Encyclopedia of Jazz Musicians

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Berg, Shelly (Shelton Glen)

Berg, Shelly (Shelton Glen), pianist, composer, arranger and educator; b. Cleveland, OH, 18 August 1955. His father is Julius "Jay" Berg born 4/18/24, a trumpeter, played with Charlie Parker, Tony Scott, Sonny Stitt, Arnett Cobb, Jimmy Ford, etc. His mother is Lorraine Joseph Berg born 11/11/25. His siblings are brother Gordon Berg born 11/1/49 - died September of 1990, brother Mitchell born 5/7/51 and sister Ivy Berg Bierman born 12/19/58.

At the age of 6, Shelly was accepted into the gifted program at the Cleveland Institute of Music where he studied solfege, theory and history. At 13, he was playing professionally, accompanying theater productions. At the same time, he was venturing further into classical music. All teachers were classical. He studied piano with Maxine Priest, Lucien LeMieux, Albert Hirsh, and Abbey Simon, composition with Tom Benjamin and Michael Horvit and conducting with Igor Buketoff and Lee Schaenen.

Simultaneously, his keen interest in jazz took hold, and he accompanied his father to numerous jam sessions, always attempting to sit in. When Shelly was 15, the Berg family relocated to Houston, where Shelly became a fixture with Arnett Cobb, playing Sunday nights at White House Motel. Four years later, he had played with Eddie "Lockjaw" Davis, Buddy DeFranco, Sonny Stitt, Al Grey, and various members of the Count Basie, Buddy Rich and Woody Herman orchestras. He was offered a job with Herman's Thundering Herd, but turned it down in order to continue his education.

Besides composing for the Clear Creek High School choir, he acted in school plays, was a member of the football and baseball teams, and was an honor graduate in 1973. He enrolled at the University of Houston on a music scholarship. Shelly graduated third in the College of Humanities & Fine Arts, Summa cum laude, and was named one of the "Top 10" students (out of 40,000) at the University.

Married at the age of 19, he supported his wife by working five to six nights each week in a band playing both "Top 40" material and jazz. From there he ventured into other areas, garnering a wide range of broad musical experience playing in salsa groups, R & B groups, and even recorded on two of Mickey Gilley's Columbia albums. At the same time he was introduced into the jingle world and began producing jingles and music for fashion shows and anything else that would help pay the rent.

Subsequently, the University of Houston offered Shelly a teaching fellowship in theory, so he began work on his Masters Degree. Again, he graduated Summa cum laude, in 1979. That same year he accepted the position of Director of Instrumental Music at San Jacinto College in Texas. There he spent 12 years developing its musical department, while continuing to record, as well as performing in jazz clubs, composing and arranging.
Bill Watrous came to the University as a guest artist. Shelly began working with Watrous' group, and since then they have maintained a close personal and professional association. This collaboration inspired him to again think about developing a career as a jazz pianist. In line with that goal, he entered the Great American Jazz Piano Competition in 1988 and made the finals, which was the subject of a PBS documentary. Watrous urged him to come to Los Angeles and in the autumn of 1991 Shelly accepted a professorship at the University of Southern California, where he still teaches.

He is also the musical director for former Count Basie vocalist, Carmen Bradford, and regularly travels to perform with prominent jazz artists worldwide.  Renowned as a great accompanist, Shelly has also been the pianist of choice for vocalists Monica Mancini, Patti Austin, Tierney Sutton and Joli Jones. Shelly's abilities as a composer/arranger have led to work in motion picture and television studios and for major record companies. His work with symphony orchestras includes the Royal Philharmonic, American Symphony, and Dallas Philharmonic to name a few.  In 2001, Shelly orchestrated "Japan Concerto", commemorating the 10th anniversary of the Emperor of Japan's coronation.  The concerto was performed to a live audience of 100,000 and a television audience in the millions.  Berg was commissioned to compose "Turn It On," the official theme of the 1986 Olympic Festival.  He is also a seven-time ADDY award winner for commercial jingles, with industrial clients that have include Kelloggs, Boston Market, Texaco, Dole, and Wendy's.

Shelly is currently a professor and the Chair of Jazz Studies in the Thornton School of Music at the University of Southern California (USC), where he conducts the Thornton Jazz Orchestra.  In 1996 he attracted the Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz Performance to make USC its home base.  Shelly served as the President of the International Association of Jazz Educators (IAJE) from 1996-'98, and in 2002 he received that association's prestigious Lawrence Berk Leadership Award.  Berg was the subject of an in-depth profile in the Los Angeles Times Sunday Magazine, when in 2000 he was named one of three "Educators for the Millennium.  Shelly is also the 2003 recipient of the Los Angeles Jazz Society's "Educator of the Year" award.

