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Christmas Concert by Wataru Niimori

Submitted Photo Award-winning pianist Wataru "Dr. Wat" Niimori to perform at Anderson Museum of Contemporary Art for a free Christmas Concert.

Copyright © 2021 Roswell Daily Record

Christmas Concert

Wataru Niimori to perform at Anderson Museum of Contemporary Art

By Christina Stock

Vision Editor

Award-winning Wataru “Dr. Wat” Niimori will play Christmas tunes during an evening piano concert at the Anderson Museum of Contemporary Art (AMoCA). The concert will include a special piece arranged by Niimori, which he performed at the Lincoln Center in Manhattan in 2018.

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Other classical Christmas songs include “O Tannenbaum,” “Christmas is Here,” “Jingle Bells,” “Linus and Lucy” and “Hark the Herald Angels Sing,” to name a few.

Niimori has an impressive background as composer, music engraver, orchestrator, pianist and teacher.

Living in Roswell, his latest performance was with the Roswell Symphony Orchestra in December 2020, when he participated in its virtual concert.

Asked why he moved to Roswell, Niimori wrote in an email, “My wife got a job here as a lawyer and we moved summer 2020. I had been working in the music industry and teaching, which I was able to do remotely.”

Born in Kyoto, Japan, his talent showed early on and was developed under the guidance of Mariko Fujisawa, who was his teacher when Niimori was only 3.

In his biography it reads that Niimori soon participated in competitions, winning several Japanese city awards. The versatile musician studied classical music, but also enjoyed improvising, recreating music he heard in films and cartoons. He would accompany recordings his parents played, which included songs by the Beatles, Simon & Garfunkel, Louis Armstrong and James Brown as well as traditional Japanese folk music.

He would become an expert in performing all kinds of music genres including ethnic music such as Irish and French.

Asked why he decided to become a professional pianist, Niimori wrote, “I love piano! I grew up playing classical music and then switched to jazz, blues, rock, bossa nova and other styles of music. Fortunately, I had formal training in both classical and non-classical music at the music schools. I love playing different styles of music, especially classical music, jazz and blues.”

His love for music brought him to the US. He graduated with a bachelor’s degree in music from the Temple University, Philadelphia, received his master’s degree in jazz studies from Indiana University and earned his doctorate in music arts at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.

One of Niimori’s highlights, next to his performance at the Lincoln Center, was when he had the opportunity to play a goblet drum called Dumbek with Syrian percussionists.

With all these impressive accolades, Niimori always enjoyed performing at various venues, be it concert halls or restaurants.

Asked about his style, Niimori wrote, “My style was influenced by classical music, jazz — stride and bebop — and avant garde. However, since I have been playing background music in restaurants, accompanied choirs, toured with rock and funk bands, and played in concert halls, my style is like a chameleon. I adjust my style to the atmosphere. I have been trained to learn as many styles as possible, and I am still learning. Music is a lifetime (of) work.”

As an educator, Niimori has taught piano since 2008. He taught piano and music theory for all ages and levels in private music schools in Albany, New York, and Kansas City, Kansas.

Niimori was a part of various ensembles, including Glenn Miller Orchestra and New Mexico Philharmonic, which toured the US, Australia, Croatia and Japan.

Asked how he fared moving to Roswell in the midst of the pandemic, Niimori wrote, “The musical opportunities had radically decreased because of the pandemic, but I did all I could do, such as remotely assisting composers, teaching and studying music as much as possible. The material musicians learn is infinite. Making money in music was challenging, but it was a great opportunity for me to learn music and improve my skills. I would never find myself saying, ‘Ok, I learned everything and there is nothing (more) I can do in music.’”

Niimori’s Christmas concert takes place at the Anderson Museum, 409 E. College Blvd., Dec. 6 from 6 to 7:30 p.m. and is free of charge. The artist has indicated that donations will be appreciated. For more information, visit niimorimusic.com.

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