Past Press/Reviews

Worthington Daily Globe

MUSIC FROM THE HEART: Pianist Holly Vanden Berg releases first CD of original music Beth Rickers Worthington Daily Globe Published Saturday, September 09, 2006 PIPESTONE "” Holly Vanden Berg doesn't know anyone who lives in Asia, but there are people there who know her music. She's sold quite a number of CDs via her Web site in Asian countries. "The first person to buy my CD online was from Korea," Holly related. Currently a student at Minnesota State University in Mankato, Holly recently released her debut CD of piano music, "Holly from the Heart." She celebrated the accomplishment with two CD-release parties over the summer "” a pool party in the Twin Cities and more recently, a gala evening event at the Pipestone Performing Arts Center. Holly also spent a lot of her summer on the road as a guest artist with the Plum Creek Library System's "Catch the Beat" summer reading program. "Those library tours, all the towns I went to, really helped my career," she reflected. "It took it beyond Pipestone. We sent out posters, and I had all the kids sign my guest book, and then they got a postcard to be invited to my CD Release Party." Throughout the library tour, Holly said she was inspired by the children she performed for and their enthusiasm for music. But the kids were undoubtedly inspired by her, too. Holly is blind, but doesn't let her disability limit her abilities. "Before I was a year old, I lost my sight from detached retinas," Holly explains in her bio. "I had six eye surgeries. The surgeons hoped to save what little vision I had. It failed, and my family was devastated. They mourned my loss as if a death had occurred. "When I was 2, my mother found new strength from God, family and friends, which enabled her to come to terms with my situation and accept it. She would tell everyone, "˜I'm not going to let this beat me down.' She would take me wherever she went and had me feel everything. She would verbally put a label on items, such as cups, measuring spoons, socks, door knobs, etc. That was the key to understanding my environment." Holly also related with her environment through sounds, and "loved anything that made sounds," so it was natural that she should want to make music. "I started playing piano when I was 1 year old, on a tiny little keyboard that my grandma gave me for my birthday," Holly explained during a recently phone interview. "I messed around on that for like four years until Mom put me in piano lessons. "¦ I started performing in front of people when I was 8 and getting paid for it, but I didn't make my album until this year." Three piano teachers have guided and nurtured Holly's musical progress over the years, and Holly acknowledges that teaching someone who is blind requires a special knack. In her bio, she recalls her very first piano lesson. "So my mother dropped me off at the piano teacher's house. When she returned to pick me up, we showed her what I had learned. The piano teacher told my mom that I could name every note on the piano, that I had learned two new songs and had perfect pitch. This meant that when my piano teacher played a song, I could play it back almost exactly as she had done. This also means that I can tell you what key any song is in. "For more difficult pieces, I can learn them by listening to tapes, and over time, I learn the piece by listening to it and playing along with it if I do it over and over again until I have the piece mastered. This could take me anywhere from an hour for simple pieces or a couple of weeks with the more complex pieces. If I hear a song on the radio over and over again, and it is a song meant for playing piano and singing, I can eventually get to the point where I am able to play the song perfectly without having to practice it. No one knows how I can do this. And the truth is, not even I know the answer to this question." But more than being able to play songs she hears on the radio or elsewhere, Holly enjoys playing her own compositions. She wrote her first song at age 6, a piece she called "In the Bamboo Forest," which is performed using only the piano's black keys. Since then, she has composed hundreds of pieces and says her repertoire exceeds a thousand songs. "When I write a song, I compose it in my head," she explained. "If it's a good piece, I remember it. If it's not a good piece, it's forgotten. "¦ Usually I compose a piece first, then I come up with the title. Most pieces are composed through life experiences. For example, there's one piece I wrote, called "˜On Alki Beach' that I wrote when I came back from Seattle, Wash. When I was out there, I visited this beach, and it was a musician's hangout with all these musicians playing really cool instruments like marimbas, xylophones. I wanted to reflect the mood of hanging out on the beach, so I came home and created this song." At Minnesota State University, Holly is a "super junior," with just three credits left until she is officially a senior. She is studying music education and public speaking in hopes of furthering her music career. "What I've always wanted to do is go on tour and make albums and perform in front of crowds," she said. "Since I was 8 years old, I've known that whatever job I would do would have to incorporate music. But it's hard to start from the bottom up." Holly credits the support of her family "” parents Gwen and Milt Vanden Berg and brother Thomas, 16 "” as well as friends and community in helping her achieve her goals. And she's also taking advantage of new opportunities provided by technology. "You have to get your name out there, word of mouth," Holly said. "Then people check out the Web site. It gets international distribution, and I'm also on digital distribution, so if people don't want to buy the whole CD, they can just buy one song. Thus far, 33 companies have signed on to do that. There are also some cell phone companies that have signed me on to do ring tones." Holly figures she has at least two years left at college, and then she'll see how far she can get in the music business. "I want to go on tour and play at different venues. I want to play at fairs, arts in the park, home shows, art centers and auditoriums, and eventually get to play in big-time places and, hopefully, meet some good people who want to go on tour with me," she dreamed about the future. Holly's debut CD includes a couple of songs with guest violinist Diane Peterson of Jasper. Holly hopes to someday do an album that features multiple collaborations. With one album under her belt, she's already looking toward a second release. Thus far, she's written one piece for it, "The Coming of the Storm," a dramatic composition that she debuted at the Pipestone event. Holly knows that making her dreams come true depends on both luck and her own determination to succeed. "You've got to be in the right place at the right time," she acknowledged. "But you gotta dream big. You gotta name it to claim it." On the Net:

