Brent Vernon usually introduces himself as a "singer-songwriter, ventriloquist, and children's author-illustrator from South Florida."
If that's enough for you, please feel free to stop here. But if you'd like to know more about Brent's life and work, just keep reading.
Brent was born in Cincinnati, Ohio. His family moved to the small town of Hobe Sound, Florida before his third birthday. As a child, Brent developed a love for the creative arts—specifically character design, puppetry and music. In elementary school, he enjoyed drawing cartoon characters and playing the piano. When he was 8-years-old, his parents gave him a ventriloquist figure for Christmas. It didn't take long for Brent to learn the technique and, soon, he was entertaining his friends and family with his puppet "Will."
Music & Ventriloquism
During his high school years, Brent became passionate about sharing his faith through music. He assembled a small vocal group and started writing and arranging music for them to sing at a variety of church and school functions. In his Junior year, Brent and the group recorded their first album called Anywhere. The group, known as "Vision," went on to release three more albums together.
A year after graduating from high school, Brent and Vision went on the road full time, sharing over 200 concerts a year from 1995-1998. Their tight harmonies and heartfelt messages resonated with audiences coast to coast. On the group's first Christmas tour, Brent was encouraged to incorporate his ventriloquist act into the program. Brent was reluctant, but agreed. The ventriloquism was an immediate hit and Will, the puppet, became an integral part of nearly every concert for the next six months. The following summer, Will retired and Sam took over. Years later, Brent and Sam are still a team.
With growing families and geographic challenges, Vision eventually stopped touring as a group. Despite the sadness of losing the daily camaraderie of dear friends, Brent and Sam continued to travel on their own. In 2001, Brent recorded his first solo album A Thousand Pictures, produced by renowned songwriter Dave Clark. With tracks like "If You're Not In It" and "Resignation" striking a deep chord with listeners, A Thousand Pictures was an independent success. Brent still sings a number of the songs from this project.
Other recordings followed—an instrumental collection called Keys, a recording geared to children called Sam Songs, a big budget studio album called Take To The Sky produced by Dove Award winner Don Koch and featuring the City of Prague Philharmonic, and more.
In 2015, after nearly twenty years on the road, Brent decided to record again. This time, he wanted the project to better reflect his personal journey and musical sensibility. So he learned the ropes and produced Hope & Hunger almost entirely by himself. The writing, programming, digital editing, and final mix was practically all his work. With a little hand-holding from a seasoned team of recording professionals and orchestral arrangers, Brent produced the album in a third of the time and at a fraction of the cost of his previous project. Yet Hope & Hunger is, by far, the album that Brent considers to be the most meaningful. Standout cuts include "Your Story's Not Over," "The God Who Brought Me Back," and "What You're Asking Of Me."
Children's Stories & Art
Brent has always appreciated the opportunities to share his music, but in 2010, he felt strongly that his passion for creating characters through art and story should finally be realized. Late that year, he released his first children's book, Neckless: The Audrey Amaka Story.
For years leading up to this, Brent struggled with feelings of inferiority, often feeling like a kid on the outside with his nose pressed up against the glass. Not talented enough. Not cool enough. Not photogenic enough. He wrestled with the same question that haunts most perfectionists: Will I ever be good enough?
Writing his first book—the tale of a little giraffe who was born without a neck—proved to be therapeutic for Brent. In the story, Audrey (the giraffe) learns to "take what you have and do something good with it." As she discovered, it's much too easy to worry about what we don't have. Rather, we should use whatever we do have—our time, unique talents, and resources—in good and selfless ways. Two more books about Audrey Amaka and her friends were released over the next few years.
Brent has always loved the Christmas season. For five years in a row, he posted daily "Countdown to Christmas" sketches on his Instagram feed. After Christmas each year, he sold the original art on Ebay to support the work of Love And Hope In Action, Inc., a charitable organization based in Stuart, Florida.
In 2015, Brent released a Christmas book, The Gingerbrood—the rollicking tale of five gingerbread cookies on the run. Written in verse, The Gingerbrood was geared to younger readers, but retained a level of humor and sophistication that older children would enjoy as well. In December of 2017, a delightful follow-up called The Gingerbrood & Little Dart was released.
Brent still has many plans, dreams, and irons in the fire as he balances a busy tour schedule and develops new products and stories. From time to time, he also provides illustration and graphic layout for other authors and publishers.
Despite the constant motion, Brent insists that there is a point to it all. "My ultimate goal," he says, "is to connect with people in meaningful ways and point them to a loving God—a God who is able to change us from the inside out. The decisions we make in this life matter in the next. And because of God's grace revealed to us through Jesus Christ, we have the hope of eternal life. I feel keenly that my talents must be used to share redemptive messages. They might not be overt every time, but there will always—at the very least—be a pebble trail to my faith in Christ."
Every story, a story of redemption. Every song, a testament to Grace.