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Jazz Guitar Today Interview with Etsuko Niwa

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Jazz Guitar Today contributor Tom Amoriello talks to guitarist Etsuko Niwa about her new recording, Sceneries.

Berklee educated, Japan-based (Kanto Region)  guitarist Etsuko Niwa is about to release a debut recording entitled Sceneries later this month.  The recording will be the traditional trio format along with bassist Yujiro Yoshimine and Ryo Shibata on drums.  In 2019, Niwa won the Jury’s Special Award and Encouragement Award at Jazz Guitar Contest 2019 Sponsored by Gibson, a joint project of Jazzlife magazine and Kurosawa Musical Instrument Store G-CLUB TOKYO. Jazz Guitar Today caught up with this new artist to discuss current happenings.  Thank you Etsuko Niwa for this exclusive interview.   

What is the jazz scene like in Japan? Who are some of the top Japanese jazz players historically and currently that others may be interested in checking out?

There are lots of great jazz performers in Japan regardless of generations. However, few musicians are known nationally and world-widely. The most recent remarkable Japanese Jazz musician might be Miho Hazama. Her orchestral works blends jazz with classical and contemporary music which I have yet to challenge, but hope to try in the near future.

As a performer, do you have any advice that could help a musician overcome performance anxiety/stage fright?

I can’t explain it but I still get nervous before some gigs.  But I believe that the more you practice and prepare, the better you will be able to perform on stage. Also you’ll gain more confidence as you experience more gigs.


Any tips you may offer for someone who may be interested relocating to Boston to attend the Berklee College of Music?

At Berklee, you will find enough time to study, hang out with your friends and enjoy your spare time. I think you’d better make the most of it to fulfill your college life. Not to mention there are excellent professors and students and you can learn many things at Berklee. Organizing time and deciding your focuses on studies are important.

Have you enjoyed any recent jazz musician (or any genre) documentaries on Netflix during your downtime?

I have yet to subscribe to Netflix. I spend most of my downtime playing instruments, listening to music, and spend a substantial amount of time attuning my senses with nature where I am most inspired when making music. I am looking forward to watching the blu-rays of “HITSVILLE: the Making of Motown” which not yet released in Japan. 


What are some future goals and ambitions that you wish to explore as a jazz guitarist in 2021-22?

Upcoming this May I will release my 1st album “Sceneries”. For the album, I’m planning on holding two gigs; trio and quartet. As a jazz guitarist, I aspire to improve my skills and cultivate my musical intuitions by playing in jam sessions with various kinds of musicians.

Aside from my performance activities, I will continue to compose and rearrange my past works. Maintaining my performance skills while engaging in creative works is quite challenging but important for my musical life.  Particularly when it comes to performing my own compositions, I would like to be confident enough in my performance and be able to concentrate on artistic expressions.

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