On Sunday mornings, Vince di Mura can be found playing smooth jazz on his keyboard at Sunday brunch in Forbes College. Not all of his listeners know his story.
Di Mura is the University’s resident music director and composer. His talent as a musical director has brought him across the globe. As a classical and jazz pianist, he has graced the stage in venues across North America, Europe, and Latin America and has six CDs on the market. As an arranger, he is recognized for his pieces “My Way: A Tribute to the Music of Frank Sinatra,” “Simply Simone,” and “I Left My Heart: A Tribute to the Music of Tony Bennett.”
He knew from a young age that he “was born to play the keyboard,” he said, making his Carnegie Hall debut at 13.
At the University, he does dance accompaniment, serves as a musical director, teaches, and is a Forbes fellow.
According to di Mura, his position at the University is perfect for him.
“It’s constantly creative,” he said.
He expressed great adoration for the University’s history, community, campus, and above all, its students.
“I love how difficult it is to be here … that [the] students are capable,” he said.
Jasmeene Burton ’19 is a frequent guest at di Mura’s Forbes brunch concerts.
“You can make a request and he’ll turn it into something jazzy which is super great. It’s super creative,” she continued. “It’s classy. And then you turn and see this man having the most fun in his life.”
For di Mura, however, art isn’t only about having fun — it can be therapeutic in helping navigate difficult times. As a recovering drug addict and alcoholic, di Mura has a deep sense of empathy for people who are suffering from addiction.
“Chances are if you live long enough, you are going to do something really wrong,” he said.
The key for di Mura is to practice patience in difficult times and remember that every situation in life can give you new insight, which can even help create drama in his art.
“If life was simpler, making art would be simpler,” he said.
Because of this attitude, he has no regrets in life.
Di Mura tries to bring this positive attitude into the rehearsal room. Recently, di Mura worked as a music director for the student production of “Legally Blonde, The Musical.”
Charlotte Thiel ’22, a member of the cast, recalled working with him as an extraordinary experience, noting that he was often creating music during rehearsals. For instance, she explained that di Mura has a playful and stress-free approach to rehearsals.
“Sometimes he’ll pause, take a minute, and give us these crazy life lessons,” Thiel said.
For di Mura, this approach to rehearsals is intentional. He explained that the hectic pace of campus life can take a toll on students, so he purposefully places an emphasis on reducing students’ stress in the rehearsal room.
He wants students to let go of their perfectionist tendencies the next time they open their mouths to sing.
“You have to get people to trust you,” he continued. “You’re here to discover and if you’re here for any other reason, nothing is going to surprise you.”
Di Mura insists that people should be having fun, especially during rehearsals.
“If they’re stressed in any way, they can’t learn,” he said.
Part of this attitude comes from his own experience of trying to force himself to play classical music.
“I wanted to attack music differently and classical music was telling me I couldn’t,” said di Mura, who found that improvisation and a playful attitude allowed his talent to flourish.
Now he advises people to not “play with other people’s toys” — that is, stick to the form of expression that speaks to you most. He now focuses on his passion for jazz and blues.
Di Mura said that he often does not remember his performances because of the extent of his focus during the performances.
“I’ve given really amazing concerts where I didn’t remember how I got from beginning to end because I was so involved in the music making at the time,” he said. “I’m a jazz improviser, so being in the moment is the whole point.”
With many years of professional success under his belt, di Mura now works to stay calm and enjoy life.
His other interests include food, travel, football, chess, gardening, museums, and art.
“Enjoyment is enormously recreative … Whatever brings you pleasure, you need to enjoy and you need to allow,” he said.