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Victor Verney

All About Jazz user Victor Verney

Member since 2006.

Contributing Editor

United States

Profile Views: 13,937

former sailor, steelworker, musician, professor & journalist turned freelance writer

Although my parents (Victor Sr. & Katherine) were originally from Ohio, they moved around a bit during the early years of their marriage. Eventually, however, they settled in Buffalo, NY, where my father was a mechanical engineer at a local steel plant and my mother an art teacher.

My mother, a very musical woman with a beautiful singing voice, was also a frustrated piano player, and it was her idea to march me off to piano lessons when I was 11. My first teacher, a sweet old lady, introduced me to Bela Bartok's Mikrokosmos (among other things). I also began playing organ in the garage band my buddies were putting together, and this led me through a succession of keyboards including a Farfisa organ, Wurlitzer electric piano, & Hammond L100 organ.

I went off to college at Baldwin-Wallace in suburban Cleveland, where I declared as an English major with a minor in music. Again, I was taking lessons from a sweet old lady who introduced me to Bela Bartok's Romanian Folk Dances (among other things). I was returning to my dorm room one night when I heard a fellow across the hall playing Bitches Brew. I was transfixed and have never been the same since. The following summer, the local steel mill closed down, putting the kibosh on my plans to return for my sophomore year. I spent what little money I was able to earn as a janitor on a Fender Rhodes -- much to my father's chagrin. After a few years immersing myself in the fusion revolution of the '70s, I realized that the only way I'd ever be able to resume my education would be to join the military and avail myself of the GI Bill. The Vietnam War had ended and Jimmy Carter was now president, so I felt as if the moral “red light” had been taken off in that regard.

Like my father, I served in the U.S. Navy for four years, receiving my honorable discharge at the rank of E-5. In addition to learning welding and pipefitting, I also saw Europe, the Caribbean, and the western Pacific Rim.

After my discharge, I began working as a pipefitter in the shipyards of San Diego. When my friends found out that I was an erstwhile musician and heard me noodling on a piano one day, they egged me on to put down my pipewrench and pick up a keyboard. Another revolution -- the synthesizer explosion of the early '80s -- was taking place. Every band in town was looking for a keyboardist. I auditioned for a local Top-40 group with steady gigs, got hired, and was able to fulfill every musician's fantasy: quitting my day job!

Nonetheless, I was now pushing 30, and other impulses continued to nag me, including the urge to get back to school. My parents weren't in such good health at the time, and my four siblings had married and scattered. I returned to Buffalo, where I learned that Tom Wolfe was right about not being able to go home again.

However, I did complete my BA at Buffalo State College, and at the urging of my professors went on to graduate school at the University of Buffalo. I earned a Ph.D. in American literature, writing my doctoral dissertation under direction of the late Leslie Fiedler, renowned literary and cultural critic. I also resumed my jazz avocation, putting together a quartet which enjoyed some modest local success and provided me with a great deal of fun and fulfillment.

I returned to Southern California, and after a couple of years as an adjunct English professor in San Diego, I took a full-time position at a small private college in rural Iowa. The culture shock was too great, and it was not a “good fit” as they say in the business world. So, I entered the field of journalism, working as editor at both weekly and daily newspapers in the Des Moines area. A desire to focus on specific projects led to a career as freelance writer.

Along with jazz, I have a life-long fascination with baseball and military history -- three of my favorite writing topics, as well as literature, of course.

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