VERN NELSON: A SHORT BIO
Internationally acclaimed composer/pianist Vern Pat Nelson is known as one of the West Coast's premier interpreters of Bach, Beethoven, Chopin, and contemporary music. Born 1967 in Huntington Beach, he began playing piano and composing at the age of four. After a youth spent as a punk rocker (under the name "Viktor Death", leading such bands as The Pedestrians and The New Muck Artists) he obtained a Bachelor of Music at the San Francisco Conservatory and a Master of Music at the University of Texas in Austin. During this period he and tubist Jay Rozen founded the Texas New Music Cadre, and premiered pieces by such challenging modern composers as Milton Babbit, Louis Andriessen, and Gyorgy Ligeti.
Regularly creating controversy by composing such notorious works as "The Generations of America", "The Two Dead Boys", "Scurvy Shaker", and "Iran-Contra: The Opera", Mr. Nelson has also written literally hundreds of religious works during his past decade working as a music director for various Catholic churches. Since he is, as he claims, "about nine-eighths Mexican," many of his pieces are in Spanish or bilingual. Most of them are published by Loose Cannon Press and can be heard, in excerpts, on his website www.vernnelson.com.
In 1997 Mr. Nelson returned to California to create the music for several network TV comedy specials written and directed by his old school friend Steve Oedekerk (Ace Ventura, Nothing To Lose); this led to Vern's creation of dozens of humorous musical internet "greetings", many of which can be heard on his website (in the "Onward Toward Madness" section), and most of which are collected on the CD "The O-Channel Greetings".
Since 1999 Mr. Nelson's "savage-jazz" quintet The Vern Nelson Problem has become well-known in the LA and Orange County area for their crazed and passionate renditions of jazz and Latin standards. Starting in the spring they can be heard playing the theme music to Fox's upcoming drama "Exile in the City." For booking or more info, e-mail Mr. Nelson by clicking here, or call 714-960-2166 or 714-235-VERN.
"That's the best piece I've heard in years!"---Morton Subotnick, on hearing Vern's composition Skylarks in 1991; coincidentally, the composer Howard Frederics used the exact same words at the 1990 premiere.
"Your music is rich, rambling, sensual and fanciful---more than anything, even to abundance of striking, musically informed ideas, your certainty of what you want to do marks your style; after that, your skill in doing it. Carry on, soldier, and long may you wave!"---Elinor Armer, 1984.
"It is a joy to hear the intelligent & musical spirit guiding this performance.....it is clear that underneath the cool punk and beat exterior Mr. Nelson is an unreconstructed and depraved Romantic of the most dangerous sort." ---Mack McCray, 1983.
"He is some kind of genius."---Daniel Revenaugh, after hearing Vern's Four Pieces For Flute & Piano.
"There is an impressive urgency of expression in Vern's music, combined with an intuitive sense of proportion. He is strongly talented and has something to say."---Andrew Imbrie, 1986.
"Nelson's performances of new piano repertoire and his own songs were...virtuosic and infused with a deep understanding of contemporary musical languages.....a gifted composer and...spectacular new music pianist... ...His "Four Poems of Ted Hughes" convey, by turns, a 19th-century Romantic soul and don't-give-a-damn nightclub sleaze.....A big, big talent."---The Austin American-Statesman, 2/6/90.
"A true American original."---Michael Friedmann, Yale University, 1988.
"We (the Lycoming College Choir) are enjoying working on your piece ("The Cornerstone") a lot!...It is musical and very different in a lovely, creative way."---Fred Thayer, 1989.
"We (the Austin Girls' Choir) performed your Lobel poems and "My Candle Burns at Both Ends" all over the UK; we also sang your "Sing/Strum" in a badly lit cave, but that's another story. Nice acoustics. Sounded great!.... I have to say, we both (he and wife Sarah, director) remarked that your pieces have "held up" very well, and still hold our interest, even after years of performances and rehearsals. Nice work, Vern!"---Kevin McClure, 1998.
"Unlike most composers his age, there is much substance behind the shock or the gesture."---Dan Welcher, 1990.
"I met Vern Pat Nelson at a workshop in Texas last year and was very impressed with the quality of his writing...One of the things that struck me about his compositions is that he really has his own style and there is a little more drama and passion and complexity to it than to a lot of what we have become used to. The chord progressions avoid cliches and are really interesting. One gets the feeling that the meaning of the words has really affected the composition of the music....."---Bob Hurd, famed liturgical composer, in an unsuccessful attempt to get his company Oregon Catholic Press to publish Vern's church music. (1994)
"Flesh of Light"---Sierra String Quartet
"Sonata for Two Tubas"---Jay Rozen and John Woods
"Concertato on the Ode to Joy Theme"---Diocese of Austin
"Four Movements for a Night-Prayer"---Diocese of Austin
"Processional in Seven Languages"---Diocese of Austin
"Four Poems of Arnold Lobel"---Austin Girls' Choir
"Mass in Honor of Brother Andre"---Order of the Holy Cross
"St Luke Passion"---St Ignatius Catholic Church
"Concertato on Lift High the Cross"---Order of the Holy Cross
Posadas, arranged for choir, guitar & flute---Santa Ana High School Choir, dir. Cathy Cobb-Woll
Joy To the World Concertato--Holy Family Church, Copperas Cove TX
St Mark Passion--Holy Family Church, Copperas Cove TX
TV & FILM SCORING EXPERIENCE:
"Steve.Oedekerk.Com", 1-hour NBC comedy special, 1997
"Santa Versus the Snowman", 1/2-hour ABC animated Christmas special, 1997
"ArtsBridge", promotional video for UCI, 1998
(Vern's MIDI arrangement of Ravel's Bolero)