IN THE BEGINNING…
Vreny Van Elslande was born 14th June 1971, in the medieval Flemish town of Ypres in Belgium, under the crazy, restless sign of Gemini.
At an early age already it became apparent to his parents, that their son was probably destined to lead an unusual life as a man. Not even 2 years old yet, unlike any other toddler, Vreny just sat there day in day out, all day long, staring in front of him without making a single sound or movement ever. He freaked out mom, who went to see a doctor. Diagnosis: “Madam, your kid needs to go to school immediately or he’ll go nuts. He’s a thinker who’s years ahead of his age with an overactive mind”.
Two years later Vreny freaked out one of his teachers in pre-school, when an airplane passed by over school and 4-year old Vreny happily yelled out for the class: “Wow look… a Mirage F16”. It puzzled the teacher that the kid who never was interested in the boring toddler games, was interested in airplanes and other stuff a toddler should not care about.
At age 6, first year elementary school: young Vreny had to learn how to read and to the surprise of his parents who knew they had a bright kid, he just did not get it. Desperate mom: “I start to think my kid is dyslexic!! “No… As turned out… kid is not dyslexic but… left-handed. Vreny read everything backwards and he could not understand why the words sounded so weird then ha-ha. After a year he still could not read a single word, much to the despair of everybody. After the 2-month summer vacation without any reading practice, start of 2nd year elementary school… picked up a book… and, totally inexplicable, read better than anybody else in his class.
At age 6 little Vreny climbed a wall and fell straight on his head, mom found her kid outside on the ground for death… severe brain concussion, huge panic in the house when Vreny started talking complete nonsense and when nothing he said made sense anymore. The 6-year old was forced to lay in bed flat on the back, for 2 weeks in complete silence in a pitch-black dark room. (This photo was taken the day after his release from the hospital.)
He pulled through without any further damage or consequences… well… at least, that is what he likes to believe. Vreny always believed that shaking up his brains a bit woke up his brains and made him a smarter person. He also likes to believe it might work for other people too, but don’t always take his advice for real though.
FIRST STEPS INTO MUSIC…
Vreny was born with music in the genes, through his dad, who was a semi-professional musician. His dad played accordion and drums. It had been his dad’s dream to do music full-time professionally. Unfortunately, his very strict, conservative parents told him that he had to learn a “real job” first, and so he became a carpenter, and got sucked into the “real” day job. Alas, music became the 2nd, less secure job from then on.
There was always a lot of music going in “Casa Van Elslande” during Vreny’s upbringing. When he was 5 or 6, Vreny and his sister each got an accordion for their Santa Claus.
During his childhood Vreny also got a small ukulele sized guitar. He never really played it all that much though, because he could not get anything decent sounding out of it. Only years later, when he started playing guitar at age 17, did Vreny find out the reason why he had lacked interest in that little guitar as a child: he was unable to play it because he actually had been holding it upside down. Yes, he’s left-handed (needless to say, he never became very much of an accordion player either ha-ha).
At age 7: Vreny went to music school in his hometown, and after 2 years of solfege and ear training without playing an instrument, he called it quits. He got bored with the whole rigid classical music education.
It came to the attention of his teachers in elementary school though, that there was quite some musical talent there, because Vreny, as turned out, had a beautiful voice as a child, and kept pitch exceptionally well.
Hence: he became lead voice in the school choir in elementary school (2nd from left on photo).
Who could possibly imagine back then that music later in his life would become such a deep passion and his life’s purpose?
THE WEIRD ONE…
As a high school student, Vreny developed a huge interest in surgery. His mom always had an enormous love for books, and by age 16, Vreny had studied and memorized all the medical books in his parent’s extensive home library. Nothing was standing in his way of a promising future as a successful surgeon, much to the pride of his humble, hard-working parents and his high-school teachers who saw great promise in their young student.
He also picked up on drums when he was 14 or 15. This was Vreny’s first serious step into playing music and performing. Before that there had been many musical attempts, which he had always given up on, but not this time. In no time he started gigging with his dad.
Meanwhile, in high school, Vreny’s fellow students regarded him as the weird, inaccessible individual and, very much to Vreny’s overall amusement; he sensed they had no clue how to approach him. Quick of mind and razor sharp of tongue, he simultaneously attracted and scared his fellow high-school students away. He did not want to be bothered and even looked down on them, feeling they were immature and uninteresting for their age. The only people Vreny found challenging enough at school were his teachers, whose ideas and teaching topics he loved to challenge in lengthy discussions during class.
