A Florida native who landed in North Carolina in 2002, Rich Willey (rhymes with “Billy”) has been around the block, including playing in the 24th Infantry Division Band in the U.S. Army, attending North Texas State University from 1978–1981, then three years cutting his teeth in the jazz clubs in Philadelphia prior to three years in Atlantic City and then seven years in northern New Jersey across the river from New York City. Rich started calling his bands Boptism in 1986 in New Jersey and in New York, playing in such venues as Birdland, The West End Gate, The Angry Squire and The New York Brass Conference. After going back to school from 1995 through 2001, getting a bachelors from the University of South Florida in Tampa and then a masters at the Manhattan School of Music, Rich worked again in New York City until going on the road for a tour with Maynard Ferguson right after 9/11/2001.
Since establishing residency in North Carolina, between tours with the Tommy Dorsey Orchestra under the direction of Buddy Morrow, Rich taught at the college level for years at such schools as UNC-Asheville, Clemson University, Limestone College and Gardner-Webb University. In 2001 Rich founded Boptism Music, a publishing company that distributes materials he wrote while teaching as well as his arrangements and original compositions. He and his wife Janet continue running Boptism Music, and Rich freelances on trumpet and bass trumpet throughout the Western Carolina region. Between recording sessions, Rich continues to compose music, write books, practice his trumpet, his bass trumpet, and for nearly three years now his tuba.
Rich has performed with many great musicians, including Maynard Ferguson, Lionel Hampton, Hank Mobley, Don Patterson, Buddy Morrow, Bob Haggart, Dick Hyman, Claudio Roditi, Chris Potter, Conrad Herwig, John Swana, Bob Mintzer, Kenny Drew Jr., Brad Mehldau, Mel Tormé, Bobby Sanabria, Harry Allen, Bill Mobley, Dave Stahl, Jack Jones, Shirley Jones, The Inkspots, Skitch Henderson, Tommy Flanagan, Tony Randall, Andrea McCardle, Debby Boone, and many others.
John Phillip Sousa Award, 1973
Olds Trumpet with Mark Curry mouthpiece
Mt. Vernon Bach Bass Trumpet with Bach mouthpiece
Conn Valve Trombone with Bach mouthpiece
Miraphone Tuba with Helleberg mouthpiece
Johan Berglund EVI with Darren Barrett mouthpiece
“Rich Willey is an inspiration. His lines bubble . . . his sound is smooth to the touch. Rich had me popping my fingers and begging for more!” — BYRON STRIPLING, recording and performing artist, former lead trumpeter and soloist with the Count Basie Orchestra
“Rich Willey’s trumpet playing and his use of bass trumpet is especially refreshing. A no-nonsense player.” — MICHAEL ABENE, jazz pianist, arranger, composer, faculty member at Manhattan School of Music, NYC
“Rich’s arrangements are thoughtful and swinging. His bass trumpet sound and style really knocks me out.” — TED ROSENTHAL, jazz pianist, clinician, faculty member at The Juilliard School and Manhattan School of Music