Lakefield Standard

MUSIC IS HER PASSION"“ Holly Vanden Berg's heart for music By Mike Jordan/Staff Writer Holly Vanden Berg has been blind since birth. But she discovered her talent at a very early age. When she was about a year old her parents placed a small keyboard in her crib for her to play with. To their amazement Holly started playing on the keys with her little fingers. At the age of five Holly was told by her piano teacher after her first lesson that she had perfect pitch. After taking piano lessons for just three years she began to perform professionally "¦ at the age of eight. Last Wednesday afternoon Vanden Berg brought her musical talent to the Lakefield Library as part of the library's summer reading program, "Catch the Beat at Your Library." Now 21 years old Holly travels around performing and has played at the Mall of America, Barnes and Noble, the Terry Redlin Art Center, the Hotel Sofitel and at the Minnesota State Capitol. She was asked to perform for the Millennium Celebration at the Ramada Inn in Sioux Falls, too. Additionally, she has had the honor of performing with Dino in several appearances. A junior at Minnesota State University "“ Mankato, Holly is a Music Education major and a member of the National Honor Society both in high school as well as now in college. She is involved in speech and choir at her school and is very socially interactive and enjoys making new friends and meeting new people, not only at her college but as she travels around to perform. "I am from Pipestone," Holly said. "I wanted to be a touring musician. I love to travel and I to do my own music. I have just recently made a CD called, "Holly from the Heart" and will be having a CD release party August 26 at the performing arts center in Pipestone." At that party Holly will be giving two performances, one at 7 p.m. and the other at 8 p.m. both free to the public. During those performances she will be performing half of the songs she has recorded in one hour and the rest of her songs during the second hour. Holly knows over 1,000 songs. She plays 15 different instruments including the pennywhistle, maracas, accordion, harmonica and the piano. "My favorite instrument to play is the piano," she commented. "I enjoy going on tour and composing songs. All the songs on my CD are ones that I have composed and perform." Holly shared a couple of those songs from her CD with the audience gathered at the library including "In the Bamboo Forest," a song she plays using all the black keys on the piano. "I was only six years old when I wrote that and my feet could barely touch the pedals," she laughed. And she got the kids involved in the music playing, too, issuing them a variety of maracas from Africa, Mexico and Holland as well as a tambourine and shakers so they could help her create some music. "Her getting this job in October to play for the libraries in the Plum Creek System has spurred Holly on to make her first album," her mother, Gwen related. "Now she is on fire performing especially since her CD was just released last week." "I enjoy it all, performing. I love the reaction of my fans. The rush it gives me "¦ the energy. I love creating songs. I love it all. And I hope to make a Christmas album," Holly added. "And I want to do a "classical music my way" type of album, too." "The people in Pipestone have embraced me," she continued. "I have volunteered in different ways at the Meinders Community Library there as well as giving several musical programs for them." Holly brought along two copies of the Rolling Stone magazine to her performance at the Lakefield Library because she likes to keep abreast of the happenings in the world of professional music. One copy was a regular printed issue and the other a Braille copy that was actually done in three large volumes of the same issue. "In school one of my regular math books printed in Braille was 32 volumes and stacked on top of one another was taller than I am," she laughed. "But math isn't my favorite subject." For hobbies Holly enjoys swimming and bowling. She also enjoys movies by listening to descriptive videos that let her listen to a movie that are done so they don't disrupt the flow of the video portion of the movie either. Those descriptive videos are available to people through the Plum Creek Library System, according to Gwen. "I am really excited to be here in Lakefield to perform," she concluded. "I believe if a person has a passion for music they should try performing. But I think whatever a person has a passion for they should go for it. There are no guarantees that you are going to get a job anyway or if you have one keep it, so why not do what you have a heart for." And Holly should know for it is apparent from her beautiful playing that Holly Vanden Berg, just like her new recently released CD's title states, is sharing "Holly from the Heart" whenever she plays.