At age 17, after numerous brief musical attempts through the years on accordion, drums (which Vreny actually learned at age 14) and other instruments, a high school friend introduced Vreny to guitar. Within 3 minutes of holding a guitar in his hands, Vreny had a magical epiphany: “Wow… this is what I want to do for a living”. Huge was the disappointment on his parent’s faces the night he walked in and declared with a bright smile: “Mom and dad, you know… I kind a lost interest in the whole surgery thing I have talked about and planned on for so many years. I want to be a… guitar player!!!”
Everybody was in total shock and disbelief with this highly unexpected change in plans and future goals. His parents and teachers tried everything to persuade Vreny to further develop his strong talents and interests in medical science studies and do music as a hobby; but nothing could change Vreny’s mind. He got his first guitar at age 17: a right-handed Hohner hollow body. The guitar was annoying to play because Vreny had the tone and volume controls piercing in his strumming arm, but he was happy as can be with the first guitar he had worked and saved so hard for. During weekdays he attended high school, and in the weekends he had worked waiter jobs to be able to buy his first guitar and amp. It was not his dream guitar yet, but it was what he could afford at that point. After about a year of self-study, he started gigging, accompanying his dad on guitar.
In the days when Vreny first discovered guitar, at age 17, his heroes at that time had been Jimi Hendrix, Ritchie Blackmore, Eric Clapton, … all guitarists who play Fender Stratocasters. THAT was Vreny’s dream guitar. He ordered his US made lefty Fender Strat right before joining the military.
THE MILITARY ADVENTURE…
The guitar plans were briefly interrupted when Vreny, barely out of high school, announced he would first join the military. A weird move for a teenager who was known to hate everything that is mandatory, and who hated all power and authority. Vreny joined the military forces and moved for a year to Germany, where the kid who hated all authority became one of the youngest non-commissioned officers in the long history of the elite battalion (The Grenadiers) he joined, commanding a platoon of soldiers who were on average 8-9 years older than him.
Vreny became part of a highly trained military intelligence unit in Germany, and endured hard combat and constant discipline and endurance training that felt like mental and physical suicide. Although he hated everything about that period, Vreny has always been happy about his decision to go live in an environment he knew beforehand he would hate, cause he knew the many adventures and tough training would further shape and sharpen his already edgy personality.
Right before being honorably released from his fulfilled service as a sergeant, Vreny intently managed to piss off and deeply insult a superior high-ranking officer, knowing that this would cost him his sergeant grade. A well thought of move, cause as a non-commissioned officer there was a higher chance he might be recalled for military duty in the future, which was something Vreny wanted to avoid at all cost. Vreny turned his military degradation, which was obviously supposed to be a disciplinary punishment, into a fun personal victory.
He was summoned to the staff office of the battalion before leaving the service the day of his release from the army. Vreny walked full of pride and cockiness in the office of the insulted officer who had so been looking forward to degrading the rebel. Instead of giving his superior the enjoyment of embarrassing him though, Vreny nonchalantly walked in, announced with firm voice that he had kept the honor to himself of tearing his sergeant grades from his military uniform, and threw the military grade on the astonished officer’s desk with a contemptuous smile on his face and the right amount of theatrical gesture.
Vreny then deliberately pissed off the superior officer even more declaring that the advantages of his sergeant grade were of no more use to him anyway, now he had served out his military service, and now he was so ready to go back to normal life. The former sergeant walked out as a regular soldier, out of the embarrassed and insulted Captain’s office, out of the military, out of Germany, and out of this enriching adventurous chapter in his life, with head up high and a big bright smile on his happy face: time to move on to new destinations…
This is the first photo with his new Strat (his 2nd guitar), which Vreny received after an 11-month wait, during his military service. He had some brief time to hold his new guitar, during a short weekend in Belgium, before having to go join his unit again in Germany. Vreny hardly played a note during his military adventure.
But being discharged after a long year in uniform, Vreny finally could get to play his favorite guitar… nothing was to stop him anymore:
… The sound of music is calling its disciple.
FINALLY… MUSIC SCHOOL…
Right upon his discharge from the military, Vreny entered a regular day job, in an industrial bakery in his hometown, to save money for music studies. He held that same job for 8 years. He worked full-time, joined a cover-band (Excalibur) with a strong live reputation, spend all his free time practicing his instrument, and he hardly ever slept. He also played gigs with his dad (photo).
About half a year after his military adventures, Vreny realized it had all together been 2 years now that he had been fooling around on guitar through self-study. The Gemini in him got impatient and he decided he probably would progress faster if he would enroll the top-level music school again that he gave up on at age 7.
