Thara John Memory, trumpeter, conductor, educator and composer, was born in 1948 in Tampa, Florida. There his early exposure to Cuban, African and European music formed his musical palette.Thara began playing the trumpet professionally at age 11. Since moving to the Northwest in 1970, Portland has served as home base for his notable and widely recognized career as a jazz performer. The Willamette Week said, “In each jazz community – and Portland has a sizeable one – there are stars. Memory is one that shines brightest.” Thara has performed with many jazz and rhythm and blues legends including Eddie Harris, Arturo Sandoval, Charlie Rouse, Dizzy Gillespie, Chuck Israel, Lou Rawls, Benny Maupin, Eddie Henderson, Natalie Cole, Fred Wesley and the Master Sounds, The Four Tops, Pleasure, The Leroy Vinegar Quartet, The Depriest Project, Ravi Best, Urban Agnas, Brian Lynch, Scotty Barnhart, Javon Jackson, John Handy, Dennis Springer, Bernard Purdy, Ben Wolfe, Obo Addy, George Shaw… and the list continues. Currently, he leads his own outstanding band, the Thara Memory Superband, and performs regularly with the Mel Brown Septet.
Thara is sought after as a studio musician, arranger and composer. His first personal CD, Juke Music is an original Southern blend of jazz, funk and world music. A long awaited second project, which promises an intermingling of jazz, soul and classical elements, is currently in progress. Examples of his musical range and versatility can be found in his many guest performances on the CDs of other artists. His sound can be heard on recent releases by Stan Bock and Bernard Purdy, Patricia Demarest and Dennis Springer.
Although best known for his contributions to the Northwest jazz scene, Thara is a respected classical conductor and composer. He earned his B.A. in conducting and composition from Marylhurst University. His conducting talents have been showcased as associate conductor of the Marylhurst Symphony, as guest conductor of the Portland Festival Symphony and as guest conductor of the Grande Ronde Youth Symphony. In 2001, Thara conducted the Marylhurst Symphony in the premier performance of his original composition, Middle Passage, which was reviewed and acclaimed by The Oregonian. He currently conducts the Pacific Crest Sinfonietta, which performs several concerts annually in NE Portland.
Thara has been awarded NEA, OAC and RACC grants for his involvement in community arts projects. In 2005, he was the awarded the prestigious RACC Fellowship for the Performing Arts. He founded Portland’s Accelerated Music Program, which promotes opportunities for talented minority and at-risk youth to achieve excellence in music. In 1999 he received a Lifetime Achievement Award from the World Arts Foundation for his community service in music.
Thara holds a well-deserved reputation for excellence as a music educator. He has taught at Portland State University, Marylhurst University, Mt. Hood Community College, and Portland Community College. In 2003, Thara began as director of the jazz orchestra program for Portland’s Metropolitan Youth Symphony under music director Lajos Balogh. He directed the jazz program there for more than a year. Thara chaired the music program at Beaverton’s Arts and Communication Magnet Academy for four years. In 2005, his ACMA Jazz Orchestra won top honors at numerous regional and national events. In 2005, Thara founded the American Music Program.
Thara John Memory is a consummate performer whose repertoire spans both classical and contemporary music. He eschews categorization of music saying, “The principles of music are the same for Bach as they are for Ellington. Everyone, young and old, should have complete access to music making.”