Winter Fest 2002

    The road to rock stardom has been a long and winding one for Jason Mraz. Born in Virginia, Mraz began playing guitar at the ripe old age of 18. During a brief stint in New York, the streets of Manhattan and a bout of psychic intervention inspired Mraz to write music. When a fortune-teller in Central Park told Jason to “”go with what you know.”” Mraz, in true Horatio Alger fashion, went west, ending up in San Diego onstage at legendary Java Joe’s in Ocean Beach.

    While performing has long been a part of his life, Mraz’s career could have easily turned out completely different. At age 13, Mraz sang in a wannabe boy-band called Dressed to Kill, and by the time college rolled around, he left Virginia for New York’s American Musical and Dramatic Academy to study — believe it or not — jazz, tap and ballet in hopes of finding a job in musical theater.

    However, it was the lights of subway tunnels, not Broadway, that eventually beckoned Mraz, and before long, he was moving between the rail lines and jamming in parks.

    During a trip to Las Vegas, Mraz got lucky — not at the casino — while performing for a group of people that included his future manager Bill Silva.

    Silva, who was moving to Los Angeles, let Mraz move into his San Diego home and encouraged him to explore San Diego’s music scene. Mraz found his way to the coffee house circuit, hooking up with Toca Rivera, who backs Mraz up with djembe drums and vocal harmonies.

    On a fateful night at Java Joe’s, Silva convinced owner Joe Flamini that Mraz was worth a shot. He didn’t even have his own guitar with him and had to borrow singer-songwriter Carlos Olmeda’s guitar to play.

    That was two years ago, and now Mraz is following in the footsteps of San Diego all-stars. Mraz is the next in a long line of San Diego folkies who can recount the good times had at Java Joe’s.

    Those times, however, have changed.

    The Java Joe’s that Mraz debuted at is now a Starbucks, and the new Java Joe’s located a couple blocks away on Bacon Street is now serving alcohol and is 21-and-up.

    Mraz is now splitting his time between playing gigs in San Diego and recording for Elektra records in Los Angeles. Mraz might just be the next big thing, and fortunately for UCSD, WinterFest is another stop on Jason’s winding road to fame.

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