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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.


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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David Murray

A legend of jazz, the Village Voice declared David Murray “musician of the decade” in 1980.

He is one of the most prolific artists in jazz history, releasing some 265 albums as a leader or co-leader and another 100 with other artists and groups, most importantly the World Saxophone Quartet. 

He started on alto saxophone under music teacher Phil Hardymon at Longfellow Elementary School in 1965.

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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.



Sean Erick

Sean Erick started trumpet at Muir Elementary and Willard Middle School, and made it into the Ensemble as a first year BHS student. He got a scholarship to Berklee School of Music in Boston, then created the Regiment Horns, a horn section for hire. The LA-based trio has been hired by Lady Gaga, Justin Timberlake, Bruno Mars, and Coldplay, to name a few.

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In Memory

Dominic Hernandez

April 2022

We are heartbroken by the recent loss of our beloved friend, student, and bandmate, Dominic Hernandez.


Dominic embodied everything that we hold most dear about BHS Jazz. He loved music passionately. He was the Jazz Ensemble’s beautiful lead trumpet player who led the band with a huge, golden sound and perfect jazz phrasing. He was an exciting soloist whose playing referenced the jazz greats, but was also all his own. Dominic was a leader who made everyone around him sound better, and offered kindness and support to all of us.


Dominic’s dedication to goodness was also evidenced in his work for social justice – he served on BHS Jazz’s Equity and Inclusion Committee, and worked tirelessly mentoring younger music students.

Dominic had a goofy sense of humor, and his smile could light up any room. He was deeply intelligent, and a strategic problem solver. He was unfailingly kind, friendly, and generous. He was a loving son to his wonderful parents, Christina and Jaime, and a great older brother to Nicolas, who is a beloved BHS Jazz bassist.  

Dominic came every day to eat lunch with his jazz friends in front of our music portable. 

Dominic, we miss you so much!  We will never forget you…

Aidan Price

June 2021

It is with great sadness that we share the news of the death of a talented young Berkeley High Jazz musician, Aidan Price, who graduated in 2019. We send our love and sympathy to the Price family, committed members of the BHS Jazz community. Aidan's dad, Rich Price, served as the BHS Jazz Association co-chair and his mom, Caitlin Patterson, volunteered in numerous ways during Aidan's years with the program. His little brother often came along to events and helped out, too.


Information about donations is in this eloquent obituary written by his dad, Rich. (Photo credit: Erin Scott)


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