Minneota Mascot

AWESOME. By Gayle Van Vooren It's a word that I use very often and it was a word that Holly Vanden Berg of Pipestone used very frequently during her presentation at the Community Center on Friday morning. And when she was finished - that word seemed appropriate again. What an awesome performer. You see, Holly was born blind. Many of us would view that as a handicap, but not this young woman. She has overcome her sightless world and is making the world a brighter place for everyone around her through her music. Her Mom, Gwen, calls herself Holly's "roadie", as she is the driver, the manager, the assistant, in all of Holly's performances this summer. And she is excited about the opportunities that Holly has because of her musical abilities. While Holly cannot see, she has perfect sight into the wonderful world of music. She listens to stories told around her, she has many scenes described for her, and she turns these pictures in her mind into music. When this young lady is playing the piano, or the penny whistle, or the harmonica, you almost forget that she is blind. You hear the perfect notes, and come to realize that music is the international language. She touches base with every person she comes in contact with, whether young or old. For each of us has an appreciation of music in some form or other. Holly has just released her first C.D., and it's sure to be a hit. The music on this album is all composed by her, copyrighted, and sure to be picked up by other artists around the country. The few selections that Holly shared on Friday were exceptional, just a teasing of what one can expect on a full album of music. I was blown away by her performance. A great balance of light music, instruments, education, and new music were combined to give everyone in the audience something to appreciate. It was a wonderful way for the kids in the group to realize that you can do anything - if you want to badly enough. I congratulate Holly Vanden Berg on seeking out her dream, on pursuing her career, in the field of music. This young lady is going far, there's no doubt about it. And she was raised and educated in Pipestone, and is an honor student at Mankato State University. Living your dream is powerful, just as Holly's music is. Powerful....and AWESOME.

