Catching Up with FONT Music Alum Riley Mulherkar

Riley Piano Shot - Credit Andrew Imanaka
Riley Mulherkar – Photo Credit: Andrew Imanaka

One year ago, FONT Music awarded the first ever Laurie Frink Career Grant at Cornelia Street Cafe during our 2014 Festival to young budding trumpeter, Riley Mulherkar. A recent grad from Juilliard, Riley has been busy this year leading his truly unique brass group, The Westerlies and working as a serious trumpeter on the music scene in New York.  We wanted to chat with him to see what he’s been up to since last year’s festival

riley westerlies
The Westerlies – Photo Credit: Sasha Arutyunova

So what’s new, Riley?  What have you been up to this past year?
I just graduated from Juilliard in May so it’s been a whirlwind of a year, finishing up school while getting involved in a number of projects all over the map. I’m currently in beautiful New Hampshire at the Avaloch Farm Music Institute, working day and night with The Westerlies to get a bunch of original music ready for our second album, to be recorded in just a couple of weeks!

It sounds like you’ve been busy with your truly unique group, The Westerlies. Tell us more about that group!
The Westerlies is a band dear to my heart – comprised of my three best friends from Seattle, we’ve been together for three and a half years and I can’t wait for all to come with these guys. We just had our big-screen debut as part of Cast Party, a podcast festival with Radiolab, Ira Glass, Lauren Lapkus, Invisibilia, Reply All, and The Truth that was beamed into movie theaters across the USA, Canada, and Australia – that was a thrill!

Visit The Westerlies Website to learn more about this unique brass quartet!

Riley tpt Credit - Lauren Desberg
Photo Credit – Lauren Desberg

Other than forging new paths with The Westerlies, what other things have you been up to professionally?
I’ve also been at Dizzy’s Club at Jazz at Lincoln Center a number of times in the past year, presenting a range of shows including the King Oliver-inspired “Gotham Kings,” the “Birth of the American Orchestra,” which explored the origins of the Jazz Age big band, and “Billie and the Boys,” a Billie Holiday extravaganza that featured five singers telling the musical story of her years with Teddy Wilson. These shows allow us to investigate bodies of music from all styles of jazz, arrange and interpret them in an honest way, and then put together a show that hopefully entertains and uplifts the audience. The shows are a blast, and the jam sessions that follow, hosted by Michael Mwenso, have created a beautiful community of young musicians with an infectious love for the music.

Almost a year ago you were awarded the first ever Laurie Frink Career Grant last year, which provides you some funding to pursue educational opportunities.  How has this affected you, your study and career?

riley cornelia 2014
Riley performing at Cornelia Street Cafe Awards Ceremony – FONT 2014

Accepting The Laurie Frink Career Grant at last year’s FONT was one of the greatest honors of my life.  The grant has come to me at a crucial point in my life as I graduate from school and enter “the real world,” so over the next year I’ll be able to continue studies on the trumpet and explore further educational experiences outside of Juilliard. Additionally, one of the most valuable opportunities this grant has provided is the opportunity to meet and share stories with the many friends and students of Laurie who I’ve been able to connect with – her spirit is still with us today, as strong as ever!

We just chatted with Nadje Noordhuis recently (see post here) talking about the great trumpeter/educator, Laurie Frink.  Tell us about your relationship with her!
I was lucky enough to study with Laurie when I first arrived in New York five years ago, and she instilled in me one of the most important lessons I’ve ever learned when she told me “You’re not going to just wake up one day and have it all.” This was not the most welcome news to me at the time, but it has proved to be one of the greatest and most comforting truths I’ve ever learned, because it provides a profound purpose to my lifelong study of the trumpet. My morning routine still begins with the exercises Laurie taught me, and I am forever indebted to her for the grounded sense of balance she instilled in my playing and my life.

For more information on Riley, visit his website:

Check out some videos of The Westerlies below: