Charles Vernon began his orchestral career in 1971 as bass trombone with the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra. In 1980, he went to the San Francisco Symphony for one season. He was then chosen by Riccardo Muti to play bass trombone with the Philadelphia Orchestra, where he remained for five years until joining the Chicago Symphony Orchestra in 1986.
A native of Asheville, North Carolina, Vernon attended Brevard College and Georgia State University, where he studied with William “Bill” Hill, and at Arizona State University with Gail Wilson. Other teachers included Arnold Jacobs and Edward Kleinhammer, former tuba and bass trombone of the CSO, respectively.
Vernon has been on the faculties of Catholic University, Brevard Music Center, Philadelphia College of Performing Arts, Roosevelt University, Curtis Institute of Music and Northwestern University. Currently professor of trombone at DePaul University, he also makes many solo and teaching appearances around the world.
In 1991, under the CSO's then Music Director Daniel Barenboim, he gave the world premiere of Ellen Taaffe Zwilich’s Concerto for Bass Trombone, which was commissioned by the Orchestra for its centennial season. Vernon and his wife Alison have commissioned several song cycles for soprano, trombone and piano by American composer Eric Ewazen and performed widely for many European and U.S. audiences. On September 28, 2006, he and the Orchestra under conductor Miguel Harth-Bedoya performed the world premiere of Chick’a’Bone Checkout, a concerto for alto, tenor, and bass trombone written by trombonist and composer Christian Lindberg. Most recently, he was soloist in the world premiere of James Stephenson’s Concerto for Bass Trombone with Riccardo Muti and the CSO in June 2019.
Vernon, a long-time master swimmer on the Evanston (Illinois) Masters Swim Team, also holds a first-degree black belt in taekwondo. He has two sons: Mark, the eldest, is a video-game designer for Ubisoft in San Francisco; Gary, a martial-arts instructor at Connelly’s Academy, resides in Chicago. In addition, Alison Vernon is music director of Countryside Church Unitarian Universalist in Palatine (Illinois).
Information concerning music written or arranged for Charles Vernon as well as books, recordings and a documentary film on the Lindberg/Vernon project can be found at CharlieVernon.net.