From his first orchestral work, The Last Days of Calvin and Hobbes, to his chamber piece, Twinkle Toes, the music of John Berners shows a fondness for the irreverent and a fascination with American styles from bebop to marching bands, and influences from the baroque era and the theater.
Called "vivid" and "cheeky" by the Indianapolis Star, and "near madness" by Indianapolis Nuvo Weekly, Berners’ works have been performed by the Detroit Symphony, the Virginia Symphony, Kiev Philharmonic, Indianapolis Chamber Orchestra, Boston Symphony Brass, the Ronen Ensemble, Brave New Works, Ensemble SurPlus, Xanthos, and many university ensembles. His works have been featured at festivals like Tanglewood, June in Buffalo, Music X, Denison University Tutti, and the Missouri New Music Festival.
Honors include the Gold Medal in Art Song in the 2014 Boston Metro Opera International Composers Competition, winning the Concerto Competition of the Symposium Franco-Européen de la Trompette, nomination by the American Academy of Arts and Letters for a Charles Ives Fellowship and a "Meet the Composer" grant with the Ronen Ensemble. He has won ASCAP concert music awards annually and received a Rackham Predoctoral Fellowship and Humanities Fellowship from the University of Michigan. In 2010 Berners' work was featured on a concert named no. 1 on the list of "Top 5 Classical Performances" by the Indianapolis Star.
Recent commissions have come from the Indianapolis Chamber Orchestra, the Ronen Ensemble, the Indiana Music Teachers Association and the University of Michigan School of Music, Theater and Dance/Museum of Art Concert Series.
Berners holds degrees in music and mathematics from Northwestern University, He later studied composition privately with C. Curtis-Smith and went on to earn an M.M. and Ph.D. at the University
of Michigan under Evan Chambers, William Albright, Bright Sheng, Michael Daugherty and William Bolcom.
An enthusiastic teacher, Berners is Associate Professor at the University of Indianapolis. He has served on the faculties of the University of Iowa, American University in Washington, DC, the Colburn School in Los Angeles, California State University at Fullerton, Kalamazoo College and Interlochen Arts Camp. Dr. Berners and his wife, flutist Tamara Thweatt, live in Greenwood, Indiana, with their two children, Carlynn and Benjamin.