of music and teaching.

“My time at UMKC was synonymous with my time on the Kansas City jazz scene,” he says. “The elders and veterans on the jazz scene were teaching me at the same time that professors were teaching me in the classroom. Also, this music has always been about community, so it’s important to set that precedent.”

Those who nominated Mehari for the alumni honor noted he is known as a mentor in the music community and works with students at UMKC and local high schools.

“It is now my job to pass on this music and inspire future generations. I remember being that age and having musical role models, so I realize how important it is for children to see that.”

Each year, the UMKC Alumni Association recognizes 16 alumni and one family with top honors. UMKC will honor Mehari and other outstanding alumni at the 2017 Alumni Awards Luncheon April 20 at Swinney Recreation Center. The luncheon is one of the university’s largest events and proceeds support student scholarships. Last year’s luncheon attracted more than 500 attendees and garnered more than $120,000 in scholarship funds.

Click here for tickets or sponsorship information for the April 20, 2017 Alumni Awards Luncheon.

Click here for more information on the 2017 Alumni Awards recipients.

Nominations are now open for the Class of 2018 Alumni Awardees. Click here to nominate fellow alumni who are deserving of the campus’ highest recognition for alumni achievement. Nominations close March 5.