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Jon Hamar is a versatile artist who has been recognized for his ability to find a tastfule unique voice in any musical situation.Jon earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in double bass performance from Easter Washington University under the tutelage of Roma Vayspapir and graduated from the Eastman School of music with a master’s degree in jazz and contemporary media, studying with Jeff Campbell, James Vandemark, Harold Danko, Clay Jenkins and Fred Sturm. In 2015 Jon moved from Seattle to Knoxville, joining the University of Tennessee School of Music.
One of the most brilliant virtuosi ever to perform on the double bass, James VanDemark was hailed by the New York Times at his Lincoln Center recital debut as “an exceptionally gifted string player and a musician of taste, intelligence and the best spontaneous musical instincts, with an unerring sense for exact intonation.” The San Francisco Chronicle praised his “wonderful facility for making really musical phrases, relaxing, building, shading with unlimited subtleties – and a capacity to dig into whole pages of rip-roaring coloratura and make every note count.”
VanDemark began his musical studies at the age of 14 in his hometown of Owatonna, Minnesota, making such rapid progress that just 18 months later he made his solo debut with the Minnesota Orchestra. Subsequently, VanDemark has performed as soloist with the New York Philharmonic, St. Paul Chamber Orchestra, Buffalo Philharmonic, Grant Park Symphony, Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra, San Antonio Symphony, Mostly Mozart Festival Orchestra, Chautauqua Festival Orchestra, New Mexico Symphony, Quebec Symphony, National Symphony of Mexico, Netherlands Radio Symphony, and in numerous other concerto appearances.
VanDemark’s duo recitals with André Watts—including one on Lincoln Center’s Great Performer Series—and also with Samuel Sanders, Anthony Newman, Barry Snyder, and Robert Spillman have won him great acclaim. Chamber music collaborations with the Guarneri, Cleveland, Colorado, Muir, Ying, and Audubon Quartets, the Los Angeles Piano Quartet, Vienna Schubert Trio, Kandinsky Trio, Gryphon Trio and pianists Gary Graffman, Alfred Brendel, Anton Nel, Anton Kuerti, and Jeffrey Kahane highlight VanDemark’s versatility.
The recipient of numerous commissioned works, including those by three Pulitzer Prize winners – Gian-Carlo Menotti, Joseph Schwantner, and Christopher Rouse – VanDemark also performed the American premieres of Nino Rota’s Divertimento Concertante (Charlotte Symphony) and Edvard Tubin’s Double Bass Concerto (Queens Symphony). VanDemark’s most recent commission is a solo double bass work by Adrienne Elisha, which he recently performed with the Rochester City Ballet.
In demand as a narrator with orchestra, VanDemark has had more more than thirty appearances with the Rochester Philharmonic, as well as the Texas Festival Orchestra, the Eastman Philharmonia and ESSO, the NEO Ensemble, and many others.
A sought-after guest artist at summer festivals, VanDemark performs at the Mostly Mozart, Spoleto, Seattle Chamber Music, Montreal Chamber Music, Round Top, Maverick, Norfolk, South Bank (London), and Newport festivals.
An important direction in VanDemark’s career has been his involvement with Native American performers in Circle of Faith, composed by Alton Clingan. VanDemark commissioned this unique musical and cultural collaborative work, developing it in conjunction with respected Native artists and elders. He also produces the work, which has had more than 30 performances since its 1992 premiere with the Muir Quartet.
Appointed Professor of Double Bass at the Eastman School in 1976 at age 23, VanDemark became the youngest person ever to hold such a position at a major music school. VanDemark is recognized as a renowned teacher; his students have held positions with many of the world’s major orchestras – Cleveland, Pittsburgh, St. Louis, Minnesota, San Francisco, Singapore, Taiwan, and the Vienna Chamber Orchestra, as well as the Rochester Philharmonic, New World Symphony, Oregon Symphony, and the orchestras of Syracuse, Buffalo and Wichita. VanDemark’s guest master classes have included Northwestern University, Oberlin, Bard College, Cleveland Institute of Music, McGill University, University of Southern California, University of Michigan, Carnegie-Mellon, Duquesne, Louisiana State University, Shanghai Conservatory, Central Conservatory Beijing, and many others.
As a recording artist, VanDemark can be heard on d’Note Records, Philips, Telarc, Vox, Pantheon, and NEXUS.
The New York Times, in the first of its three profiles of VanDemark, also wrote that “Some people seemed destined to lead unconventional lives, and James VanDemark is one of them.” To that end, VanDemark (with legendary boxing coach Dominic Arioli) developed a boxing and conditioning program for Eastman students, subsequently profiled on ESPN, FoxSports, and in The Wall Street Journal. VanDemark’s other boxing accomplishments have been profiled on CBC’s Q, WNYC’s SoundCheck, and, at the request of violinist Hilary Hahn, in The Strad.
The producer of the highly acclaimed Weill Style Gala for the Brooklyn Academy of Music, VanDemark has also collaborated with Oscar winning writers Ernest Thompson and Ron Harwood, Oscar nominated writer Hesper Anderson, and television Sir David Frost in developing film and television projects. VanDemark produced the music video The Gift, with music by Frank Wildhorn, for Atlantic Records.
A high school dropout, VanDemark graduated in 1976 from SUNY Buffalo (BFA, Magna cum Laude). His principal teachers include bassist James Clute and cellist Paul Katz, with additional study with bassist Gary Karr and cellists Gabor Rejto and Leonard Rose.