Shelly Berg

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Shelton "Shelly" Glen Berg (born August 18, 1955) is an American classical and jazz pianist and music educator. He is the dean of the Frost School of Music at the University of Miami in Coral Gables, Florida and the school's Patricia L. Frost Professor of Music.

Early life and education[edit]

Berg was born in Cleveland, the son of entrepreneur and jazz trumpeter Jay Berg.[1][2] At age six, he entered the Cleveland Institute of Music,[3] studying classical piano with Maxine Priest.[2] At age nine, he composed his first work for a children's choir and orchestra at the opening of a synagogue. His father took him to sit in at jazz jam sessions beginning at age 12.[4] He was introduced to gospel piano by organist Ricky C. Watkins, son of Pentecostal Church Bishop Charles Watkins, who recorded for Savoy, Praise, and LaCross.[5] In middle school he played piano for Heights Youth Theater and summer stock musicals. He was also an accompanist for the vocal group Happiness Unlimited.

At age 15, Berg moved with his family to Houston,[4] where he continued classical piano studies with Lucien Lemieux.[6] He performed at jam sessions with jazz saxophonist Arnette Cobb[7] and with Gatemouth Brown. He was the student conductor for choirs at Clear Creek High School and played French horn and trumpet in the band.

Berg earned a Bachelor of Music in Piano Performance (1977) and a Master of Music in Piano Performance (1979) from the University of Houston School of Music, where he studied piano with Albert Hirsh and Abbey Simon,[6] and was the student conductor for choir and orchestra. During his freshman year he substituted for a week with the Woody Herman Band. He lectured at the University of Houston from 1979 to 1981 and was a teaching assistant in music theory from 1977 to 1979.


San Jacinto College (1981 to 1991)[edit]

Berg began his career at San Jacinto College North in Northshore, Houston, Texas, as chair of instrumental music from 1979 to 1981. He then served as chair of instrumental music and commercial music at San Jacinto College in Pasadena, Texas from 1981 to 1991.[8] He performed with trumpeter Larry Martinez and singer Marilyn Savage in Larry and Marilyn and the Brass Connection [4] He learned to play Latin montunos from Kido Zapata during this time. He composed and arranged music for regional and national advertising campaigns[8] and worked with Mickey Gilley and Bill Watrous.[9]

University of Southern California (1991 to 2007)[edit]

In 1991, Berg moved to Los Angeles to join the music faculty at the University of Southern California Thornton School of Music.[10] He was the McCoy/Sample endowed professor of jazz from 2004 to 2007,[11] chair of Jazz Studies from 1994 to 2004, professor from 1998 to 2007, associate professor from 1995 to 1998, and assistant professor from 1991 to 1995.

International Association for Jazz Education president (1996 to 1998)[edit]

Berg was president of the International Association for Jazz Education from 1996 to 1998.[12] He was named one of three "Educators for the Millennium" by The Los Angeles Times in 1999[4] and received the Dean's Award for Scholarship and Research from the USC Thornton School of Music in 2005.

Compositions and productions (1993 to present)[edit]

He wrote Jazz Improvisation: The Goal-Note Method (Kendor), the Chop-Monster jazz improvisation series (Alfred), Essentials of Jazz Theory series (Alfred), and co-wrote Rhythm Section Workshop for Jazz Directors (Alfred) plus arrangements for big band published by Kendor and Walrus.

Berg worked with Hollywood studio arranger Dick Marx and Tom Halm at Sunset Sound Recording Studios. He was a composer and arranger for the CBS television series A League of Their Own (1993), the weekly ABC television series Fudge (1995–1997), and was orchestrator for the motion picture Almost Heroes. He recorded with the Shelly Berg Trio, including The Joy (DMP, 1995), The Will: A Tribute to Oscar Peterson (CARS, 1998), and Blackbird (Concord, 2005). In 2006, he arranged songs on the album Ray Sings, Basie Swings (Concord, 2006) and was music director and pianist on the Great Performances television show We Love Ella! A Tribute to the First Lady of Song (PBS, 2007).[13]

University of Miami Frost School of Music dean (2007 to present)[edit]

In 2007, Berg was named dean of Frost School of Music at the University of Miami in Coral Gables, Florida.[14] He is a teacher for the Frost Experiential Music Curriculum.[15] Berg is a Steinway artist,[16] music director of The Jazz Cruise, artistic advisor to Larry Rosen's JazzRoots Series at the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts of Miami-Dade County, and host of the monthly Generation Next radio show on Sirius XM.

