Jazz musician shares story, tips with students



JASPER — You might not know his name. But chances are, you’ve heard his work.

Sitting in his Los Angeles home on Friday, internationally renowned studio musician Wayne Bergeron beamed his smiling face into a Zoom lobby filled with local students and shared with them his accolade-filled journey — while dishing out advice to those who aspire to live a life like his.

The California man has contributed his musical talents to an extensive list of projects during his decorated career. From jamming on feature film scores for movies like “Incredibles 2” and “La La Land,” to playing on albums with legends like Ray Charles and Paul Anka, he credits his mentors with helping him reach the heights he has in his decadeslong career.

Kathy Eckerle, a Jasper Middle School English language arts teacher, organized Thursday’s virtual event. She explained in a phone interview that it was aimed at multiple audiences, and she hoped Bergeron’s guest lecture would inspire her students, while also giving local band kids and other invitees a chance to learn from one of the greats.

At one point in the discussion, nearly 60 attendees had popped in to listen and ask questions.

“Mainly, I’d hoped to inspire some young people,” Bergeron said in a follow-up phone call. “First, the goal is to educate and inspire.”

His résumé is packed with high notes. He first caught the ear of many listeners when he landed the lead trumpet chair in jazz great Maynard Ferguson’s band in 1986.

“As a sideman, Bergeron’s list of recording credits reads like a who’s who in contemporary jazz and pop, running the stylistic gamut from Ray Charles to Green Day,” his website reads.

He has worked on more than 400 TV and motion picture soundtracks, some of which include “The Predator,” “Sing,” “Moana,” “Frozen,” “Toy Story 3,” and many, many more. He’s also stepped out from behind the scenes to record critically acclaimed solo projects.

He isn’t just a big musician. He has played his way to the pinnacle of his field.

“I would consider him the No. 1 lead trumpet player in the world right now,” Patrick Keeley, a Jasper band director, wrote in an email after the virtual event. “When someone in the music industry is looking for a trumpet player, he is going to be their first choice.”

Eckerle explained that she saw the teleconference as an opportunity to bring a spike of lasting inspiration into the attendees’ lives. Whether or not their personal drives are music-related, she hoped that they left the meeting understanding that goals are achievable.

“For my students, I was really just hoping they would feel inspired to follow whatever their passions are,” Eckerle said. Her brother, Jim Birge, is married to Bergeron’s sister, Donna Bergeron.

After the musician gave a brief overview of his career in Friday’s call, students — mostly young trumpet players — asked him about things like improving their playing range and making it big in a highly competitive industry.

He told them to make themselves irreplaceable and encouraged them to live their lives passionately. Bergeron hopes to inspire a new generation of young players, and he is currently a faculty member at California State University, Northridge.

“Nothing makes me feel more accomplished than hearing a young musician say that I inspired them or had a positive influence on their life,” reads a quote on his website. “For me, that’s the real payday.”

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