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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: www.hollysmusic.com” - Beth Rickers

— Worthington Daily Globe

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.” - Mike Jordan

— Lakefield Standard

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.” - Gayle Van Vooren

Minneota Mascot