10 Questions with Nicholas Nasibyan
-written by Nat Richmond
The language of Music allows for the expression of a multitude of emotions and life experiences that often transcends boundaries. Nicholas Nasibyan has found his ability to speak to audiences of all walks through the power of creative Musical performances, gracing many stages in and around the Erie area. An accomplished pianist, Nicholas simply enjoys the work that goes into inspiring and communicating with listeners who are ready to feel all the good vibes that he is willing to share.
What inspired your musical journey?
Many things. I’ve been playing piano by ear since I was 4 years old. At 5 I began piano lessons. When I was 6 I began my performance career. It happened like this: My dad is a professional silhouette artist and my mom is a balloon artist. When I was young, they’d travel together to art and craft shows, where my mom would make balloon sculptures to keep young kids occupied while my dad simultaneously cut their silhouettes with scissors and black paper. Whenever I would travel with them, I’d get bored after long hours in the tent and so I came up with the idea to play piano for tips to pass the time. My parents asked the show promoters and they said yes. So I set up my keyboard on the back of a chair and wrote 3¢ for a song on a sign, no smoking on another (I had severe asthma) and played and sang near my parents booth. So it became an incredible fun family time, one that seems almost comedic to me now. At one show when I was 7, I made $250. I think that’s the moment I realized I wanted music as a career when I grew up. I also made it on TV news and in newspapers several times around that age in random places as far south as Florida. I was very fortune to have been well travelled and exposed to the idea of making art and music for a living from a very young age. As far as my early musical inspiration goes, growing up, both of my parents and my brother played musical instruments. My dad played guitar, my mom played flute, drums, and piano, and my brother played trumpet and piano. Additionally my grandparents brought me to many church services, where I gained a love for hymns and singing. In the summer, they’d take me on Sundays to Chautauqua where I was inspired to learn to play the pipe organ. I think being exposed to instruments, allowing children to “play” on easy to explore instruments such as the piano and interactively singing with children is so important for kids and their development. It’s arguably just as important as learning to read and write. So I was extremely fortunate to have had this early exposure in my life.
Name your top 3 musicians and why they have had an influence on your life.
When I reflect on my childhood, the moment I found the musical path that would lead me to my current identity in music was initially inspired by the 2004 movie Ray. I was 10 years old when I saw Ray and I immediately became inspired by Ray Charles, and began writing my own songs. Ray Charles, like myself had early roots in hymns and gospel music. He became a forefather of Rhythm and Blues by mixing elements of jazz, gospel, and blues. Ray Charles was not just an amazing piano player but vocalist as well. I think that really resonated with me too because I had always sang and played at the same time. Ray Charles introduced me to a lot of different styles of piano playing which I continue to use to this day. Later on, I started becoming interested in big band and swing. I loved the music of Glenn Miller, and found myself listening to crooners like Frank Sinatra daily. Eventually I fell in love with true vocal jazz artists such as Sarah Vaughan and Ella Fitzgerald. I listened to jazz piano of Erroll Garner, Nat King Cole, Nina Simone and many others. So my second artist is really a conglomeration of many artists because I love so many aspects and figures of jazz, it becomes incredibly hard to choose! My third is a modern artist, FKJ (French Kiwi Juice) who is a talented multi instrumentalist in his own rite but he also utilizes technological aspects in his music, by incorporating looping and electronic sounds. I think FKJ’s “nujazz” is the future of jazz music and I think he and his collaborators like Tom Misch and Masego are making jazz more accessible to younger generations. I think that is my ultimate goal. To get people who are my age that might not be listening to Ray Charles, or John Coletrane, but will identify with FKJ’s and Masego’s hit song “Tadow” which combines rap and jazz and electronic loops.
As the Director of Music at Belle Valley Presbyterian and St Thomas the Apostle Church, how has your experience affected the lives of the church goers?
Whenever I am performing music at church, it is not about my artistic voice. It is about a congregational experience. My goal is to uplift everyone in that church; and ultimately in the wider community. At St Thomas especially I encourage everyone to participate in music making. At St Thomas we have a choir as well as an ensemble that includes vocalists, guitar, bass guitar, drums, piano, flute, violin. I think that spirit of collaboration is a small example of God wanting us to work together
What are the components of a strong musical piece?
That’s quite a subjective issue, and hard to pin down. I would say a strong piece of music has development. Pieces that remain stagnant can get old quickly, although there are some people that love minimalism and want to saturate themselves in a mood or feeling. That is a valid preference as well.
What is your favorite instrument to play?
Piano, but I also play Organ, Trumpet, Guitar, & Drums
How are you best able to get into your creative zone?
Forcing creativity is a struggle. I need to work on finding a routine to put myself in that place. Unfortunately most of my life it just seems like a random burst of energy that comes without warning. It’s not frequent either; my creative energy has long periods of dormancy where I don’t feel inspired to write music at all. I think it’s all part of an artists struggle.
What are your ultimate goals on this journey?
1. I want to record my original music. 2. I want to collaborate with other musically inspired/ talented people. 3. I want to create new music. 4. I want to continue to travel and explore the world.
How do you hope to impact the Erie area through music?
I just want to bless others! Bring joy and good vibes and comfort, whatever the audience needs. I hope to continue to bring people together, and establish a new vibe which will attract more people to come out and enjoy the music!
How has your heritage inspired your creativity?
I’ve got a very diverse heritage. I’ve got Swedish, Armenian, Russian, & Ukrainian blood in me, and I’ve been blessed to have travelled to Armenia, Sweden, and Russia. All of these cultures inspire me and I listen to and know a lot of music from all of these countries. It’s rare that I have an opportunity to perform these songs though! When I was a composition student at Mercyhurst, I drew musical inspiration directly from the music of my heritage, and used my travels as a way to come in direct contact with the songs of these places. I also have musical relatives around the world, for example, my 3rd cousin, Torun, who is a violinist in Stockholm. She and I are about the same age and both are professional musicians. It’s really cool to have someone like that, across the ocean to compete with. And we have performed together on a few occasions.
Any final thoughts?
I have many, but it’s 1:00 AM and I need to call it here and go to bed! Thank you for featuring my story!