Rob Lamonica has been playing piano professionally for 25 years, but started when he was about six years old.
“There was always a piano in my house. It’s just always been a part of my life. Whenever I was bored, I’d pluck around on that thing,” he said.
Lamonica, sometimes referred to as the Musical Mayor of Mazatlan, was named instrumentalist of the year in the 2002 Country Music Association Awards, competing in Nashville among other top talent.
Since then, his musical prowess has taken him all over, including Mexico, Hawaii and across Canada, and led him to share the stage with some big names in music, including the Jerry Garcia Band, Merl Saunders and Robin Trower.
“I have a saying: 88 keys open a lot of doors,” he said.
Lamonica has lived in Mazatlan for the past 16 years, performing there seven nights a week, meeting travelers and traveling musicians alike, many from Canada.
He and his bandmates typically serve as the backing band for whatever musician has flown in that week to play in the Mexican city. The idea is for the band to be adaptable — and as a trio with Lamonica on keys accompanied by a guitar and drums, they are.
“It’s very organic. We’re pretty laid back — pretty easy,” he said.
For the past eight years, Lamonica has done the opposite of what many Canadians do each winter, flying north during the summers to escape the Mazatlan heat.
Typically, that voyage means a trip to Riding Mountain National Park north of Brandon, Man. But this year, he said he’s opted to bounce around — and that bouncing includes his Canada Day stop in Kamloops to play the season opening Music in the Park show.
He will take the stage with some guests and his fellow bandmates, Ignacio Chavez on guitar and Omar Rios on drums.
Performing with Lamonica and company will be Daline Jones. In the past, the jazz, soul and latin singer has served as the lead singer for the renowned Starlight Orchestra and her first recording sessions were for Lionel Richie and the Commodores. She now lives in Los Cabos in Mexico.
The stage is set for Canada Day in Riverside Park. The day will begin with a pancake breakfast from 7 a.m. to 10:30 a.m. with the opening ceremonies immediately after.
Folkfest, featuring an international food fair hosted by the Kamloops Multicultural Society, begins after the opening ceremonies and continues until 5:30 p.m., including music and performances.
At 7 p.m., Lamonica and band take to the stage, followed by Ayren and The Kingpins at 8:15 p.m. and The Infectuals at 9:15 p.m.