Pipestone Star

HAPPY TO BE HOLLY By Duane Winn There is a plaque on the wall of the recording studio in Golden Valley where she cut her first professional album. It reads, "There are three types of people, those who make things happen, those who watch things happen, and those who wonder what happened!" Guess which philosphy Holly Vanden Berg embraces. On Wednesday, Holly embarked for her first dates on a month-long tour as the featured performer for the Plum Creek Library System summer reading program, "Catch the Beat at your Library." Although she gave her first public performance at age eight, Holly "” the daughter of Milt and Gwen Vanden Berg of Pipestone "” formally submitted an application and a demo tape to the PCLS to gain consideration for the tour. The Southwest Minnesota Arts and Humanities Council approved a grant in March that will provide Holly with a stipend, as well as underwrite expenses for mileage, food and lodging. Holly will be introducing a new generation to music during her tour. She will be talking to the students about the importance of reading. She also will be sharing with them the challenges of being blind. (The tour) is a musician's dream," said Holly. Actually, it's one of the first steps toward the realization of her dream. Holly recently completed her first professional album, "Holly from the Heart." Diane Peterson, of Jasper, is featured as a guest violinist on two tracks, "Night Flight' and "˜Shades of Love." Holly, who will be entering her senior year as a music education major his fall at the University of Minnesota at Mankato, has hopes of carving out a career as a professional musician. Holly lost her sight before her first birthday due to detached retinas. She also received a gift soon afterwards "” a miniature keyboard. A few years later, she began taking piano lessons. Her teacher told Holly's mother that Holly had perfect pitch. In addition, she could name every note on the piano and displayed the ability to memorize songs. Holly can play at least 15 instruments, including the penny whistle, harmonica and the accordian. At age eight, Holly began performing in front of local audiences at churches and nursing homes. This eventually led to larger venues such as the Mall of America, the Hotel Sofitel, the Terry Redlin Art Center, the Minnesota State Capitol, playing on stage with Dino, the Ramada Inn Millennium Party, a Barnes and Nobles book store, and the Calumet Inn, still one of her favorite places to entertain. Along the way, Holly's mother, Gwen, had some choices to make. She was advised to send her daughter to a special school for the handicapped. Gwen balked at the suggestion, observing that the school in Faribault was four hours away, which meant she would be lucky to see her daughter once a week. She also believed that the school, which is intended for children with multiple handicaps, wouldn't help her daughter maximize her potential. She decided that her child should go to public school. "I pushed hard, and got what I wanted," said Gwen. Gwen still plays a key role in her daughter's affair. She acts as Holly's manager, roadie and just about everything in between. The library tour and the album, they both hope, will launch Holly on her way as a professional entertainer. Holly will perform for various libraries throughout southwest Minnesota, including performances in Jackson, Lakefield, Heron Lake, Fulda, Redwood Falls, Windom, Mt. Lake, Ivanhoe, Lake Benton, Tyler, Luverne, Pipestone, Minneota, Marshall, Tracy, Slayton, Adrian, Worthington, Lamberton, Wambasso, Westbrook and Morgan. Holly will be performing between 2 and 3 p.m. at the Meinders Community Library in Pipestone on Thursday, July 13. Holly would like to emulate Lorie Line, known as the "female Liberace" for her flamboyant outfits and performances. Line's first full-time performing job was serenading shoppers at Dayton's department store in Minneapolis in 1988. Since then, she has released more than 20 albums that have sold over five million copies. Her concerts attract 130,000 people a year. "Of course, I want to become famous and make a lot of money," said Holly. More importantly, the tour will give Holly the chance to share her music with people. "I love to entertain," said Holly. Holly also will be the hostess for two events later this summer to celebrate the release of her compact disc. The initial release party will be held Saturday, Aug. 12 (2-7 p.m.), at the residence of Spencer and Mary Jurrens in Inver Grove Heights. The second party will be held at the Pipestone Performing Arts Center on Saturday, Aug. 26, with performances at 7 & 8 pm. Then it's back to reality. "I have to go back to school the next day," Holly said. Gwen observes that Holly is blessed to have such rare musical talent. "This doesn't have any negative things associated with it," said Gwen. "She gets such positive feedback. "She is so lucky."


Dear Holly, Congratulations on your new CD release and the start of a promising and bright career. Your aura is powerful and influences everyone you meet. Good luck with your future. Godspeed. Phillip Vanden Berg, Seattle, WA

