Dr. Wataru Niimori actively works as a composer, arranger, pianist and educator in the U.S. and Japan. His works include scores for a documentary, “Nebraska Stories: VIETNAM,” produced by Nebraska Educational Telecommunication (NET) and a short film selected by Omaha Film Festival 2018, “Central Incompetence.” His other works include arrangements for concert music, jazz, dance, and rock including “String Quartet No.1 in G Major,” “Piano Sonata for Two Pianos No.1,” “Emily Dickinson Song Cycle for Soprano voice, Alto saxophone and Piano,” “Song for Jessica (for the jazz big band),” and “Dance Project 2018.” Recently, he worked on strings arrangement for a rock band called Marc Neibauer, whose album will be released in Fall 2018.
Wataru Niimori was born in Kyoto, Japan. At the age of 3, he started studying classical piano under the watchful eye of his teacher Mrs. Mariko Fujisawa. He won the second place in Maizuru city’s piano competition, silver prize in YAMAHA piano competition and the second place in Kinki piano competition. Apart from studying classical music, he enjoyed improvising, copying music from films and cartoons, and playing along with recordings his parents owned, which included the Beatles, Simon & Garfunkel, Louis Armstrong, Ray Charles, Elvis Presley, James Brown and traditional Japanese folk songs. His musical styles are versatile in both composing and performing and include Blues, Boogie-woogie, Bossa Nova, Classical music, Country, Dixieland, Electronic, Funk, Gospel, New Orleans and Rock. He is also enthusiastic about studies in the ethnic music: Arabic, French, Indian, Irish, and Serbian music. He had the opportunity to learn how to play goblet drum called Dumbek, with a group of Syrian percussionists. In addition to playing Dumbek, he also enjoys playing Flute, Penny Whistle, Hammond Organ and Synthesizer as well as acoustic piano.
In 2004, Wataru started studying Film and Directing at Temple University in Philadelphia, where he fell in love with the city’s numerous jazz venues and reestablished his love for jazz music. In 2005, he started to study Jazz piano with Mike Frank and received his Bachelor of Music degree (Jazz piano performance and composition) from Boyer College of Music, Temple University in 2010. He studied Jazz piano with Bruce Barth, Jazz composition with Dr. Norman David, and Classical composition with Dr. Richard Brodhead. In 2014, Mr. Niimori received Master of Music degree in Jazz Studies at Jacobs School of Music, Indiana University, studying with Luke Gillespie and a renowned musician and educator, Dr. David Baker. He holds doctorate (composition) from University of Nebraska-Lincoln.
As a piano/keyboard player and arranger, he was a part of various ensembles including Glenn Miller Orchestra which toured the U.S., Australia, Croatia, and Japan. He actively works as a solo piano player at concerts and restaurants. In his highly acclaimed solo performance at Powell Hall in St. Louis in 2017, Mr. Niimori presented his arrangement of Japanese traditional music for piano, harp, and flute, “Sakura” and “Kojo no Tsuki (The Moon over the Ruined Castle).”
As an educator, Mr. Niimori worked as an assistant musical director of Gospel Choir at Japanese Christian Church of Philadelphia and taught piano and music theory at a private school in Albany, NY. He is also an avid guest lecturer and speaker and some of his presentations include the following:
- Music of Japan; Nebraska History Museum, Nebraska State Historical Society, Lincoln, NE, January 2018
- Difference and Similarity between film music and concert music; 15th UPBEA, Composition Summer Festival, Milna, Croatia, July 2017
- What is music of the United States? Part I, from 18th century to early 20th century: Classical music,jazz, folk song, musical and film music; Composition Seminar at University of Nebraska-Lincoln, Lincoln, NE, February 2017
In 2017, Mr. Niimori founded an organization called LNK New Music Collective which focuses on planning musical events, providing musicians with opportunities to write and perform music, and collaborating with artists in various fields to promote newly written music and reach out to the community of Lincoln and Omaha. In September 2017, Mr. Niimori wrote music for the piano and viola reflecting on a painting “Rich In Love” by an artist Ms. Natalia Klaviec.
Mr. Niimori is currently working on his book about Michel Legarnd, a French jazz pianist and a 3-time Oscar-winner for his film scoring.
©2019 Wataru Niimori