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James "StickNasty" Small

Drummer James Small went to Willard Middle School and Berkeley High, where he played in the BHS Jazz Band. After graduating he went to Berklee School of Music in Boston.  Fast forward to now, and he is known as "StickNasty," playing drums for Grammy-winning artist Fantastic Negrito.  The band got nominated for a potential fourth Grammy win for the song "Oh Betty" and StickNasty is featured in the video.  (He's the lead actor with the beard, and he's drumming on the side of the chicken coop.)  For more about his early career, read his profile on Berkeleyside in 2016.


Featured Alumni


Ambrose Akinmusire

Ambrose released his fifth album for Blue Note Records last year. Born in Oakland, he was playing trumpet with the BHS Jazz Ensemble when he caught the attention of saxophonist Steve Coleman. He was asked to join Coleman’s Five Elements band, embarking on a European tour when he was just a 19-year-old student at the Manhattan School of Music.  When Down Beat reviewed his first album they said "clearly something very special and personal is at work here."  In addition to playing with anybody who's anybody in jazz, he played on Kendrick Lamar's 2015 album To Pimp A Butterfly.

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Elena Ayodele Pinderhughes

A flutist and singer, Elena was featured in an HBO special on young musicians when she was 11. She has played at Carnegie Hall, the White House, the Kennedy Center, Monterey Jazz Festival, and Coachella, and has recorded with Herbie Hancock, Childish Gambino, Common, Lupe Fiasco, and fellow BHS Jazz alum Ambrose Akinmusire.

Here she is playing with Kenny Barron at the Montreal Jazz Fest in 2016.

Yanos "Johnny Bones" Lustig

Over the last 14 years and 14 albums, BHS Jazz alum Johnny Bones has played sax with the hard-working California Honeydrops.

The 'drops draw on roots music, Bay Area R&B, Southern soul, Delta blues, and New Orleans second line to put on a crowd-pleasing show.  They say -- "We want crowd involvement and to make people become a part of the whole thing by dancing along, singing, and generally coming out of their shells.”

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Peter Apfelbaum

In his senior year at Berkeley High, Peter formed the 17-piece Hieroglyphics Ensemble. The band was initially largely comprised of fellow BHS classmates, some of whom would later achieve recognition in their own right, including pianist Benny Green, saxophonist Craig Handy and trumpeter Steven Bernstein and later saxophonist Joshua Redman. The band released their self-produced debut album, Pillars, in 1979. Since then he has appeared on 78 albums as leader or sideman.

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