Nobuyuki Tsujii and experiencing new music

I love music. Growing up in North Carolina, I had a steady diet of top 40 radio with a heavy dose of country music from my mother (especially Loretta Lynn, George Jones, and Tammy Wynette). While I listen to a wide variety of music, I still feel like I’ve barely scratched the surface on genres like classical, or more generally, music from outside the United States. I’ve been trying to actively change that.

Over the past few years, I’ve been making a special effort to buy tickets to performances by artists I don’t already know and in genres explicitly outside what I know. NYC has so many amazing venues with decades of proven curatorial excellence so it’s easy to do here. This approach has led me to see artists like Senegalese superstar Youssou N’Dour and Brazilian legend Caetano Veloso (check out this New Yorker piece on him: “How Caetano Veloso Revolutionized Brazil’s Sound and Spirit.”) I walked into those shows knowing nothing about the artists or their music, or even the language they were singing in. Without fail, I leave those shows a huge fan and the music becomes part of my musical identity. (If you get a chance to see either Youssou N’Dour or Caetano Veloso – DO IT. Wow. A couple of the best shows I’ve ever seen.)

We went to one of those don’t-know-anything-about-this-artist shows last night at Carnegie Hall. The performer was Nobuyuki Tsujii, a Japanese pianist. Before these shows, I make a special effort NOT to read about the performer or listen to the music since I want to experience it fully with no pre-conceptions or pre-defined expectations. When we walked up to Carnegie Hall, the body of people in line was electric. After the crowd filed in and he came out to perform, the crowd went crazy. For the next two hours, we were blown away (see program below). We found ourselves yelling for an encore as part of a rapturous standing ovation (and we got three encores interspersed with the curtain calls).

I’m so glad we went — we’re now Nobuyuki Tsujii’s newest fans. Be sure to go see him (and other artists you might not know) when you get the chance.