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John Nilsen is a pianist, guitarist, vocalist, songwriter and one of the Pacific Northwest’s most successful performance and recording artists. Nilsen's label, Magic Wing, has a catalog of twenty titles, all distributed internationally. Many have been licensed in countries outside the United States, including Germany, Great Britain, The Philippines, Canada, Taiwan and Singapore. John Nilsen’s record sales far exceed a million copies, a rare accomplishment in the music industry. 240 of his compositions and arrangements receive performance and mechanical royalties.
Nilsen is a prolific performer. Over the past thirty-five years (less 2020, 2021 due to Covid), he has averaged 240 performances a year as a solo pianist and as a member of his two bands. The John Nilsen Trio, which performs a mix of folk, classical, jazz and rock, features John Nilsen/piano; Jeff Leonard/bass; and Jason Moore/percussion. John Nilsen & SWIMFISH, an original rock band, features John Nilsen/guitar, piano, vocals; Dave Captein/bass; Mike Snyder/drums; Bob Logue/guitar, vocals; and Don Woodward/guitar, harmonica, mandolin, vocals. Nilsen tours incessantly as a solo pianist and as a member of his bands. He has performed countless times in every U.S. State, as well as logging numerous tours in Europe, Asia and Australia. He has appeared with such luminaries as Jose Feliciano, Jesse Colin Young, David Foster, Marc Cohn, Kenny G, Alex De Grassi, Montreaux and many others.
Nilsen is a native of the Pacific Northwest. He was born in Seattle and raised primarily in Portland, where he has been a resident for many years. Nilsen began studying piano from his mother at age six and taught himself to play guitar at age twelve. He attended Southern Oregon University, graduating with a Bachelor of Arts in English. He loves to get out on the rivers, into the forests and onto the mountains of the region. The people, landscapes, weather, and tenor of life in the Pacific Northwest have influenced Nilsen’s musical themes.
The late Dan Peek, founding member of the rock band, America, wrote: “Major Kudos on your SWIMFISH CD. The music is superb, the lyrics inspired and the production/arranging is top notch. The songwriting hangs together well and the tracks flow, carving out a groove as naturally as a river carves a canyon. You deserve to be heard!” The Oregonian has written, “John Nilsen’s career is the envy of many musicians,” while Keyboard Magazine added, "The musicianship is flawless." Three of Nilsen’s CDs have charted nationally: Where Rivers Run (1996), As Far As Near (2000), and Across Oregon (2002) which reached #8 nationally.
In 1995, in recognition of his achievements, dedicated efforts and leadership in the performing arts, Nilsen was honored by his alma mater with the Distinguished Alumnus Award, the most prestigious award bestowed upon Southern Oregon University graduates. He was also selected as a Yamaha Signature Piano Artist in 2021 in recognition of his success. Nilsen speaks and conducts songwriting residencies and performs in schools throughout the country, including every school in his home district near Portland.
Nilsen’s newest release, Two Stories, was released in December of 2022, is distributed by CD Baby and features 11 original Nilsen pieces. All John Nilsen CDs and sheet music books are available by calling Magic Wing at 503.267.3503 or by ordering from the Magic Wing or John Nilsen websites.
John, who has performed in all fifty U.S. States countless times has toured Japan and Europe, including tours in 2013 and 2015. Nilsen continues to perform throughout the United States with regularity. For a complete viewing of John's performances please click on "live" at www.johnnilsen.com or www.magicwing.com.