The first line of Jonathan Mamora’s biography states that he is Indonesian-American. It is a mention the award-winning pianist hopes will encourage any aspiring musician in the audience at Dallas Chamber Symphony’s May 23 concert at Moody Performance Hall in the Dallas Arts District.
“You didn’t really hear much about a career as a musician if you are in Indonesia so I felt it was important because I hope if someone looks at that says, “Oh, I could do that too. I’m Indonesian. This could be something for me. Why not?’” Mamora said. “I think it’s important that I do take pride in my own heritage and culture because it is my story. It talks about who I am, where I came from, where my parents came from and though I was born in the United States, this is my story.”
The winner of the 2022 Dallas International Piano Competition is a child of immigrants and a native of Southern California. He started playing piano at age four.
“I actually wanted to start when I was three, but the teacher said I was too young,” Mamora said.
His connection to the instrument was immediate.
“My parents tell me when I was a kid apparently, they would never have to force me to go practice,” Mamora said.
Mamora’s childhood determination led him to pursue and earn his Bachelor of Music from La Sierra University and his Master of Music from The Juilliard School, laying the foundations for a career in music.
“I’ve always enjoyed it and I’ve always worked very hard at it. I’ve had the right people in my life at the right time to show me what is possible with music. It was kind of perfect storm of events that made me choose in college to say, ‘Yeah, this is what I want to do.’ And I don’t regret it one bit. It is not easy. It’s extremely difficult and it requires long hours of work that isn’t a guarantee. I think I had to come to terms with my value in music and what it provides for me and what I can provide others with music,” Mamora said. “It’s been really rewarding.”
In addition to performances in North America, South America, Europe and Asia, Mamora is a candidate for the Doctor of Musical Arts in Piano Performance and Literature at the Eastman School of Music, studying with and serving as studio assistant for Douglas Humpherys. He is the prizewinner of the Maria Canals International Music Competition, Virginia Waring International Piano Competition, Sviatoslav Richter International Piano Competition, and Eastman Piano Concerto Competition.
He recently performed Sergei Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto No. 1 with the Eastman Philharmonia, Olivier Messiaen’s Oiseaux exotiques with the Eastman Wind Ensemble, and world premieres of Ariel Quintana’s Piano Concerto No. 1, and Robert Morris’ Septet. As a soloist, he has performed with Coachella Valley Symphony, La Sierra University Orchestra, La Sierra University Wind Ensemble, and the Loma Linda University Church Orchestra and he was a featured artist for the LA Philharmonic Affiliates of the Desert.
On May 4, Mamora made his Carnegie Hall debut at Weill Recital Hall.
“Carnegie was my childhood dream,” Mamora said. “It was probably the most fun I’ve had onstage.”
Performing with an orchestra like Dallas Chamber Symphony is one of the most satisfying musical experiences for Mamora.
“As pianists, we dream about playing with orchestras,” Mamora said. “Some pianists – excellent pianists – go their entire careers without being able to perform with an orchestra.”
Mamora recalls preparing for the final round of last year’s Dallas International Piano Competition, which included performing with the Dallas Chamber Symphony.
“Going into that final round with that orchestra, I felt – and still do feel – a sense of gratitude because it was a real privilege,” Mamora said. “It also just makes it that more exciting and fulfilling because now it’s not just you on the stage. It’s you and 40 or 50 other people that are making music together, so it becomes this conversation, you and the other people onstage and you and the audience members.”
For the May 23 concert, he will play Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 23 in A Major with the orchestra. The piece will complement Mozart’s Overture to Don Giovanni and Beethoven’s Symphony No. 3 in E-flat Major, the “Eroica.” Mozart wrote the concerto late in his career when he was 30 and the second movement is different from Mozart’s typical charming sentiment.
“It is one of the rare piano works by Mozart where we have quite a tragic, sorrowful, it’s very, very deeply felt in the second movement,” Mamora said.
Mamora has been playing a lot of Rachmaninoff this year in honor of the 150th anniversary of the composer’s birth. Compared with the thick chords of Rachmaninoff’s complex works, this Mozart concerto with orchestra sounds effortless.
“It’s kind of the irony where there’s this beautiful simplicity and that’s what makes it complicated,” Mamora said. “The melodies just have to be perfect. The harmonies have to balance well into it and so it’s all of these things that you are trying to negotiate and it’s a balancing act. I think that’s what makes Mozart hard.”
Learn more: Dallas Chamber Symphony