Diane Peltz – Contributing Writer
The First United Methodist Church hosted singer, songwriter and ventriloquist Brent Vernon last Friday night. Many “oohs and aahs” and lots of laughter erupted from the crowd as Vernon performed several witty songs while playing the keyboard, and also introduced the crowd to his sidekick, Sam. Sam is what most people know as a “dummy” or a “puppet”, but the technical term is “ventriloquist figure”. Vernon has worked with Sam for over 20 years although he has had four “ventriloquist figures” in total. Sam and Vernon joked during a skit from a Bible story. Sam is a bit sassy, maybe an offshoot of Vernon’s personality, but also a not-too-shy puppet. He sang a tune for the audience as Vernon held him on his lap. Sam has several characteristics that make him appear “human”. He can blink, blink, and raise his eyebrows. His mouth opens and closes and he can turn his head 360 degrees, although Vernon noted that most humans cannot. Vernon is a man of faith and it shows in his performance. His songs are sung from the heart and from his love of the Lord. Sam is also a deeply religious puppet, as evidenced by his Bible skits. Vernon was brought up in a godly home. He was born and raised in South Florida. During the school year, her father worked at a small college and her mother had a home daycare. He has an older sister who is an administrator at a Christian college in Cincinnati. Ohio. Neither of them are married and he admits, “because of that, we’re pretty close.” “My childhood was quite wonderful,” he recalls. “During the summers, my family traveled as musicians and child workers in churches and church camps across the country. I was not brought up with television – can you imagine that? As a creative kid, not having the constant stimulation of television and media really forced me to become even more creative. I loved to draw, write and create imaginary worlds. Vernon wrote and illustrated five titles. The first three are about a giraffe named Audrey Amaka, who is a neckless giraffe. His two most recent books deal with a batch of gingerbread cookies called “The Gingerbrood”. “As much as I love creating and sharing music and playing with my puppet Sam, children’s books are a next level thrill. The ability to create characters and present them in unique and memorable ways is a gift. I started writing seriously in 2010 and the books still have legs. It is truly a joy. Vernon is currently working on a new Gingerbrood storybook that will teach young children about the color wheel and how colors relate to each other. He has also written over 10 musical recordings over the years. He plans to write a children’s musical after that, then start working on a batch of new songs for a 25th anniversary recording. Vernon got his first “ventriloquist figure” when he was just seven years old. He doesn’t know why his parents gave him a puppet, but he got into it and practiced and practiced until he was able to cast his voice with barely moving his lips. Vernon was a shy child and thanks to ventriloquism he was able to talk and sing and overcome his shyness. In high school, he got together a group of musician friends and started writing and arranging music to share at various parties. Eventually they raised enough money to record one album, then another. After a year in college, they hit the road full time. They did this for a few years as a band before the other members started getting married and having families. By then he had integrated ventriloquism into the program, so he continued. That was in the late 90s and it’s still there. He’s performing in Asheboro, North Carolina and Danville, Virginia this week, kicking off a month-long, 20-concert tour that will take him to locations in the Carolinas, Kentucky, Ohio, South America. ‘Illinois and Michigan. To learn more about Brent Vernon, visit his website at www.brentvernon.com.