Berg is a prolific jazz author and clinician, and he is the IAJE Resource Chair for improvisation. Shelly's numerous published compositions for jazz ensemble are widely available.  He has written articles for The Jazz Educators Journal, Keyboard, and BD Guide, and served as the Jazz/Pop Editor for Piano and Keyboard.  He has conducted more than 20 all-state ensembles and lectured at virtually every major US teacher conference, the IAJE Teacher Training Institutes and other teaching camps.  Shelly has presented workshops in most US states, Mexico, Canada, Israel, Japan and throughout Europe.  

Berg he has worked with his own trios and alongside such jazz greats as Bill Perkins, Bill Berry, Pete Christlieb, Bill Henderson, Lanny Morgan, John Clayton, Roy McCurdy, Buddy Childers, Tierney Sutton, and others.  A duo with guitarist, Frank Potenza, is also performing and touring regularly.

He is married to Julia Fraser. His children are Lindsay Berg Pekny born 4/23/77, Kyle Berg born 1/15/79 and Ashlyn Berg born 9/13/80.

The Joy (1994); The Will (1997); Shelly Berg/John Fremgen/Peter Erskine: Pieces of String (2002); Shelly Berg/Frank Potenza: Oil and Water (2003)

As sideperson:
Bill Watrous: Bonefied (1991), A Time for Love (1994), Space Available (1997); Rich Matteson: Pardon our Dust (1992); X Japan: Art of Life (1993), Dahlia (1995);Chicago: Night and Day (1995); Various Artists: KISS My Ass-Tribute to KISS (1995); Richard Marx: Flesh and Bone (1995); John Leitham: Live (1996); Kluvers Big Band: Count on It (1997); Michael "Patches" Stewart: Blue Patches (1997); Jeff Jarvis: Following Footsteps (1998); KISS: Psycho Circus (1998); Atomic Fireballs: The Man with the Hex (1998); Elliot Smith: XO (1998); Tierney Sutton: Blue in Green (2001)

Almost Heroes, Warner Bors (1997); Three to Tango, Warner Bros, (1998); Men of Honor, Fox (2000)

Television composing/orchestrating:
A League of Their Own CBS (1993); Fudge ABC (1995-96); Another Shot HBO (1996);
Twice Upon a Time Lifetime (1998); The Sixties NBC (1999); Dennis Miller Millennium Special HBO (2000); Dennis Miller Live HBO (2002)

Books Authored:
"Jazz Improvisation: The Goal-Note Method" Kendor 1997
"Chop Monster - Vol 1" Alfred 1999
"Chop Monster - Vol 2" Alfred 2000
"Chop Monster, Jr." Alfred 2003
"Essentials of Jazz Theory" Alfred 2004
"Jazz rehearsal Techniques' Alfred 2004
Numerous articles, including 8 Presidents Columns in the "Jazz Education Journal", here are some selected articles:
"Ten Techniques for Jazzers" Keyboard, Oct 1999
"Jazz Pianist's Tricks" Piano and Keyboard 1998
"Interview with Russell Ferrante" Piano and Keyboard 1997
"The Mechanics of Improvisation" Piano and Keyboard 1996
"Tonal not Modal" Jazz Education Journal 1990
Published Compositions for Jazz Ensemble
At Home
Hot it Up
Miles Mood
Red Rocks, Tall Cactus
Takin' it to Church
Cliff's Riff
Yo' Bad Self
Blue Genes
Bluesberry Juice
CP Samba
Deedle Deedle
For JR
Grapple with the Apple
Skip Too, My Lou
Solemn Destiny
Splice of Nice
Turn out the Stars (arrangemrnt)
The Will

LA Jazz Society - Educator of the Year 2003
Elected to Elkhart Jazz Festival Hall of Fame 2002
Los Angeles Times - One of 3 Educators for the Millennium 2000
IAJE - Lawrence Berk Leadership Award 2002
KISS Psycho Circus Nominated for GRAMMY 1999
"The Will" reaches #6 on Gavin Chart 1999
"The Will" on of the CD's of the Year Jazz Education Journal 1999
Named to design Disney "Magic Music Days" curriculum 1999
President - International Association of Jazz Educators 1996-98
Only commissioned jazz composer for Dali Lama's World Festival of Sacred Music 1999 - composed "Convergence" for that performance
Comissioned to Orchestrate "Japan Concerto", commemorating 10th anniversary of Japan Emporer's coronation.
Elected to "Who's Who of Popular Music" 1997
Elected Chair of USC Jazz Studies Department 1996
Named "Most Outstanding Teacher" at San Jacitno College 1989
President of Texas IAJE Unit 1988-90
Finalist in "Great American Jazz Piano Competition" 1988
Commissioned to compose "Turn it On" official theme of 1986 US Olympic Festival

Contact information:
Current Address:
4606 Alta Canyada Rd
La Canada, CA 91011
818 790-5020
fax 818 790-2720

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