Professional musician teaching at Calhoun Community College

Chris Vrenna was the original drummer for Nine Inch Nails and was also in Marilyn Manson.

Posted: Sep. 19, 2018 11:48 AM
Updated: Sep. 20, 2018 7:22 AM

A Grammy award winning musician and producer is now teaching at Calhoun Community College in Decatur. Chris Vrenna has been in bands like Nine Inch Nails and Marilyn Manson just to name a few. 

Vrenna moved to Alabama just one month ago to teach music technology, but he's no stranger to the classroom and is now hoping to inspire the next group of young musicians.

Vrenna is now the head of Calhoun's Music Technology program, teaching five classes this semester. His students see taking classes from a professional as an exciting opportunity.

"Learning here with Chris and the whole program is something that a lot of people can only dream about having," said Cameron Park, a student at Calhoun. 

Vrenna started playing the drums at 6-years-old. Music and education continued to attract his interest in college.

"The band I was playing with in high school became Nine Inch Nails, so I was 21 when we got signed," said Chris Vrenna. 

That's just the start of his career in music that spanned over 30 years.

"When Nine Inch Nails performed at Woodstock, still the largest crowd I've ever played for, 300,000 in the field," said Vrenna. 

Vrenna would eventually work with bands including U2, Smashing Pumpkins and Gnarles Barkley. He also played drums and keyboard for Marilyn Manson.

"For the most part I took every experience I got as an opportunity," said Vrenna.

But living the life of a glamorous rock and roll star had its downfalls too.

"One thing that's crippled so many people I've worked with, and it's in the news again, is substance problems. It feels like you either figure out a way to live sober as you grow older, or a lot of them don't make it. I just had a friend die two months ago from alcohol," said Vrenna. 

Vrenna's final tour ended with Marilyn Manson in 2011. After an extensive shoulder injury, he looked to teaching as his next full-time career move.

"You come out of Marilyn Manson and you want to be a teacher? Why not? The students have been great, they're really receptive and I'm just excited to see where this all goes from here," added Vrenna.

Aside from teaching full time, Vrenna has a private recording studio where he still finds time to record music. He is also pursuing his masters degree and still votes yearly for the Grammy's. 

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