Take Five With Donald Vega

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Meet Donald Vega:

Donald Vega's style and virtuosity on piano, along with his passion for composing and arranging, mark this young artist as a unique and exciting presence in the world of jazz. His recent competitive winnings include first place at the 2008 Philips Jazz Piano Competition at the University of West Florida and the 2007 Down Beat Magazine Jazz Student Soloist award. Vega's first album as a leader, Tomorrows, was released in 2008.

Tomorrows adds to Vega's growing discography, which includes Anthony Wilson's The Power of Nine, Bennie Wallace's Disorder at the Border, and Al McKibbon's Black Orchid.

Vega can be found performing both internationally and at local New York City jazz clubs such as The Blue Note, The Jazz Standard, Smalls, and Jazz at Lincoln Center: Dizzy's Club Coca-Cola. His performances throughout Europe and Latin America have included the Berlin, North Sea, and Verona Jazz Festivals, to name a few. Donald resides in New York City and studies at The Juilliard School with jazz piano great, Kenny Barron.

Instrument(s):

Piano.

Teachers and/or influences? Current Teacher: Kenny Barron. Previous Teachers: Gary Dial, Phil Markowitz, John Clayton and Teresa De Jong-Pombo.

Influences: Ahmad Jamal, McCoy Tyner, Bill Evans, Hank Jones, Herbie Hancock, Bud Powell, and Art Tatum.

I knew I wanted to be a musician when...

I started playing piano at three. I guess I really didn't have a choice!

Your sound and approach to music: Having the right touch is key. I try to always be lyrical and tell a story through my music. If I can do that during a gig, then I'm happy.

Your teaching approach: I try to inspire my students by teaching them about the masters in jazz and instilling in them a curiosity to want to know more. I like to give them just enough information to peak their interest, while still allowing room for self discovery. If I can do this, then I have succeeded and their own interest will drive them to work hard, practice, and love the music!

Road story: Your best or worst experience: What happens on the road...stays on the road!!!

Favorite venue:

Smalls: it's nice and intimate, with a piano, and no drama. I can just walk in, play and enjoy my surroundings.

Your favorite recording in your discography and why? Right now, it's Inception (Impulse!), by McCoy Tyner.

The first Jazz album I bought was: Kind of Blue (Columbia), by Miles Davis.

What do you think is the most important thing you are contributing musically? Giving back to the community and kids through teaching and clinics.

Did you know...

I was smuggled into the United States on the 4th of July, for real!

What are some of the essential requirements to keep jazz alive and growing?

1. Have more venues to play at;

2. Encourage young people to listen to this music.

What is in the near future?

  • Gig in AZ w/ Lewis Nash and his band (4/2009)
  • Gig in Portugal w/ Bennie Wallace and his quartet (summer 2009)
  • Preparing for my next album recording (end of 2009)
  • Working on a score for a movie next year (2010)


By Day:

Practicing, practicing, practicing!

If I weren't a jazz musician, I would be a:

Psychiatrist: I love to analyze everything!

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