Awards and honors[edit]

  • Grammy Award nomination, Best Instrumental Arrangement Accompanying Vocalist(s), "Out There" by Lorraine Feather, Tales of the Unusual
  • Grammy Award nomination, Best Instrumental Arrangement Accompanying Vocalist(s), "What a Wonderful World" by Gloria Estefan, Gloria Estefan: The Standards, 2014[17]
  • Grammy Award nomination, Best Arrangement Instrumental and Vocals, "Be My Muse" by Lorraine Feather, Flirting with Disaster, 2015[17]
  • Grammy Award nomination, "There's a Boat that's Leaving Soon for New York/I Loves You Porgy" by Clint Holmes, Rendezvous, 2017[17]
  • Educators for the Millennium, The Los Angeles Times, 1999[18]
  • Berk Leadership Award, International Association of Jazz Educators, 2002[19]
  • Jazz Educator of the Year, Los Angeles Jazz Society, 2003[20]
  • Number one jazz album, Blackbird, at JazzWeek, 2005[21]
  • Proclamation Honoring Leadership in the Arts, City of Miami, 2009[22]
  • Oro Valley Legend of Jazz Award, South Arizona Arts & Cultural Alliance, 2010[23]
  • Inside Out Award, University of Miami Alumni Association, 2011[24]
  • Jazz Education Achievement Award, DownBeat magazine, 2011[25]
  • Knight Arts Champion, John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, 2017[26]
  • 12 Good Men 2017 Honoree, Ronald McDonald House Charities, 2017[27]
  • Champion of the Arts Award, Citizens Interested in the Arts, 2017[28]


As leader[edit]

  • The Joy (DMP, 1996)
  • The Will (CARS, 1997)
  • First Takes (Azica, 2005)
  • Blackbird (Concord Jazz, 2005)
  • Meeting of Minds with Dick Hyman (Victoria, 2008)
  • The Nearness of You (Arbors, 2009)
  • The Deep (Chesky, 2017)
  • Gershwin Reimagined (Decca, 2018)

As sideman[edit]

With Lorraine Feather

  • Ages (Jazzed Media, 2010)
  • Attachments (Jazzed Media, 2013)
  • Dooji Wooji (Sanctuary, 2005)
  • Flirting with Disaster (Jazzed Media, 2015)
  • Language (Jazzed Media, 2008)
  • Math Camp (Relarion, 2018)
  • Such Sweet Thunder (Sanctuary, 2003)
  • Tales of the Unusual (Jazzed Media, 2012)

With Bill Watrous

  • Bone-ified (GNP Crescendo, 1992)
  • A Time for Love (GNP Crescendo, 1993)
  • Space Available (Double-Time, 1997)

With others

Film, television, video, podcast, and radio[edit]

As composer / arranger / orchestrator / performer / musical director

Year Label Title Notes
2020 PBS Jonathan Antoine: Going the Distance also Sony DVD performance
2019 PBS Gloria & Emilio Estefan: The Library of Congress Gershwin Prize for Popular Song music director, orchestration, performance
2019 Jazz Cruise Joey Alexander and Shelly Berg Jazz Cruise Conversations, Podcast Episode 18 interviewer, performance (Apple, Spotify) [29]
2019 NAMM Shelly Berg: NAMM Oral History Program interview, National Association Music Merchants [30]
2019 The Sessions Shelton Berg: Dean, Frost School of Music, University of Miami interview, The Sessions Panel, (YouTube)[31]
2019 Frost Music Masters: Take on Keith Jarrett performance, commentary (YouTube)[32]
2019 Kino Lorber Lifeline / Clyfford Still documentary composer, orchestration, performance, production [33]
2018 PBS Tony Bennett: The Library of Congress Gershwin Prize for Popular Song performance, 2018, Emmy winner[34]
2016 PBS White House Holiday Tree Lighting orchestration, performance, musical direction, 2016, 2014, 2013
2015 Sirius XM Generation Next Real Jazz Sirius XM monthly program host, 2015–present
2015 NBC Macy's July 4th Spectacular arranging, orchestration, production
2015 PBS Renée Fleming: Christmas in New York arranging
2014 PBS Gloria Estefan: The Standards also Sony DVD arranging, orchestration, performance, musical direction
2014 PBS Jazz and The Philharmonic also Sony DVD arranging, orchestration, performance, musical direction
2010 NPR Jim Cullum's Riverwalk Jazz performance, 13 episodes, 2007–2010
2007 PBS We Love Ella arranging, orchestration, performance, musical direction
2006 Warner Bros. For Your Consideration (feature film) orchestration
2005 Miramax Cinderella Man (Academy Award-winning feature film, Golden Globe nominations) performance
2005 Imo Wo Dakshimete (Japanese television series) arranging and orchestrating
2000 Fox Men of Honor (feature film) arranging, performance and production
2000 HBO Dennis Miller Live (weekly television series) composing, arranging, performance, production
1999 HBO Dennis Miller Millennium Special composing, arranging, performance, production
1999 Warner Bros. Three to Tango (feature film) arranging, orchestration, production
1999 Lifetime Two Cups of Joe orchestration, performance
1999 NBC The 60s (miniseries) composing, performance, orchestration
1998 NBC Almost Heroes (feature film) orchestration
1997 ABC Fudge, weekly television series 1995–1997 composing, arranging, performance, production
1993 CBS A League of Their Own, weekly television series composing, arranging, performance, production
1988 ESPN US Olympic Festival composing, arranging, performance, production
1988 PBS Great American Jazz Piano Competition performance
1986 ESPN Turn It On for 1986 U.S. Olympic Festival television show composing, arranging, performance, production