After a huge, long, hefty discussion during his registration for enrollment, Vreny convinced the school board to make an exception to their very rigid institutional tradition in classical guitar music education, and enroll him as their first left-handed classical guitar student ever. He felt very strongly about being left-handed and not going against his nature: especially since he already had been playing guitar left-handed for 2 years now.
A decision they soon became very happy with, cause Vreny turned out to be one of their fastest progressing students ever in the long history of this highly acclaimed music academy. He finished the very intense 10-year program in classical guitar performance and classical composition, theory and ear training in barely 7 years time, which was unheard of. During this time Vreny had entertained and amazed his teachers with numerous compositions he had written.
Upon graduation, he deeply moved one of his top-class classical guitar teachers, Rosette Vanacker, with a classical piece he had written and dedicated to her. Vreny will never forget the immense impact his amazing teachers and renowned educators Rosette Vanacker, Andy Waeyaert and Walter Devoldere had on his musical development.
In these years Vreny worked with numerous bands, appeared regularly in the written press and numerous times on Belgian television and National radio. He performed his song “Millennium” live on national Belgian radio with his occasional band “One Night Project”.
Before moving to Boston, he was awarded the critically acclaimed, prestigious “Special Award Jan Decadt”, which he received before a sold out crowd in Ypre’s City Theater. Vreny got this award for his musical accomplishments in the field of classical guitar and performance. Deeply moved by the overwhelmingly long, standing ovation he received from the audience, Vreny almost busted out in tears in front of everybody when he thankfully accepted his award on stage. The same week Vreny was awarded in another ceremony with the National Flemish Lyon, which now follows him around the globe wherever he moves to.
AND THEN… TO BOSTON!!!
After graduating with high honors from the Music Academy of Ypers in 1998, Vreny moved to Boston to enroll in famous Berklee College of Music, where he entered on 2 scholarships.
He had the amazing fortune of studying with some of the finest guitar, music and engineering instructors on this planet.
In his first semester Vreny stayed in the Berklee dorms with 2 roommates. This is Vreny’s little corner in the room: notice his Flemish National Lyon flag, the first thing he put up above his desk when he entered the room, his little Belgian beer flag ha-ha, and his custom guitar. His bed is on the left, the top bed.
Starting his 2nd semester Vreny moved out of the dorms to a condo in Boston’s beautiful Fenway area, with a musician friend. He lived there for the remainder of his Berklee education.
Vreny graduated from Berklee College of Music in May 2002. He finished his 5-year dual major Performance (contemporary music) and Music Production and Engineering in only 3 1/2 years time, and graduated Summa Cum Laude.
With raving reviews and recommendations from all his amazing teachers, Vreny knew he was heading for a great musical future. Very much to his overall embarrassment, one of the top guitar instructors at Berklee College even compared one of Vreny’s compositions and his musicianship to the same level of musical genius as J.S. Bach.
Now Vreny had accomplished everything he had set his mind on so far, he felt he was ready for the really big adventure: up to the City of Angels… Los Angeles.
FROM FLANDERS TO… HOLLYWOOD…
Upon graduation, Vreny moved to the city he had seen in so many movies and had heard so much about as a kid.
With a couple of Berlee friends, he rented a U-Haul, and they drove from Boston to LA, all across the USA: a fantastic, enriching adventure.
Shortly after his move to Hollywood, Vreny joined the band of a high level (and big ego) female artist, played weekly shows and performed live on radio and on CBS television with her for about 8 months; till he got tired of both her and her manager’s attitude and quit the band instantly.
Vreny also kept appearing regularly in the written press, radio and television in Belgium, and played shows for his fans and friends in Europe during his short annual end-of-year-holiday vacations.
In between all his work as a full time, highly sought after guitar instructor and performer, renowned Musicians Institute in Hollywood also unexpectedly offered Vreny a full scholarship to enroll as a full time student at MI, where he had a fun time hanging out and jamming with his fellow teachers during his 10-week special program.
Vreny has tons of plans, goals, and dreams he is constantly working on. He is heading for new horizons uncovering interesting adventures on the life path the universe has mapped out for him, or that he is mapping out for himself in the bigger scheme of the universe, whatever you believe in.
This is where the personal bio ends, and where the “NEWS AND UPDATES” section of vreny.com takes over. You can follow Vreny’s musical path from here on, and experience his further adventures together with him in the “NEWS AND UPDATES” sections on the home page, which will feature constant updates on shows, plans, stories, adventures, etc.
Vreny’s site will serve as a forum of communication and info towards his family, his many amazing students, fans and friends around the globe.
So keep on checking it out, cause this story is definitely…
… To be continued!