Jake Bergevin’s reach is vast, and inspired by the music he hears everywhere, especially in the seaside art community of Edmonds, where he and his colleagues and students can often be found performing live.
The award-winning Music Man — a Northwest native — leads several notable ensembles about town, including his famed Javatown Swing Orchestra and five-time Essentially Ellington finalists and Jazz Alley stars, the big-band-loving students at one of Grammy’s Signature Schools, Edmonds-Woodway High School, where Bergevin presides as their biggest fan and longtime band director.
Perhaps you’ve seen him in action...beaming with pride as his students tickle the ivories and snap the skins at Red Twig Bakery Café on a fine summer day, surrounded by living art? ...entertaining rapt sponsors, donors, and guests, weaving heady tales on trumpet and vocals, at a groundbreaking for the new $16 million Waterfront Center, Music Booster and DeMiero Jazz Fest fundraising galas, and other special occasions?
Edmonds’ very own Music Man, Jake Bergevin, loves the high that comes with playing, and sharing, life’s greatest joys through his very own stylized, heartfelt music, and paying it forward for generations to come.
You’ve performed as a featured artist at 190 Sunset’s Sunday Jazz, Edmonds Public Library’s Music at the Library, and Edmonds Center for the Arts. What other places have you and your band played in Edmonds?
As the Edmonds-Woodway High School band director, I feel like our groups have performed in nearly all the nooks and crannies of our Edmonds community, whether in parades, at sporting events, community celebrations, fundraisers, jazz festivals, including DeMiero Fest, as a teacher and player for Sea Jazz, sponsored by the Port of Edmonds, and more.
As a performer/entertainer with my own group or as a sideman with other ensembles, performances have included the annual Edmonds Arts Festival opening preview show at the Frances Anderson Center for many years, at Edmonds Community College as part of a fundraiser for the DeMiero Festival, at private homes and venues for numerous special events.
Before the pandemic, I enjoyed playing a fun party on the roof-top deck at Re-Juiced Studio, as we celebrated the groundbreaking of the new Waterfront Center. I've played at the old Edmonds Senior Center and am excited for the prospect of being invited to entertain at the new Waterfront Center.
I've always loved the water and when a beautiful waterfront venue hosts great live music with top-notch catering, what can be better?
What is your professional and personal connection to Edmonds?
I have taught music in the Edmonds School District for 26 years. I'm currently the Director of Bands and Department Chairperson at Edmonds-Woodway High School. Some of my closest friends are co-workers, as well as former students from EWHS. I grew up in Kirkland and have a soft spot in my heart for cute towns on the water.
As Edmonds-Woodway High School’s long-time band director, you and your students must have done some music outreach in downtown Edmonds and the Waterfront… students performing in trios at Red Twig, maybe outdoor gigs. Can you get into some of the history, synergy involved in sharing jazz with the public?
Sure. I recall being invited to get on board with the Daybreakers Rotary back in 2002 to help start their new event called Jazz Connection. We had a jazz combo play on the ferry to help raise awareness, with eager members like Neil Welch, who is now one of the Seattle area's top saxophone artists. Since the Jazz Connection inception, EWHS has usually provided anywhere from five to ten performing groups, as a part of that festival in May.
My philosophy is that life is better with music, and my students seem to have adopted this mantra, too, and are very eager to be out and about playing in public in Edmonds at locations and events like Sea Jazz, Jazz on the Plaza (Edmonds Arts Festival), Red Twig, at Public Market, and just about anywhere they can find.
I'm grateful to have the support of many other jazz enthusiasts in our community who have helped foster this culture, including Pete Bennett, who is a former parent of one of our star alumni, Max Bennett. We have been fortunate to get support from the Hazel Miller Grant, the Hubbard Foundation, and Kennelly Keys Music, too. Pete and I have been hosting a summer workshop at Edmonds-Woodway for EWHS students for the past 10 years. This year, we had to continue virtually, and some lessons can be viewed on the blog.
What makes Edmonds so special, so supportive of the arts, especially music?
I would guess it has to do with synergy between a large number of like-minded organizations and leaders, as I mentioned before.
I'm grateful to be invited to perform at the ECA occasionally and also glad that they are supportive of national-level jazz artists and local heroes, too. Events like the DayBreakers Rotary Jazz Connection, started by Ron Keimer, have helped. Other founding jazz enthusiasts include folks like Frank DeMiero, my first boss in the Edmonds School District back when he was our music program manager.
Edmonds Community College is also a force in Edmonds, with [the award-winning vocal group] Soundsation, conducted by my former high school choir teacher Kirk Marcy. John Sanders at EdCC is also a wonderful jazz musician and has helped to cultivate the scene.
Our school district is one of the few in the state to boast a full-time program manager for the arts, Scott Barnes also plays many roles, which helps our town foster live music and jazz. Scott has helped support many of the other great music teachers who make my groups successful, like Kate Labiak at College Place Middle School and Matt Edwards at Madrona K-8. Both Kate and Matt have great jazz bands as classes at their schools.
What do you enjoy about Edmonds, and what do you and your family enjoy doing when you’re in town? Any insider recommendations?
I like the new fish bar at Five Corners, Red Twig, Edmonds Theater, Anthony's HomePort's outdoor area, and anywhere that will host live music is a favorite for me. The owner of Kelnero bar is a former flute player of mine and glad to see that they are hosting music occasionally. We have a great supportive restaurant next door to Edmonds-Woodway called Romeo's, which has hosted us for a monthly jam session on the last Tuesday of the month for many years. Candy and Charlie Gaul at Re-Juiced Studio have been important supporters of music at EWHS and her beautiful waterfront office is worth checking out if you're into design.
