Getting to know Hermon Mehari

Hermon Mehari is a 27-year-old jazz trumpet player and a graduate of UMKC’s Conservatory of Music and Dance. Mehari won the 2008 National Trumpet Competition, and was awarded 2nd in the International Trumpet Guild competition in Australia. Mehari is also a part of the jazz group Diverse, which won the 2008 Gene Harris Jazz Competition in Ohio.

How did you get your start as a trumpet player?

I started on the trumpet when I was in seventh grade because it was the one that came easiest to me, and I felt like I could pursue and work on it.

What moment made you want to pursue music more?

When I picked up the trumpet, I took an improvisation class over the summer at my middle school. I thought it was really cool that I could make music in the moment. I could make my own music that was me. That’s really what drove me to work harder at the trumpet, and just be a better musician. It was just this idea of loving the fact that I could improvise and make music.

When did you first fall in love with jazz music?

I went to the store, and was going to check out some jazz. I had heard of the name Miles Davis, so I went up to the Miles Davis section and picked out a CD called “Kind of Blue” on accident. That’s the biggest selling jazz CDs of all time, and one of the most important jazz CDs of all time. And I listened to it and was in love with it.


Why did you choose to study music at UMKC?

I was looking at: Eastman School of Music, Berkley, and UMKC. I received a pretty good offer to Eastman and a full ride to Berkley. But the thing that got me to UMKC in addition to the scholarship was the head of the jazz department named Bobby Watson, who is an internationally renowned jazz musician. I’m listening to this dude on my CD player. And he called me and said “Hey I want you to come here,” and I said alright.

What is your relationship with Bobby Watson like?

Bobby has become this like father-figure, friend-figure, teacher-figure, and bandmate. He is someone I can call up any time and say, “Hey, let’s laugh, let’s joke,” or, “What’s going on, how are you?” He’ll come by gigs and sit in with me. He’ll hire me for gigs. He put me on his last record. It’s just been a great experience.

What do you like best about Kansas City?

I like the community here. For instance, even in the music community it’s less cliquey. Like New York is super cliquey, and I have a feeling that’s with all the communities in New York not just the music community. It’s KC’s sense of community that I really like.

How does money factor in being a full time musician?

For me it starts with the love of the music. Bobby puts it well by saying, “Take of the music and the music will take care of you.” If you’re talking through a business stand point, the music is your product. How well I can play the trumpet, or how well I can compose – that is my product. And I want to make the best product possible, so I have to evaluate it. Is my product doing well? Can I make this product better? It’s not that mathematical, but it’s that idea. For me, I just want to be a better musician all the time.

Have you ever had to support your music with another job?

I’ve never had a day job. I’ve been able to support myself with music, and I don’t take that for granted.

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