The Kennedy Center

Fran Vielma


“A percussion colorist of great distinction… leans heavily on his aptitude for, and particular genius for counterpoint and most of important of all – his understanding of instrumental timbre...” –Raul Da Gama, Latin Jazz Network 2018.

Fran Vielma, born in Venezuela, is a multipercussionist, composer, educator with an extensive knowledge of Caribbean, Venezuelan, and Southamerican rhythms and drums. 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. His first album “Inesperado” was part of a catalog for the record label Cacao Music along with productions of international artists such as Horacio “El Negro” Hernandez, Jose Luis Quintana “Changuito,” and Negroni’s trio among others.

Fran Vielma’s recent album Tendencias with his Venezuelan Jazz Collective features outstanding jazz figures like Luis Perdomo, Michael Rodriguez, and Miguel Zenón and has been very well received by music critics:

“The ensemble is not quite hard-bop and not quite salsa-they are something more complex and unprecedented, and take sharp turns at times.” Phillip Freeman Downbeat Magazine 2018.

"It’s not just the rhythmic potency of Venezuelan music that stands out here; indeed, on a number of the tracks it's Vielma's indebtedness to the wider jazz tradition that is striking." Troy Dostert All About Jazz 2018

“A superb recording with an excellent band, superior compositions and superb soloing.” Ron Weinstock, Jazz and Blues Report 2018

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, and Australia.

“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.”

Fran attended the Arts University (UNEARTE) for composition in Venezuela and in 2010 transferred to Berklee College of Music in Boston, MA awarded by a scholarship. Vielma earned a Master in Jazz Studies at New England Conservatory having Ken Schaphorst, Billy Hart, Jerry Bergonzi, and Bob Moses as some of his mentors.

Vielma has received multiple awards and honors and his scholarly interests have immersed him in the study of musics of the world, which he currently teaches as an adjunct faculty at Salem State University, MA. He has offered seminars, lectures, and masterclasses at Berklee College of Music, New England Conservatory, BELL Summer Camp -Building Educated Leaders for Life, The Andes University and Caracas Jazz Workshop in Venezuela, and at The Panama Jazz Festival.

He was recently appointed as a Teaching Artist of the DC Youth Orchestra Program. Fran Vielma uses Istanbul Mehmet Cymbals, Vater Percussion Sticks, and Meinl Percussion.

Social Networks: @franvielmaperc & @venezuelanjazzcollective

Watch Past Performances

Video 10/25/2018: Fran Vielma

Fran Vielma’s works represent his personal vision of contemporary Venezuelan jazz made in New York City. His esthetic exhibits a small portion of the vast and little-known compendium of traditional musical languages of Venezuela blended with jazz traditions and concert music elements.

This performance has been selected by Kennedy Center Artistic Director for Jason Moran.