Your student jazz ensembles have earned quite a stellar reputation at the Essentially Ellington competition in New York City, as five-time finalists. What have been some super-proud moments for you as band director/educator?
Yes, we've had so many great moments over the years, it's hard to single any out. We're honored to be invited by Starbucks to play at the Paramount Theater many times over the past 20 years as part of their Hot Java Cool Jazz event. Also playing our farewell concerts at Jazz Alley is always a blast.
It's especially fun for me to see students that choose to keep playing for life, whether they are in finance, as doctors, or as music educators.
This year, we really missed getting to go to the recording studio and had to do all of our projects virtually... students recorded their parts on their phones from the safety of their own homes.
When Barack Obama ran for President, you actually wrote an original tune about and for his campaign. I hear he got wind of the song and approved. Tell us about that.
I didn't play much of a role in those compositions. That project was really a brainchild of my brother's and I was invited to sing at the last minute. It was an honor to get to sing with Pat Wright of the Total Experience Gospel Choir, as well as [perform with] Matt Cameron on drums. It was an honor to be invited and turned out to be fun, too.
Matt and April Cameron later became very active in the EWHS Music Boosters, with two kids who thrived in our music program. Matt and April are another example of the type of synergy that arts education can benefit from when the community members pull together with the public school and improve students' experiences. At one of our annual Music Booster fundraiser galas, Matt agreed to play drums with our top jazz band.
I think those kids will always remember the night they played with the drummer of Pearl Jam and Soundgarden.
What made you want to pursue music as a career, not just as an educator, but performer and recording artist?
I'm afraid music chose me. My family was musical, but the bug really got me when I started in jazz band at Rose Hill Jr. High School with Gary Evans. Gary was an amazing personality and always encouraged me. By the time I got to high school at Lake Washington, I was taking three or four music electives each year. Gary helped me to gain admission to Central Washington University and there, I thrived in their great music program as both a trumpeter and vocalist. My wife Christina was also a music student and we were married before we graduated.
How did you become band director at Edmonds-Woodway?
My first job was as middle school band director at Poulsbo Jr. High, where Christina was also hired as the choir director. After two years, I moved to the Edmonds School District at the invitation of Frank DeMiero. I taught five years at Terrace Park K-8 and then, in 1999, I was invited to apply for the EWHS band director position.
What strengths do you have that you believe make you a great teacher and musician?
I really love my students, I love music of all genres, and I really enjoy learning. Music education has been a perfect match for my skills and interests.
What about music, jazz, gets you going?
I'm not sure why we like what we do. I love the community of peers in music and education and I also love the tradition and history of music of all types.
Trumpeter, vocalist, songwriter… How would you describe your playing style?
I'm grateful to have a master's degree in trumpet performance; I've definitely spent a good deal of my focus on jazz. Like many musicians, I love to do a variety of things. Since the pandemic, I've been making time to improve my piano-playing. I do love to compose and I can't usually keep myself from singing.
You’ve played quite a few festivals and prestigious venues. What have been your favorite moments, performances?
One fun memory was when I got to play trumpet in a blues band for a whole season of Seahawks games. We were the entertainment the season they demolished the Kingdome, so I got to play there several times and some other interesting locations, too.
Who inspires you? Who are your musical heroes?
People that live out their convictions inspire me the most. My wife Christina comes to mind right away. Other heroes include Louis Armstrong, Amanda Gorman, Beyoncé, and just about anyone who loves to work hard and spread joy.
What have you been doing to fill up the time during the COVID lockdowns and restrictions? How has COVID affected your life?
My sons are both graduating from college this year, so at home, it's just been me and Christina. Last spring, I was fortunate to be able to host live music concerts on my deck for my neighbors each Thursday night for 20 weeks in a row. There's a nice article about this here.
I also enjoy cycling, road trips, art, and I still love to practice and improve. I'm most happy when I'm with students who are learning with enthusiasm and experiencing success. I'm grateful for the technology of Zoom, which has enabled us to keep thriving.
And… I’ve started a new big band [Jake Bergevin & The Jazz Punishments Big Band]. The big band is an offshoot of an alumni big band from EWHS, with many students who now hold music degrees. It's augmented with some seasoned pros, too. Since the pandemic has stopped most music performances, we have begun to gather in public parks and rehearse outdoors, with the hopes of keeping our music skills, like reading, balance, and blend, intact. It's been super fun.
What would you love to see return, safely, regarding the musical arts?
I hope there's a renewed enthusiasm and support for music and live performance soon. I've missed going to hear music with friends and I've missed singing and playing with others indoors.
Go and support Jake Bergevin & The Jazz Punishments Big Band at the Anchor Pub on 1001 Hewitt Ave. in Everett July 14, 7 p.m.-9 p.m., and every second Wed. of the month after.
Bergevin will also have a group on Aug. 28, as part of the Edmonds Walkable Main Street outdoor performances, sponsored by the Chamber of Commerce.
Other gigs: Jake Bergevin & The Javatown Swing Orchestra, Sun., Aug. 29, Edmonds Arts Festival, and Edmonds Waterfront Center Grand Opening Gala, Sat., Oct. 2.
Cover photo: Steve Korn.