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Joey Pero: Breaking Sound Barriers

Nicholas F. Mondello By

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The great lead and jazz trumpeter Bobby Shew tells his students that "talent is a matter of breaking barriers." While trumpeter Joey Pero might have brilliantly selected and covered "Defying Gravity" from Broadway's Wicked on his breakthrough CD, Resonance (Resonance Music Group, 2009), Pero has been defying and utterly smashing performance barriers all his life. What would you expect from a man who, still in his mother's womb no less, was given the chance to "witness" and leap in response to the no-barrier trumpeting of Maynard Ferguson?



Joey Pero—trumpeter, vocalist, composer, and educator—draws people to him with his infectious passion for life, love, and all things music. This 28 year-old dynamo has been the talk of the trumpet world, and recently the town, with his bravura performance on Resonance.

Originally from upstate New York's Batavia, Pero seemed predestined for some kind of musical life. His father, also Joseph, played baritone horn in the local drum corps. His mother, Jeanne, knew something was "up" musically when she, eight months pregnant, "took" him with Dad to hear the great Maynard Ferguson scream away in concert. And (if you will allow a mother a bit of maternal license) according to Jeanne, the yet-to-be-born Joey Pero leapt to the sounds of Ferguson's stratospheric forays.

The Pero phenomenon—and it is a fast-developing one at that—started taking shape when Pero took up trumpet at age 11 and, within one year of study, was soloing live, picking off high Gs to the astonishment of his drum corps colleagues. The kid was a natural performer. Sound unbelievable? The video below will provide the evidence.



Joey Pero entered the world of high-energy pageantry drum corps, performing with various groups including Genesee Quest, Ghost Riders, and The Empire Statesmen. His talent and reputation as a special performer and soloist grew very rapidly. Exposure to various ensemble types followed. He was a member of his All-County and All-State Band, Orchestra and Symphonic Band, the Rochester Youth Orchestra, and the Roberts Wesleyan College Wind Ensemble. Honors also included being named Soprano Trumpet Individual Champion three years in a row, from 2000-2002.

It logically followed that Pero would later attend Juilliard. While there, he studied trumpet under the renowned Ray Mase. Pero's incredible trumpeting drew the eye of an individual who became a mentor, and to whom Pero has been compared: award-winning trumpeter and composer Wynton Marsalis. Marsalis took a special interest in Pero's development and gave lessons to Joey for a number of years. The teacher-student relationship developed into a long-standing friendship to this day. Years later, Pero would be seen performing with a magnificent, 24-karat gold-brushed Monette trumpet, a gift from his mentor.

Never seeming content to rest on his laurels, Pero continued his studies at the New England Conservatory in Boston, where he took lessons with Boston Symphony principal trumpeter Charles Schlueter. Schlueter became a profound influence on Pero, further refining his technique and musicianship. "Whether playing 16th notes at blinding speed or double E flats with ease and tonal perfection, Joey Pero is at ease with his trumpet and embodies the definition of an instrument acting as an extension of one's self," Schlueter was quoted as stating.

The Boston experience also allowed Pero to occasionally study and perform at the Berklee College of Music, an institution world-renowned for its jazz ensemble and jazz composition programs. At Berklee, young Pero had the opportunity to perform with musicians steeped in jazz. A stint in Maynard Ferguson's Big Bop Nouveau would further hone Pero's jazz and scream chops. On occasion, Ferguson would feature "rising star" trumpeters to perform the leader's own feature solo selections. The YouTube video of Pero's opening to Ferguson's "Macarthur Park" scream solo is a favorite of trumpeters around the world.



With drum corps, Juilliard, New England Conservatory, Berklee, and Ferguson as bases in his incredible arsenal, and with the brilliant Charles Ressler involved as executive producer and creative director, the planning and practicing for Pero's home run on Resonance began in earnest in 2008. Here, Joey Pero and Charles Ressler share thoughts about Resonance.

All About Jazz: What's Resonance all about, and why?

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