Donald Vega’s style and virtuosity on piano, along with his composing and arranging, mark this young artist as a unique and exciting presence in the world of jazz. His sound has been said to resonate with a touch of Oscar Peterson’s versatility and Bill Evans’ elegant lyricism.
Donald was born into a musical family and began playing the piano by ear at the young age of three. His formal training began at six years old, taught by his grandfather and uncle, both noted musicians in Nicaragua. Due to the ongoing civil war, Vega immigrated to the United States at the age of fourteen without speaking a word of English. While in the U.S. he continued to suffer health problems from a congenital defect that threatened both his hearing and musical future. Poverty-stricken, but still driven by his love for music, Vega practiced on a makeshift cardboard piano and within a year of coming to the United States he won the prestigious Los Angeles Spotlight Awards competition. With this competition, he captured the attention of Henry Mancini and the renowned jazz critic, Leonard Feather; befriended a benefactor who paid for his surgeries to correct his health and hearing; and David Abel of Fine Pianos, at the request of Walter Grumman and Barbara Haig, donated a piano to replace the now legendary piece of cardboard. Mastering English as quickly as the keyboard, Vega began studying at The Colburn School of Performing Arts, (where he also taught), and went on to earn a B.A. degree in Jazz Studies from the University of Southern California, an M.A. in Jazz Studies from the Manhattan School of Music, and an Artist Diploma from Juilliard. Along the way, he won the LA Jazz Society’s New Talent Award, The Great American Jazz Piano Competition in 2010, and Downbeat’s Student Music Award for 2007 best Jazz Soloist and has had his compositions highlighted in JAZZIZ. Donald recently judged his first national jazz piano competition, Kathleen T. and Phillip B. Phillips Jazz Piano Competition, at the Pensacola Jazz Festival in April 2010 after winning the same competition the year before.
Vega’s first album as a leader, Tomorrows, was released July 2008 with rave reviews, featuring Lewis Nash on drums and David J. Grossman on bass. Tomorrows includes six original tunes, showing us that Vega has evolved into both a creative composer and arranger. Tomorrows adds to a growing discography with Vega’s piano playing including Anthony Wilson’s The Power of Nine, Bennie Wallace’s Disorder at the Border, Jazz on the Latin Side’s The Last Bull Fighter, and Al McKibbon’s Black Orchid, to name just a few.