Take Five With J. Vega

J. Vega By

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Meet J Vega:

I've been playing music and teaching guitar for more than 35 years. I've been on the faculty at Cal State L.A., East L.A. College, and Los Angeles City College. I also lead a quintet called J. Vega & Friends that plays throughout Southern California and maintain a teaching studio.


Electric guitar, acoustic guitar, electric bass, percussion.

Teachers and/or influences?

Jimmy Wyble, Tom Hynes, Richard Pattie, and Matthew Elgart.

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

I first heard jazz when I was 14. I can't really tell you why, but music is something that I really react to and touches me on a deep level.

Your sound and approach to music:

I'm a guitar-cable-amp person. I prefer a dark tone and I've been told that my playing is reminiscent of Kenny Burrell, which I take as a huge compliment.

Your teaching approach:

I try to tailor my teaching approach to each student because no two students are alike. I try to make learning fun and ensure that my students develop good technique, which can be a real challenge on guitar. I also teach the about aspects of music that aren't always discussed.

Your dream band:

I think I would've enjoyed playing guitar in Weather Report.

Favorite venue:

I play a lot of restaurant and bar gigs, but Catalina Bar & Grill is always a great experience.

Did you know...

I was born in Cuba and came to the States when I was six. My parents left everything behind because the didn't want to raise a family in a communist country.

How would you describe the state of jazz today?

The heyday of jazz was probably in the '30s to the early '60s. These days jazz is kept alive by fans that like and discover the music. Jazz has probably been a niche market since the mid-'60s, but it manages to hang in there.

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

Put music education back in schools instead of focusing so much on technology.

What is in the near future?

I released an EP of original compositions late last year. I would like to assemble another full-length album, but I'm not sure it will happen this year.

What's your greatest fear when you perform?

It used to be stage fright or fear of screwing up, but I've gotten over that. I've always tended to be overly critical of my playing, but when I listen to playbacks they usually sound ok, so I'm not as uptight as I used to be.

What song would you like played at your funeral?

Samuel Barber's "Adagio for Strings."

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

Music teacher or editor.

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