Vern Griffiths quickly established himself as a respected performer, educator and collaborator after joining the Vancouver Symphony as Principal Percussionist in 1997. He also currently plays with the CBC Radio Orchestra and two new music chamber groups: Standing Wave and the Turning Point Ensemble. Vern can be heard on recordings with all of these groups, as well as on soundtracks for Disney, ABC, IMAX, NFB, EA Sports, and Dreamworks. Other recent performances include Festival Vancouver, Music on Main, FUSE, the John Cage Festival, Music in the Morning, and substituting as timpanist with the Victoria Symphony.
Born and raised in North Vancouver, Vern has degrees in both Commerce and Music from the University of British Columbia, studying percussion with John Rudolph who was the VSO’s Principal Percussionist at the time. Vern then moved to New York and earned his Master of Music degree in Orchestral Performance from the Manhattan School of Music, as a scholarship student of Chris Lamb of the New York Philharmonic and Duncan Patton of the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra. Other studies include the Aspen Music Festival, National Youth Orchestra of Canada, the National Orchestral Institute (Maryland), the Altenberg Music Festival (Germany), and the Leigh Stevens Marimba Seminar.
A committed educator, Vern has been teaching at UBC since 1997, becoming head of the percussion department and director of the Percussion Ensemble in 2005. Students of his have gone on to study with Alan Abel, Russell Hartenberger, John Rudolph, Don Liuzzi, Jack Van Geem, and Nancy Zeltsman; and have participated in the Aspen Music Festival, National Orchestral Institute, and National Youth Orchestra of Canada. One former student is now the Principal Percussionist of the Chicago Symphony.
Vern has been featured as a soloist on numerous occasions with the VSO and is proud to be a part of the VSO’s Kids Koncert series this season with a very fun show he wrote called Wall to Wall Percussion. It features all the musicianship, zaniness and creativity that go into being a percussionist. The show takes place “at Vern’s house”, and thus the stage will be full “literally from wall to wall” with instruments, a kitchen, an instrument-making workshop, living room, and more. There is plenty of audience participation (think “boom-chagalagalaga”) and fun for everyone!
Vern takes an active role in other facets of the VSO family, including being the Chair of the Artistic Advisory Committee, a member of the Programming Committee, and one of the musician representatives on the VSO’s Board of Directors. He has also become acquainted with many of the Patrons and Volunteers of the VSO, and is extremely grateful to these generous members of our community who support symphonic music in Vancouver.
Vern is very proud that the Principal Percussion chair is endowed by his friend and generous patron of the arts, Martha Lou Henley.