Jazz Profile: Byron Hedgepeth

Byron Hedgepeth   Photo: Frank Zipperer
Byron Hedgepeth
Photo: Frank Zipperer
“I’ve played music with Byron for over 30 years in a variety of bands. He possesses amazing skills on drums, vibraphone, tympani, and every other percussion instrument, is one of the most versatile musicians I’ve ever played with, and is extremely knowledgeable in all styles of music. I can always count on him to show up on time and give his best — a true professional in every sense!” ~ Saxophonist Stuart Reinhardt

by Eddie LeShure

Within any artistic community there are always those who have been part of its creative fabric long enough that they deserve special recognition, not just for their talent, but also for the lasting imprint they’ve made on the scene. In WNC, Byron Hedgepeth is on that list, having paid his dues in jazz, classical, rock, contemporary and world music.

Born and raised in Raleigh and later moving to Charlotte, Byron’s passion for drumming began while studying piano and violin as a child, with the strong musical influence of parents Sara Jo and Elbert. “They enjoyed music associated with Big Band, rock, folk and jazz, plus my mom plays piano and they’re very good dancers, especially jitterbug.”

Byron studied drum set and percussion with Joy Gentile at Mars Hill College while completing a Bachelor of Music. He continued his studies with music educator Charles Leonhard and percussionist Tom Siwe at the University of Illinois, where he earned a Master’s Degree.

“A truly “melodic” drummer, I’m always amazed at the variety of sounds Byron can coax out of his instrument.” ~ Bassist Bruce Lang

Byron pursues a full career as performer, recording artist, composer and educator. He was the founder and director of Percussion Studies at UNC Asheville for 24 years. He currently teaches percussion and Afro-Cuban Ensemble at Appalachian State University, where he assists Professor Rob Falvo. Byron has been teaching percussion in the Asheville area now for over 40 years.

Principal timpanist with the Asheville Symphony Orchestra for 15 years, Byron still performs on timpani and percussion with the Charlotte and NC Symphonies, and is principal timpanist with the Brevard Philharmonic Orchestra. He has been active as a timpanist/percussionist with Asheville’s All Souls Cathedral since his first performance of “Amahl and the Night Visitors” in 1975.

“Performing and touring in Europe and Asia has been very enriching for me. Two that stand out are the World Percussion Festival concert tour in Taiwan with drum set artist Chris Wabich, and Light In The Corner concert tour of Belgium and France with flute artist Kate Steinbeck. Performing at the National Theatre in Taiwan and the U. S. Ambassador’s residence in Brussels, Belgium were also some of my best music experiences abroad.”

Notable collaborations include jazz-fusion group InsideOut, Jack Coker Trio, Kate Steinbeck, Con Clave, Pavel Wlosok Trio, bassist Mike Holstein, David Holt and the Lightning Bolts, and The B’s — a trio of Bill Covington, Bruce Lang and Byron that plays regularly at the Grove Park Inn.

“I’ve had the pleasure of working with my buddy Bryon Hedgepeth for several years. He’s one of the only guys I know who can play a great jazz, pop or country groove on drums, do some soulful originals on vibes, and then go play tympani with the NC Symphony.”   ~ Pianist Bill Covington

Latin jazz group Con Clave, founded by Byron and percussionist Ozzie Orengo in 1990, features many of Byron’s compositions. Consisting of Byron (vibes), Orengo (congas), Stuart Reinhardt (tenor sax), Eliot Wadopian (bass), Keith Davis (piano) and Ozzie Orengo Jr (timbales), they have performed regularly throughout the southeastern United States.

“Some of the drummers and vibists that were influential for me were Ginger Baker, John Bonham, Charlie Watts, Gene Krupa, Max Roach, Baby Dodds, Philly Jo Jones, Tony Williams, Milt Jackson, Steve Gadd, Peter Erskine, Tito Puente, Cal Tjader, Ndugu Chancler, and Vinnie Colaiuta. My recent musical listening includes Pat Metheny, Chick Corea, Gary Burton, Joe Locke, and Herbie Hancock.”

Byron lives near Black Mountain and would like to produce a recording soon, featuring original compositions, and create a personal website.

with Mike Holstein, byronhedgepeth.mikeholstein.info
with Kate Steinbeck, www.lightinthecorner.com
Con Clave, www.reverbnation.com/conclavelatinjazz