Primary Instrument: Piano
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. Donald currently resides in New York where he recently completed his studies at the Juilliard School with piano great, Kenny Barron. He frequently performs at nightclubs in New York City as well as throughout Europe and Latin America. Vega's second album, Spiritual Nature, is slated for release in the summer of 2012.
Awards:Original composition, “Wailing Jane”, selected for Jazz Times 2008 Education Issue 1st Place, Jazz Piano Competition Pensacola Jazz Festival, 2008 Runner Up, Great American Jazz Piano Competition, Jacksonville, FL 2007
Donald Vega plays with a formidable technique, a rich imagination, and a lot of heart. For my money, a major talent of his generation. - Bennie Wallace, saxophonist, March 2009
“Tomorrows is a must hear disc for those who love the sound of the piano dancing to new melodies and enriching the music from standards we've come to know and love. Vega offers six new original scores displaying his talents on the keys playing with power, intensity and a touch of class...the group finishes with the light ballad of Butterfly Waltz, a piece the pianist writes for his wife, (it) is perhaps the crowning piece of an impressive and compelling session of contemporary light jazz making. Tomorrows is one of the better debut discs around.” - eJazzNews, January 2009
“...Throughout the disc, Vega exhibits firm technical command with inventiveness and sensitivity...indeed the pianist's composing and arranging skills are as impressive as his playing...Vega's debut makes a strong impression.” - JazzReview.com February 2009
“Whether performing covers or his own compositions, Vega quickly establishes himself as a pianist in the classic jazz tradition.” - All About Jazz, February 2009
With Scorpion, the opening chords and connecting right-hand melodies are full of energy, but things really get cooking during Vega's solo. Bassist David J. Grossman walks a brilliant line that manages to stay locked into the pulse (thank you, Lewis Nash) while providing beautiful counterpoint to Vega's harmonic constructs....Great stuff. - Jazz.com January 2009
“This documentation of Donald Vega's talent should be heard by all who love good music. I highly recommend this CD.” - Jimmy Heath, Saxophonist, December 2008
Donald Vega is one of the most gifted and talented pianists of his generation. On this CD, Donald shows a full range of skills with beautiful writing as well as touch and feeling.” - Rodney Jones, guitarist, March 2009
If you love good music, you need look no further than Donald Vega. His music swings, grooves, and just plain feels good.
“Donald represents all of the best qualities of the next generation of jazz pianists.” - Carl Allen, drummer
“... Your playing is swinging hard!” - Billy Childs, pianist
“... His music swings -- he is a wonderful pianist with great chops and imagination...” - Kenny Barron, pianist
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Willing to teach:
Advanced students only.
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