Tag Archives: Lincoln Hall

November 27th: The Linchpin

27 Nov

Portland State Music: 30 for the 30th

Name: Tom Wakeling

Instrument: bass

Student of Tomas Svoboda, Gordon Solie, Fred Sautter, Norman Leyden

B.S. in Music Education -1976

Putting Music Forward

The role of the bass in a jazz group is to serve as the grounding force that holds the band together.  The horn players get to rest, the pianist may lay out, even the drums might take a break, but the bass forges on.  A good bass player outlines the harmony, maintains the pulse, and the best of them lift the band off the ground.  It takes a certain type of persona to occupy this role: a hard worker,  soneone with stamina, a willingness to reside in the background, and calmly steer the ship.

It takes a linchpin.

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Putting Skills to Work

In Tom Wakeling’s  last year of high school they needed a bass player in the school stage band.  He played his first professional gigs at age 16 and “got serious” about being a working musician in his early twenties.  In 1976 he  graduated from Portland State with a B.A in Music.   In the 46 years since then, Tom  has put his bass to work in concert halls, jazz nightclubs, recording studios, and at music festivals around the world.

He has performed with a who’s who of jazz artists ranging from Arturo Sandoval, Lee Konitz, Mel Torme, James Moody, Herb Ellis, Mose Allison, and Charlie Rouse, to Houston Person, Ernie Watts, Charles McPherson.  He has toured with Grammy nominated pianist Lynn Arriale,  performed as jazz festivals across North America and Europe, and  been featured nationwide on CBC Radio’s “Jazzbeat” and on NPR.

Tom  has also worked in the “show biz” end of the music business, playing in the orchestras of national touring shows like “Cats”,  “A Chorus Line”, the Joffrey Ballet, “Grease”, and “Damn Yankees” (with Jerry Lewis). and performing with artists like Della Reese, Red Skelton, Rich Little, Mickey Rooney, the Fifth Dimension, and many others

But perhaps even more significant than Tom’s national accolades has been his role as linchpin in the Portland music community.  In addition to being the bassist of choice for scores of local jazz artists over the years, he has developed long-term musical relationships that have yielded decades of inspiring creative music in Portland and the pacific northwest.  Tom has played with pianist Steve Christofferson for over 30 years.  Their partnership yielded the trio CD, “Harmonic Tremors” (with drummer William Thomas) and two CDs of Steve’s original music, “To the Last Holdouts” and “Skol Brothers”. Their quartet still performs monthly at Portland’s Camelia Lounge/Tea Zone.

For many years Tom  performed and toured with legendary jazz vocalist Nancy King, on whose album “Perennial” he appears.  He has worked for much of the past decade with Portland drummer Alan Jones, both as a member of the Alan Jones Sextet and in The Bridge Quartet, a cooperative group that also includes pianist Darrell Grant and saxophonist Phil Dwyer.  Tom’s recordings include Day” and “Night,” with the Bridge Quartet,”Climbing” with the Alan Jones Sextet, and his own quartet recording with noted Canadian trumpeter-pianist Brad Turner entitled, “Live at the Cotton Club.”

An experienced and dynamic educator, Tom has served as a guest artist at the Wisconsin Conservatory of Music, Stanford University Jazz Workshop, University of Kansas, University of Nevada, Washburn University, University of British Columbia, Centrum/Pt. Townsend Jazz Workshop, New West Jazz Camp, Douglas College Summer Jazz Intensive, and the Lionel Hampton Jazz Festival among others.

For the past 30 years, Tom has been on the faculty of Clackamas Community College in Portland. The past 12 of them as Tom as Chair of the Music Department.  He also directs the CCC Jazz Ensembles, oversees the Music Technology programs and runs the annual Instrumental Jazz Festival.

Nearing his retirement from CCC, Tom is as musically active as ever.  He continues to hold down the bass chair with Steve Christofferson, the Bridge Quartet and perform with many other groups.  Two recordings, the first with Canadian greats Phil Dwyer, Kelby MacNayr, Miles Black, and Dan Lapp, and the second with Alan Jones and Francois Theberge, are set for release in 2013.

The linchpin shows no signs of slowing down.

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Adding Something Unique

As CCC department chair, Tom represented his department in the planning, design, and construction of the first ever performing arts building at the college.  Over a four-year period, he spent thousands of hours doing research and working closely with architects, contractors, consultants, administrators, and donors in order to ensure the success of the project for music faculty and students. The resulting facility, CCC Niemeyer Center for the Arts, received unqualified positive reviews for its functionality, versatility, beauty, and thoughtful design.

Through the process Tom gained a thorough knowledge of how the planning, design, and construction process works and decided to pass that knowledge on through a book. “Music and Arts Facilities: A Teacher’s Guide to Funding, Design, and Construction” is intended to serve as a primer for potential users of arts-related and other institutional facilities projects.  Tom’s mission in writing it is “to help fellow facilities users achieve successful outcomes in the planning, design, construction, and/or renovation of their new or existing facilities.”

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What Has Your PSU Music Experience Meant to You?

