American Cruise Lines: ‘Velvet Piano Player’ Jon England entertains on American Symphony

My Dad was a natural-born musician. If he heard a song, he could play it. My brother Joe inherited that talent. I did not.

On our American Symphony cruise, I knew that Joe would enjoy meeting and hearing talented performer Jon England.  With a name like American Symphony, the new riverboat is an appropriate entertainment home for Jon. With its musical art decor, the Symphony and Jon are a popular team with passengers.

Hard to believe but the musically  versatile Jon has never had a music lesson in his life. Yet the self-taught musician has been entertaining cruise ship passengers around the world since he was a teen.

Jon’s amazing phonographic memory allows him to play all kinds of music – from classical to show tunes to Big Band and pop, even the Beatles. He also can play a wide repertoire of musical instruments.

“I can play whatever has to be played and I can play any instrument that has to be played,” Jon says with a smile. Check out Jon’s website for more at

Jon England presents his Beatles show.

Becoming a cruise ship entertainer

So how did the man from the English seaside become a cruise ship entertainer with the audience-bestowed nickname ‘The Velvet Piano Player?’ “My father,” Jon answers simply.

Growing up near Dorchester in England, Jon was the grandson of a vaudeville pianist. “I guess I got it from my grandmother,” he says. “There were three pianos in our home and I can’t remember when I didn’t play.”

When he was 19 years old, Jon was given a career boost by his father. “My dad submitted a tape of me playing to Cunard and told them, ‘If you are ever looking for a piano player, my son is a great one.’”

Two weeks later, Jon got a call from Cunard. That was back in the early 1980s. “And I’ve been doing it ever since.”

In fact, Jon has sailed around the world five times and entertained on most cruise lines.

Beatles, classical music and more

For entertainment aboard the American Symphony, Jon tickled the ivories during the evening cocktail hour in the River Lounge. On our cruise, Jon will be presenting two special productions – Beatlemania and Classically Inspired which features hits from Chopin, Tchaikovsky, Mozart, Debussy and more.

For Beatlemania, Jon strapped on a Brit-pop guitar, mop-top wig and Nehru-style jacket to rock out the Fab Four’s greatest hits. Passengers sang along to the full screen lyrics.

Jon England and my brother Joe

Jon moved to America in 2000 but still has an open door to visit his childhood home. “I have one sister who still lives in the old home place in England so I can go back and visit there,” he says.

As for how his life and career have evolved, Jon says it is the best of all worlds.

“I grew up by the sea and I grew up with music so I have the sea and music in my soul,” he says. “This is the perfect job for me. I love what I’m doing.”

A huge bass fiddle is part of the musical art decor on the new American Symphony. 

Photos by Jackie Sheckler Finch

Ed. Notes: CruiseCompete and its member travel advisors provide many curated cruise and land deals, offers and amenities on over 50 cruise lines with over 500 cruise ships sailing all around the world. Browse Cruise Ships and Cruise Lines

7 Night – Lower Mississippi River Cruise from.. American Symphony (



Day 1 Memphis TN
Day 2 Day of River Cruising
Day 3 Vicksburg, MS
Day 4 Natchez, MS
Day 5 St. Francisville, LA
Day 6 Baton Rouge, LA
Day 7 Houmas House, LA
Day 8 New Orleans, LA

Mississippi River Cruises | American Cruise Lines



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