JV grew up in a S.C. household that was home to
multiple musical instruments
and several multi-instrumentalists. In fact, every member of his family played at least a little of the numerous musical instruments that were always at hand.
JV's first instrument was piano. Although he occasionally enjoyed and dutifully practiced the lessons given to him by the chain-smoking piano teacher who taught him a few old standards and Southern Baptist hymns, he first discovered the energy and sheer fun of making music at around 8 or 9 years old, when his mom taught him a Jerry Lee Lewis style boogie-woogie song.
But it wasn't until his cousin's band invited him to audition as a drummer that JV's serious musical aspirations were awakened. After this life-changing experience and high of playing with a rock band, every available hour was spent practicing to albums in the family basement.
JV began his professional career playing clubs at 16 years old, and he spent years touring the Southeastern US club circuit in cover and original bands, gaining live and studio experience in a variety of musical styles. After experiencing the disappointing setback of a promising band with lots of momentum and record label attention breaking up, it was time for a change.
After moving to Los Angeles, he enrolled at Grove School of Music, where he studied drums with David Garibaldi and Latin and hand percussion with Luis Conte, and where he expanded his overall musicianship by studying music theory, keyboards and vocals. Unfortunately, the LA scene turned out to be an even trickier place to keep a band together and move forward. Within a few years, JV turned to other interests and creative outlets such as photography classes and more normal studies at Santa Monica College. This eventually led him to UC Berkeley and a move to the Bay Area.
During and after his college years and being away from bands, music remained a big part of JV's life. With a midi studio, keyboards, and especially guitars, music became therapy as much as a creative outlet. In time, though, he missed being a part of the local music scene and returned to the community of musicians and live shows.
His entry into the Death Valley Gypsies came about after his longtime friend and Gypsy bassist, Fernando Torres, recruited him to fill in for a couple of shows. This invitation returned him to a group with exhilaratingly energetic live shows and, more importantly, chemistry: with the Gypsies he found an international mix of creative musicians rooted in old-school, classic rock, punk and glam, but who were creating original music that invited home some of JV's favorite drumming influences, from classic, groove rock to hints of funk and fusion. And thus he welcomed the official invitation to become a Death Valley Gypsy.