Talented Jazz Pianist Donald Vega

The town of Masaya in Nicaragua is well known for the superb handicrafts produced by the people living there, and it was in this culturally rich area of the country that talented Jazz pianist, Donald Vega, was born on July 23, 1974. It may have seemed that Vega had the odds stacked against him early in life as he was born with a severe cleft palate which, if not repaired, could have adversely affected his hearing. However, following a number of surgeries his palate was eventually repaired and his hearing saved, which he no doubt is grateful for – and so are his music-loving fans.

Donald Vega reportedly started playing the piano by the age of three. At first he played by ear, but at the age of six, his grandfather and uncle, who are both Nicaraguan musicians, gave him formal musical training. As civil war raged in Nicaragua, Vega left the country of his birth for the United States, arriving in Los Angeles, California, in 1989 – he was fifteen years old at the time. Struggling with ill health related to his cleft palate, and dealing with poverty, Vega never lost his love of music and would practice on a makeshift cardboard piano to develop his natural talent and maintain his formal musical training. Within a year of arriving in his adopted home country his unmistakable talent captured the attention of legendary American composer, conductor and arranger Henry Mancini, and Jazz critic Leonard Feather, when he won the esteemed Los Angeles Spotlight Awards competition. A benefactor paid for surgeries to treat his health problems, while other sponsors including Barbara Haig, Walter Grumman and David Abel of Fine Pianos replaced Vega’s cardboard piano with the real thing.

Vega rewarded his benefactors’ confidence in him as he mastered English, studied and taught at the Colburn School of Performing Arts, earned a B.A. degree in Jazz Studies from the University of Southern California, as well as an M.A. in Jazz Studies from the Manhattan School of Music, and an Artist Diploma from the renowned Juilliard School of dance, drama and music in New York. His list of awards, which is lengthy and still growing, includes the LA Jazz Society’s New Talent Award, Downbeat’s 2007 Student Music Award for Best Soloist, and the Great American Jazz Piano Competition 2010.

Donald Vega‘s first album, Tomorrows, featuring David J Grossman on bass and Lewis Nash on drums, was released in July 2008 and he is currently working on a second album. Vega currently resides in New York and performs at venues in New York City, Latin American countries and a number of countries in Europe. With rave reviews by fellow musicians and Jazz critics it’s clear that Donald Vega has developed the talent that was nurtured by his grandfather and uncle back in the town of his birth – Masaya, Nicaragua.