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  • Writer's pictureJAM

Hermon Mehari

Updated: Feb 1, 2021

Hermon Mehari, photo by Joseph Bologne

Trumpeter, Hermon Mehari is a stellar musician. He was born in Jefferson City, Missouri, attended high school there and went on to graduate at the top of his class from the University of Missouri, Kansas City.

The consensus here in Kansas City seems to be that jazz listeners feel he should remain a part of our bustling music scene. That would be fine, but Hermon has since childhood had the dream of moving to Paris.

With the help of his UMKC professor, Bobby Watson, Hermon was given the opportunity to do some international travelling during college. Hermon’s curiosity about other musician’s forays to Paris, kept him asking other musicians, mainly bassist and guitarist Bryan Hicks, who lived there for a time, how to meet Parisians.

Hermon was able to establish a few contacts there, and then plan a trip with bandmates Ryan J Lee and Ben Leifer. The three of them shared some heady musical adventures in their college days and later in their band Diverse.

They won a record contract from Origin Records. Both separately and together, and the 3 of them have recorded and all played in world-class settings. They are all second to none on their respective instruments. But Hermon is a different animal. His bandmates Ryan and Ben remain here in Kansas City.

A piece of music education in Kansas City continues to be the Mutual Musician’s Foundation. When Hermon was a freshman at UMKC, he and drummer Brian Steever were a part of a small contingent of UMKC students from Mid-MO, as the area surrounding Columbia and Jefferson City is known.

“It was exhilarating, said Hermon, “at first it was intimidating to get up and play, but after they get to know you, it’s like, ‘Hermon, come on up and play’,” at the late-night Mutual Musician’s Foundation jam sessions.

Hermon’s journey has continued during the COVID-19 crisis. Through losing his father, and through turning to his uncle, Tesfai Tsehaie. Through good friends and fine restaurants opening their doors to him, to connection, to art and to many opportunities.

Hermon continues to gradually unfold his dream. He has become a sort of musical fixture in the City of Lights. He is fluent in French and says that he has become “somewhat of a language buff” as he travels easily across the European continent.

Hermon is well versed in fine food; fine wine and he loves to travel. He spent a month in the South of France, a month in Italy and a month in Turkey in 2020. He was able to create a new recording that he is offering on Bandcamp for as little as nothing.

“I feel people need the music, and that they deserve to have it for free,” said Hermon. “It has been a tough year for many people, and I’m doing all right, so I figure I can give them my music.”

How does a young man follow him dream, practically seamlessly in this uncertain time in history?

JAM reviewed Hermon Mehari’s latest recording, A Change for the Dreamlike. The reviewer, Dr. Wayne Goins, a fine musician himself and professor of music at Kansas State University, said,

“The closing track, Dreamscapes, uses a warm synth-patch as the central sonic template. The smooth chord progression, while enticing, ends abruptly as you hear someone walking down the street humming to themselves. Maybe it was Hermon Mehari clearly pleased with the results of his efforts.”

This could be an analogy for Hermon’s success and easy demeanor.

His family’s passage from Africa to the United States was not necessarily easy. But they seemed to do it with dignity. Settling in Jefferson City, Missouri, Hermon grew up with his father, mother, uncle, and aunt, who instilled in him a curiosity and a desire for learning.

On “A Conversation with My Uncle,” another cut from A Change for the Dreamlike, Hermon uses his trumpet to imitate the cadence of his uncle’s Eritrean accent. The song comes from an hour-long interview that Hermon conducted with his uncle following the recent passing of his father. “After my father passed away,” he said, “I recorded a conversation with my uncle. He talked a lot about my dad, and then just talked about things that were going on.”

The song developed from the parts of the conversation where his uncle slips deep into his accent, rather than the parts about his father. This gave Hermon the idea that the cadence was a deep part of his own heritage, and that it would be fun to try to play along with him. During our interview, Hermon scat-sang a few of his uncle’s riffs and we laughed about the correlation.

Hermon came to jazz through a musical program that began for him in middle-school. During his time at UMKC, and with Bobby Watson’s encouragement, he had the opportunity to perform internationally.

“All the public schools in the United States have integrated band and orchestra programs,” said Hermon, “Most countries don’t have that. We don’t have that in France.”

“If you want to learn trumpet or trombone in France,” he said, “you are on your own. But, in America there is this whole John Phillip Sousa tradition. It’s very American.”

This ‘American tradition’ has created the path for him to live his dream in Paris.

“It’s a beautiful thing,” said Hermon, “I see how lucky I was to have this.”

The complete audio interview can be found at


Hermon’s latest album, A Change for the Dreamlike can be found here:

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