Howard County Times

Vanessa Collier having a magical musical career [Clarksville]

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A 2009 graduate of River Hill High School, Vanessa Collier, seen on the cover of her CD, has travled the globe with her saxophone.

You may remember Vanessa Collier, daughter of Tom and Beth Vermeer. Vanessa graduated with honors from River Hill High in 2009. She was a four-year letterman and co-captain of the Varsity Girls' Basketball team as well as featured soloist for the Jazz Band, Marching Band, Wind Ensemble and many All-State Band programs.

Since that time, Vanessa has been a busy gal. She graduated with dual degrees in Performance and Music Production and Engineering from Berklee College of Music in Boston, one of the top music schools in the world. She spent a year and a half touring the USA and Turkey alongside Grammy Award-winning artist and Blues Hall of Fame inductee Joe Louis Walker.


Her headlined performance at the Red Clay Jazz Festival in Kauai, Hawaii, was featured in Alaska Airlines magazine and played live on top radio stations. Vanessa was featured on China's equivilent of MTV while on a two-week tour in that country.

Our multi-talented vocalist, saxophonist and songwriter has played alongside Annie Lennox, Kathy Mattea, Willie Nelson, Patrice Rushen, John "JR" Robinson, Chris Vadala (Chuck Mangione), Dave Smith (Beach Boys), Siedah Garrett (Michael Jackson), Patti Austin, Marcos Valle and other notables.


Recently, Vanessa was honored as a finalist in the John Lennon Songwriting Competition for her original song, "Bad News Bears," which celebrates the memory of River Hill alumnus Max Cowan (1993-2008), a fellow saxophonist and long-time friend.

Even before going away to Berklee College, Vanessa began teaching private saxophone lessons to elementary and middle school students in 2005. She's back in Howard County and offering lessons again. If there's a budding saxophonist in your house, you may want to check out the possibilities.

The challenging lessons come with an emphasis on sound technique, theory and fun. She recommends 2.5 strength reeds, the Rubank Elementary Method and a book with play-along CD for beginners. Go to and look under lessons.

"It's been a crazy year since my graduation from Berklee College of Music in 2013," Vanessa said.

She celebrated her birthday by singing and playing to a crowd of over 1,000 people in Turkey and thought "It just doesn't get much better."

It did get better. The entier audience sang Happy Birthday to Vanessa and a drummer who shared the same birthday. That's a birthday to remember.

Outstanding Berklee musicians Eric Finland (keys), Jordan Rose (drums), Justin Schornstein (bass) and Noe Socha (guitar and harmonica) round out Vanessa's band. They've all been working incredibly hard as she has been writing, editing, crafting and recording five new songs and four arrangements of cover songs for her debut album,  "Heart, Soul and Saxophone."  They are all immensely proud of the project.

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Last month was the band's first Howard County gig at the Smokin Hot Bar and Grille in Glenwood. Patrons enjoyed a night of rocking music in a wide range of styles.


A crowd-funding platform has just been launched on Vanessa's website so you can hear more about the album and pre-order your autographed CD by this rapidly rising musical star from Howard County. Go to

Come to the Clarksville Fire Station engine bay for the annual Open House on Oct. 12 from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. It's loads of fun for all ages and educational at the same time.

The Kiddie Combat Challenge will allow children to practice pulling a fire hose. Firefighters will help children push an overhead inflated ball across a "zip line". They can rescue a dummy and pull him safely onto a stretcher. There will be lots of demos, tours and rides. It's a great time to explore fire vehicles and equipment. Sparky the Fire Prevention mascot will be there.

Light refreshments will be served.

While you are out and about, why not drive by 11321 Old Hopkins Road (behind APL, off Sanner Road) to view Lou Weist's bodacious display of colorful dahlias? This is peak blooming time. The blossoms will surely brighten your day.

Thanks for sharing, Lou.