  1. ^ Jazz Education Journal. 39 (4). Manhattan, Kansas: A62. February 2007. {{cite journal}}: Missing or empty |title= (help)
  2. ^ a b Levy, Tanya (March 22, 2017). "And All That Jazz". Piano Performer.
  3. ^ Collar, Matt. "Shelly Berg". AllMusic. Retrieved 15 September 2020.
  4. ^ a b c d Feingold, Danny (February 7, 1999). "Three for the 21st Century". Los Angeles Times Magazine.
  5. ^ McNeil, W.K., ed. (2013). Encyclopedia of American Gospel Music. Routledge.
  6. ^ a b Baytown Sun. March 18, 1983. p. 16. {{cite news}}: Missing or empty |title= (help)
  7. ^ MacArthur, Paul J. (September 28, 2000). "Swing Time". Houston Press.
  8. ^ a b Baytown Sun, 18 Mar 1983
  9. ^ The Odessa American (Odessa, Texas), 17 Nov 1985, p. 73
  10. ^ Los Angeles Times, 25 Jul 1996 p. 57
  11. ^ USC Thornton School of Music, Buzz and Barbara McCoy
  12. ^ Jazz Education. 37 (4). Manhattan, Kansas: A38. February 2005. {{cite journal}}: Missing or empty |title= (help)
  13. ^ Holden, Stephen (June 6, 2007). "A Mastery in Swing Time That Endures for All Time". The New York Times.
  14. ^ "University of Miami names Acclaimed Musician, Composer and Educator to Lead Frost School of Music". Business Wire. April 27, 2007.
  15. ^ Score. Frost School of Music. 2017. {{cite magazine}}: Missing or empty |title= (help)
  16. ^ "Shelton Berg". Retrieved 15 September 2020.
  17. ^ a b c "Shelly Berg". Retrieved January 24, 2019.
  18. ^ Feingold, Danny (February 7, 1999). The Los Angeles Times. p. 26. {{cite news}}: Missing or empty |title= (help)
  19. ^ Jazz Education. 34 (4). Manhattan, Kansas: A33. January 2002. {{cite journal}}: Missing or empty |title= (help)
  20. ^ "Past Tribute Awardees". Los Angeles Jazz Society. Retrieved 15 September 2020.
  21. ^ JazzWeek, February 09, 2005
  22. ^ Presented by Mayor Manual A. Diaz, Miami City Commission Meeting Minutes, April 23, 2009
  23. ^ "Jazz Legends Live". SAACA. Retrieved 15 September 2020.
  24. ^ Veritas, University of Miami, April 27, 2011, UM Alumni Association Honors Distinguished Individuals
  25. ^ "34th Annual Student Music Awards Issue". DownBeat: 114. June 2011.
  26. ^ On its 10th anniversary, Knight Foundation website
  27. ^ Veritas, University of Miami, May 25, 2017
  28. ^ Social Miami, March 26, 2017
  29. ^ "Joey Alexander with Shelly Berg". Archived from the original on 2020-08-10.
  30. ^ "Shelly Berg".
  31. ^ "Artist Series Interviews: Archives".
  32. ^ "Frost Music Masters | Frost School of Music | University of Miami".
  33. ^ "Lifeline / Clyfford Still".
  34. ^ "Gregg Field".

External links[edit]