Why did you choose music as your career?
As is the case with so many musicians, music chose me. I never had a choice, never considered anything else, and I have known I was a musician since I was three or four years old.
What would you say are the most outstanding highlights of your professional life?
When President Donna Shalala and Provost Thomas LeBlanc told me I was selected by the faculty to become Dean and Patricia L. Frost Professor of Music at the University of Miami Frost School of Music
Recording and releasing “Blackbird” (Concord Records), which reached #1 in US jazz radio, was radio’s most-played CD of the year, and garnered “Record of the Year” and “Artist of the Year” nominations.
Listening to my symphonic piece being performed live for the 10th Anniversary of the Emperor of Japan’s coronation. The live audience numbered 100,000, while another 60 million around the world were watching on television.
Being in the studio with the group, “Chicago” for the CD, “Night and Day”, which I orchestrated for them.
Going to the theater to watch the first major motion picture I orchestrated, “Almost Heroes” (Warner Bros.), and seeing the first episode of the first television series I composed, “A League of Their Own” (CBS).
Performing my music for symphony orchestra and jazz trio at the Verizon Amphitheater in Southern California with the Pacific Symphony and an audience of 17,000.
Performing and recording “Rhapsody in Blue” and other Gershwin selections with the Royal Philharmonic in London in 2011.
Learning I was nominated for a Grammy Award in the category “Best Instrumental Arrangement Accompanying Vocalist(s)” for my arrangement of “Out There,” on Lorraine Feather’s CD Tales of the Unusual.
Why should a potential student choose the Frost School of Music at the University of Miami?
The Frost School of Music is the broadest and most relevant music school in the country, and it is housed in an equally broad an excellent university. This is a place where you can “build yourself,” with the help of an amazingly distinguished faculty that is the country’s most hands-on and nurturing.
Finish the statement, “Music is …”
. . . the mortar of humanity. It is the key ingredient to holding societies together. In today’s fractious world, there is no force more important than music. We musicians are the world’s great hope and inspiration.
What do you hope to pass on to your students?
I hope to give my students the tools to tap into feelings and emotions that are universal to mankind and radiate them out to an audience. When music is performed with honesty and a love for beauty, the performance has a healing quality. Audiences make an effort to see us perform, and our performances should change their lives.
Shelton G. Berg is Dean and Patricia L. Frost Professor of Music at the University of Miami Frost School of Music. A Steinway piano artist who performs in both classical and jazz styles, he was previously the McCoy/Sample Professor of Jazz Studies at USC Thornton School of Music and a past president of the International Association for Jazz Education (IAJE). In 2000, the Los Angeles Times named him one of three “Educators for the Millennium.” In 2003 was honored as Educator of the Year by the Los Angeles Jazz Society and in 2002 was the recipient of the IAJE Lawrence Berk Leadership Award. Berg has appeared as a performer and lecturer throughout the United States, Canada, China, Mexico, Europe, Israel, Japan, Romania and Venezuela. He has numerous arrangements and compositions in publication, and his texts include the Essentials of Jazz Theory, Rhythm Section Workshop for Jazz Directors and the Chop-Monster improvisation series; (Alfred); and Jazz Improvisation: The Goal-Note Method (Kendor Music). He has recorded over 30 disks for the Yamaha Disklavier piano. The All Music Guide says “Shelly Berg is one of the finest pianists around in the early 21st century playing modern mainstream jazz.” His 2005 CD, Blackbird (Concord) reached #1 in US jazz radio (Jazzweek) and garnered Record of the Year and Artist of the Year nominations. Berg has performed, recorded, arranged and performed with such jazz luminaries as Patti Austin, Nancy Wilson, Bobby McFerrin, Ray Brown, Eddie Daniels, Arturo Sandoval, Clark Terry and Bill Watrous, and orchestrated for Chicago, Kiss, Richard Marx, Joe Cocker, Elliott Smith, Lou Rawls, Steve Miller, and most recently for Ray Sings, Basie Swings (Ray Charles/Count Basie Orchestra) and Arturo Sandoval’s Latin Grammy winning A Time for Love (Concord). He has written for television, film, and for orchestras. Shelly Berg’s orchestrations are called “magnificent ...incredible” by Johnny Mandel. Recent recording and arranging projects include a solo CD The Nearness of You (Arbors), Arturo Sandoval’s Latin Grammy winning A Time for Love (Concord) and several NPR radio broadcasts for Jim Cullum’s Riverwalk Jazz series. He also recorded “Rhapsody in Blue” and other Gershwin selections with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra in London which will be released on a major label soon, and was nominated for a Grammy Award in the category “Best Instrumental Arrangement Accompanying Vocalist(s)” for his arrangement of “Out There” on Lorraine Feather’s CD Tales of the Unusual.