Biography

Fran Vielma, born in Venezuela, is an in demand multipercussionist, composer, and educator with an extensive knowledge of Caribbean, Venezuelan, and Southamerican rhythms and beyond. Vielma's performance and compositional esthetic integrates rhythmic elements of his native Venezuela, the nuance and variety of classical and world music styles, as well as the freedom of jazz. 

 He has received multiple awards and honors, and his first album “Inesperado,” was part of a catalog for the label Cacao Music along with productions of international artists such as Horacio “El Negro” Hernandez, Jose Luis Quintana “Changuito,” Bolivar Soloists, and Negroni’s trio among others.

Fran’s recent release – Tendencias with the Venezuelan Jazz Collective includes his original works and an arrangement of a piece by the laureate Venezuelan songwriter, Simon Díaz. Vielma arranged these pieces bringing components of hard bop, free jazz, concert music, and showcasing rhythms and drums from his country in a contemporary fashion. 

The album features outstanding players of today’s jazz scene in the world, and It has been critically acclaimed by DownBeat, All About Jazz, Jazz & Blues, Latin Jazz Network, and was selected in the Top 5 list Best 2018 Latin Jazz Releases by NYC Jazz Record. 

 His versatility as a percussionist, arranger, and orchestrator of different genres from Caribbean and Afro-Venezuelan to Jazz, world, and concert music has involved him in recording projects, tours, and festivals with renowned musicians in Venezuela, Mexico, South Korea, United States, Panama, Puerto Rico and Australia. 

Vielma produces an annual jazz seminar at The Andes University in VE and is currently Artist in Residence at Baltimore School of Arts, as well as an adjunct faculty of World Music at Salem State University, MA. He holds a M.M. in Jazz Studies from New England Conservatory, and a B.M. in Performance & Theory of Jazz from Berklee College of Music. 

Fran Vielma uses Istanbul Mehmet Cymbals, Vater Percussion Sticks, Meinl Percussion and Alejandro Escobar Venezuelan Percussion. 

 Artist Statement:

As a percussionist, I am drawn to the rhythmic elements of Venezuelan and Caribbean music that are full of African heritage. The nuance and variety of classical and world music styles, as well as the freedom of jazz, have constantly nurtured my performance, making me think as a real-time orchestrator, improviser, and an active seeker of sonic textures. These elements allow me to accompany and interact with other players, and to highlight passages or sections that a piece of music entails.   

Composition has also been an important element of my artistry and I have developed it in parallel with performance. When composing, I usually start singing melodies while finding harmonic accompaniment on the piano, always thinking in a drum pattern or a bass line that can fit the accents suggested by the melody; thereafter, I transcribe these ideas on music software.    

As a creator, I am inspired by the Russian and French composers of the 20th century, as well as the North American jazz masters. I endeavor to integrate elements of the flavorful traditional music of Venezuela -intrinsic in my upbringing-, combined with the fascination of blending harmonic colors with orchestration.

Early Years

Fran grew up in Mérida, Venezuela, a college town where arts and culture are part of the daily life of its citizens. Encouraged by his mother Maritza Vielma, a music lover, he started in the musical world by singing, playing Venezuelan cuatro, and taking core music theory courses at The Andes University Arts Center (CUDA) for 8 years.

In 1999, Fran joined the Youth Symphonic Orchestra - El Sistema Merida branch for three years while he was also a member of Kimbandu- a Venezuelan folk music ensemble; with the latter he made research trips around the country to study the traditional music of Venezuela.

He moved to Caracas in 2004 and kept a busy schedule performing, recording, and touring nationally and internationally with regarded jazz, salsa, pop, and traditional Venezuelan music artists. He became faculty at the renowned Caracas Jazz Workshop (Taller de Jazz Caracas), where also performed duties as Percussion Chairperson. He was a founding member of the music collective Movida Acustica Urbana (MAU).

Vielma attended the Arts University (UNEARTE) as a composition major, taking courses in harmony, counterpoint, analysis, and orchestration with regarded composers like Gerardo Gerulewicz, Violeta Lares, Miguel Astor, and Orlando Cardoso. He also studied at Caracas Free Percussion Cathedra directed by Miguel Urbina and Jhony Rudas. 

In 2010 Fran transferred to Berklee College of Music in Boston, MA awarded by a scholarship, where he majored in performance and theory of jazz with David Johnson, Randy Feltz, Jackson Schultz, Jamey Haddad, Mark Walker, and Terry Lyne Carrington among others. 

Recent Years

In the US, Vielma has played with the Paul Winter Consort, Javier Limón, Luis Enrique, Eguie Castrillo, Occidental Gypsy, Mango Blue, NEC Jazz Ambassadors ’15, Alcides Rodríguez, Betzaida Machado, Troy Roberts, and César Orozco & Kamarata Jazz among others. 

In the US, Vielma has received multiple awards and honors and his scholarly interests have immersed him in the study of musics of the world, which he has taught at Salem State University in northern Massachusetts. He has offered seminars, lectures, and master-classes at Berklee College of Music, New England Conservatory, The Andes University and Caracas Jazz Workshop in Venezuela, and at Fundación Danilo Pérez during the Panama Jazz Festival. 

His versatility as a percussionist and arranger of different genres from Caribbean and Afro-Venezuelan to Jazz, world, and concert music has involved him in recording projects, tours, and festivals with regarded artists around the world. Some of the venues he has performed in the US include The Kennedy Center, Berklee Performance Center, NEC’s Jordan Hall, Blue Wisp Jazz Club, An Die Musik, Jazz 66, Twins Jazz, Blues Alley, Fat Cat, and Terrace 7. In Panama at Ateneo Ciudad del Saber, and Danilo’s Jazz Club. In Venezuela at Teatro Cesar Rengifo (Merida), and Centro CulturalB.O.D (Caracas); in Mexico at the National University (CDMX), in South Korea at the National Theater (Seoul), and in Australia at the Bird’s Basement Jazz Club (Melbourne).

Vielma earned a Masters in Jazz Studies at New England Conservatory of Music having Ken SchaphorstBilly HartJerry BergonziBob MosesJoe Morris, and Brian Levyas some of his mentors. 

Fran Vielma uses Meinl Percussion Instruments, as well as Alejandro Escobar and Willy Mayo Venezuelan Drums.

Releases as a leader: 

  • Fran Vielma and his Venezuelan Jazz Collective. “Tendencias,”Papelón Records, 2018

  • Ensamble Nuevas Almas. “Inesperado,” Cacao Music, 2009

  • Nuevas Almaswith Movida Acustica Urbana. “MAU en Vivo,”independent, 2009.

As a sidemen:

  • Fernando Álvarez, "Típico Ma Non Troppo," independent 2018

  • German Marcano, “Aquí y Allá,” independent, 2018

  • Cesar Orozco, “No Limits for Tumbao,” ALFI Records, 2015.

  • Jihee Yoon, “Inflorescence,” Yeolin Music, 2012.

  • Rafael “Pollo” Brito, “Boleros en vivo,”ANES records, 2012.

  • German Marcano. “Rochela,” independent, 2011.

  • Oscar Fanega, “Bass&Percussion,” independent, 2009.

  • Hugo Fuguet, “Nueve dias,” independent, 2009.

Awards & Honors: 

  • 2013-16 New England Conservatory-Scholarship and Merit Award

  • 2010-13 Berklee College of Music - North American Scholarship

  • 2012 Berklee College of Music -Outstanding Percussionist

  • 2012-13 Berklee College of Music-International Student Grant