“I’m grateful to PSU for providing me a solid education that complemented and reinforced the experience I was receiving at the same time in the real world of music and music education.”

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November 26th: The Philanthropist

26 Nov

Portland State Music: 30 for the 30th

Name: William Bradford Mersereau Jr.

Instrument: piano

Student of Tomas Svoboda, Norman Leyden, Sergiu Luca, Gene Confer, Sylvia Killman

B.A. in Music Composition-1973

Portland State University

Putting Music Forward

Brad Mersereau’s website http://www.bradmersereau.com is not a typical musician’s website.  In addition to information about his recordings and audioclips of his music, readers will find a Sobriety Anniversary page that documents more than 10,750 collective years of sobriety from 800 individuals;  a sobriety pledge encouraging over 200 young people to honor their “mind, body, and spirit by not smoking, using illegal drugs, or drinking alcohol” before their 21st birthdays;  addiction recovery resources and letters pledging lifelong sobriety from graduates of comprehensive addiction treatment programs.

Ralph Waldo Emerson famously said “the purpose of life is not to be happy. It is to be useful, to be honorable, to be compassionate, to have it make some difference that you have lived and lived well.”

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Putting Skills to Work

Brad played his first gig with a dance band at the Whitman College Alpha Chi sorority in 1969.  He didn’t become a full-time professional musician until more than 20 years later.  The intervening years included a degree in composition from Portland State, an accounting degree from Northwestern College of Business, and jobs as diverse as financial aid officer, hotel night auditor, and mutual fund salesman.

In the early 1990’s, Brad’s parents died, leaving him a substantial inheritance.  Their gift provided Brad the freedom to pursue the full-time music career he had always wanted.  It has been music with a purpose.

In 1999, Brad’s sister Laura Mersereau Pressnall passed away of physical complications from long-term alcoholism.  From this tragic incident arose what has come to be Brad’s mission – to honor the memory of his little sister by finding ways to help people with alcohol and drug addiction. It is a mission in which music has played a central role.

“Laura,” Brad’s first CD project, was dedicated to the memory of his sister, who Brad describes as “a vibrant, gregarious, and love-filled human being.”  Working with well-known Portland jazz musicians Steve Christofferson, Phil Baker and Ron Steen, Brad performs a song-cycle of his own compositions based around the theme of “different seasons, or cycles in the life process.”  His second CD project “Autumn Waltz,” for which he served as co-producer, composer, arranger and pianist, was dedicated to his wife Janet and family friends Peter and Sanya Cowal.

Composing and performing music goes hand-in-hand with what has become Brad’s other work – philanthropy.  In addition to donating the income from both his CD’s to non-profits, Brad and his wife Janet have given away $1,100,000 of their own money to 9 local nonprofits specializing in addiction recovery and prevention.  Their donations have been matched by $1,500,000 from individuals for a total of $2,600,000 going to agencies that try to help people with drug and alcohol addiction.

Brad and Janet donated his sister Laura’s house to initially fund addiction recovery  programs through the YWCA.  This model, which assisted women wishing to break the addiction cycle with transitional housing, education, and resources for lifestyle changes was successful through 2010.

The Mersereau’s have also given large contributions to the Hope House, an addiction treatment program formerly sponsored by a church in North Portland, as well as $140,000 exponentially matched by Central City Concern for a five-bedroom drug-and-alcohol-free house called “Laura’s Place,” with an in-house counselor.

In 2005, Brad and Janet donated more than $310,000 in stock to the Union Gospel Mission of Portland to help it construct a five-story building next to the mission’s current building on the corner of Northwest Third Avenue and West Burnside Street.

Brad dedicates a large amount of his time to local non-profits,  He has served on the boards of William Temple House, and the Terwilliger Plaza Foundation.  He also regularly contributes his pianistic talents to fundraisers and events.  In 2007 Brad established the William Bradford Mersereau Jr. endowed jazz piano/instrumental studies senior year scholarship at Portland State University.  He and Janet co-sponsored with Lines For Life the 2008 Laura Mersereau Memorial Essay Contest. All 125 essays detailing high school students drug-and-alcohol refusal techniques can be accessed through a link on the Community page of his website.
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Adding Something Unique

Since 2007, Brad has also found other roles for his music.  He received his first composition and performance credits for two songs that appeared in that year’s Chris Rock movie, I Think I Love My Wife.  Since that time his music has appeared in the Jeff Bridges/J. Timberlake movie The Open Road, and Beverly Hills Chihuahua 3.  TV shows featuring his music include Ugly Betty, Everybody Hates Chris, New Amsterdam, Royal Pains, Heroes, In Plain Sight, The Finder, and the ABC Family Network TV movie, Desperately Seeking Santa.  His composition “Christmas Carol” has been performed by the Columbia Symphony, the Olympia Symphony and the Portland State University Orchestra.

What Has Your PSU Music Experience Meant to You?

“I am supremely grateful to PSU for providing me with the initial Emersonian self-reliant educational building-blocks to find my  eventual vocation and life-voice.  After transferring from Whitman to PSU in the Fall of 1971, I knew within 3 months that I was on the right path!”