Berg hails from Cleveland, OH. His father was trumpet player Jay Berg. At the age of 6 Shelly Berg entered the Cleveland Institute of Music studying classical and jazz. Berg earned Bachelor of Music and Master of Music degrees from the University of Houston School of Music.
He has mostly devoted himself to being a music educator, but has also recorded critically acclaimed albums. In 2006, he arranged most of the songs on the album Ray Sings—Basie Swings (Concord 2006). His solo CDs include The Joy, on DMP records, and The Will, for CARS Records. The Will reached the top ten in the Gavin Report.
Shelly is the pianist and arranger for trombonist Bill Watrous, and has appeared and/or recorded with Woody Herman, Louis Bellson, Arnett Cobb, Freddie Hubbard, Eddie Daniels, Jon Faddis, Randy Brecker, Ed Thigpen, Gerald Albright, Ernie Watts and Pete Christlieb.
His credits as a composer for television include ABC’s Fudge and CBS’s A League of Their Own. He has orchestrated for Kiss (Psycho Circus), Chicago (Night and Day), Richard Marx (Flesh and Bone and Elliot Smith (XO). He also orchestrates films, including the Warner Brothers’ releases Almost Heroes (1998) and Three To Tango (1999). He has written for the Royal Philharmonic and American Symphony, as well as orchestras in Los Angeles, Houston, Boston, Chicago and Atlanta.
Shelly composed the official theme song to the 1986 U.S. Olympic Festival. He is the past president of the International Association of Jazz Educators (IAJE), and has appeared as a lecturer/performer or all-state clinician throughout the United States as well as in Canada, Mexico, Europe, Japan and Israel.
He has published numerous compositions for jazz ensemble, and is the author of Jazz Improvisation: The Goal-Note Method and The Chop-Monster Jazz Series.