The Sailor

HOLLY VANDEN BERG: MUSICIAN, ENTERTAINER, PUBLIC SPEAKER-legally blind since infancy By Meredith Stanton Vaselaar She first touched the piano keys at age one. No one else in the family was musical; perhaps it was just a phase. When Holly Vandenberg was 5 years old, her grandmother insisted that her parents enroll her in piano lessons. "We dropped her off with the piano teacher and returned 45 minutes later," recalls Holly's mother, Gwen Vandenberg. "When we opened the door, the piano teacher told us that Holly had perfect pitch, had learned the names of every key on the piano and had memorized two songs. Not bad for a 45- minute lesson!" Holly Vandenberg, 22, is the daughter of Gwen and Milt Vandenberg of Pipestone. She has a younger brother, Thomas. When Holly was an infant the Vandenbergs were told that she had detached retinas, a non-hereditary condition caused by the premature development of the eyes. Holly was blind. "When we found out, I felt the future was pretty gloomy," admits Gwen, "then I had an attitude change and decided that we were not going to let this get us or Holly down. We decided to give her every opportunity we could." This led the Vandenbergs to decide to enroll Holly in the Pipestone school district and mainstream her instead of sending her away to a special school for the sight-impaired. " I simply could not bear to only see my little girl once a week," the mother remembers. Today, Holly feels that her parents' decision to mainstream her in school was the best thing they could have done for her. Part of Holly's education included her music lessons. By age 7 she had composed her first titled piece, "In the Bamboo Forest," which is played exclusively on the black keys of the piano. By the time Holly was 8 she was performing at local fund-raisers and church programs. But her horizons were also expanding. The 8-year-old performed at the Mall of America in Bloomington, playing the nine-foot grand piano at Nordstrom's department store. By the time the concert ended, more than 500 people were gathered on three levels to hear the little girl with the magic hands play. At age 9 Holly performed at the Hotel Sofitel in Minneapolis. Engagements followed at State Capitol, the Millennium Celebration in Sioux Falls and the Terry Redlin Art Center in Watertown, S.D. "¢ "¢ "¢ The musical young woman is proficient on many other instruments as well. To date, she has mastered at least 15, including the penny whistle, harmonica and even the accordion. When she travels, she utilizes an electric keyboard if no piano is available. Her other instruments go with her and she is a one-woman band. Holly's mother, Gwen, is her manager, assistant, chauffeur, roadie, and clothing stylist. Now a student at the University of Minnesota at Mankato, Holly is majoring in music, education and public speaking. She will be recording her first CD this summer, which will include a duet with violinist Diane Peterson, a former member of the South Dakota Symphony. The two have performed together, off and on, since Holly was a junior in high school. The album will include Holly performing that very first composition, "In the Bamboo Forest." The summer of 2006 will mark an important first for Holly "” she has been invited to be the featured performer for the Plum Creek Library System summer reading program, "Catch the Beat at your Library." Holly's name was submitted and PCLS requested a demo tape. Upon viewing it, the response was unanimous and a grant request was submitted to the Southwest Minnesota Arts and Humanities Council. The arts group gave its seal of approval in March of this year and now Holly is scheduled to perform in Southwest Minnesota libraries in July. Because reading was a very big part of Holly's life she wanted this opportunity to show students that there are many different ways to read and gather knowledge. Holly was able to benefit from the program sponsored by the Minnesota Institute for the Blind, which supplied books and other materials to aid her, including a special calculator and classroom supplies. Holly took her reading experiences as a child and created a program that will work with the summer reading theme. The program will include a presentation illustrating how Braille music can bridge the gap for a blind person using hands on books that are in print with a Braille overlay. Holly will also explain how she does everyday things that a seeing world takes for granted. "People often ask me how I match my clothes when I cannot see the colors," she says, "they want to hear about my talking computer, or how I walk without walking into walls, or how I can tell a one dollar bill from a five dollar bill." When she passes a friend on the street or in a store, a simple "Hi!" is not enough "” a person must say, "Hi, Holly! It's me, (name here)!" Voice recognition is very important. She uses a watch and an alarm clock "” the difference is that hers "talk," rather than ring or beep. Audience members, especially children, are fascinated by the various ways she makes it in a seeing world. Holly will perform July 5-27 for various libraries throughout Southwest Minnesota, including performances in the following towns: Jackson, Lakefield, Heron Lake, Fulda, Redwood Falls, Windom, Mt. Lake, Ivanhoe, Lake Benton, Tyler, Luverne, Pipestone, Minneota, Marshall, Tracy, Slayton, Adrian, Worthington, Lamberton, Wabasso, Westbrook and Morgan. For more information on times/places, contact your local library or the Plum Creek Library System office: 507 376-5803.

Pipestone County Star/Letter to the editor

Hello Pipestonians Well Pipestonians, After my ungraceful exit from Pipestone last summer with a broken foot, wanted you to know I'm alive and still kicking. With the help of many of you, I made the rocky trip back to Arkansas with a Holly VandenBerg CD and a stash of Yseth pheasant feathers. Enjoyed the Watertower festivities so much. Unfortunately, my schedule prohibits me from making this summer's production. I do hope to spend more time at the Monument walking thru the prairie. The late Earle Teas taught me everything I know about prairie flowers, especially his beloved yellow one the hoary puccoon.Well, look forward to meeting old friends at Lange's cafe in early July. As ever, Betty McSwain
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Holly with her groupies!!summertime gig

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