Terrence Wilson recalls the exact moment he fell in love. He was young, 8 or 9 years old at most.
"I was playing with the radio dial and fell upon a classical piano station, and I was so mesmerized by the power and the beauty of the music and I knew I wanted to play that," Wilson recalls.
Fast-forward a few years and Wilson's passion for playing the piano is anything but absent. He even began playing professionally by the time he was 15.
The very captivation he found as a child has shaped Wilson into a seasoned and talented performer who, to this day, finds the same uplift and elegance in many aspects of music.
Wilson has traveled the world, sharing the stage with orchestras and performers across borders and nations.
Despite a recent Grammy Award nomination for his performance of Michael Daugherty's Deus ex Machina, Wilson will take the stage with the Tucson Symphony Orchestra on Sunday—the night of the Grammy Awards—to perform in what he considers a great personal opportunity to give back to the shaken Tucson community.
"I honor my commitments and I'm happy to come back," he says. "This performance especially just puts everything into perspective. I'm honored with the Grammy nomination—don't get me wrong—but I truly believe there is a reason I'll be in Tucson that night."
Wilson, having known of this performance for more than a year now, watched the horrific events of Jan. 8 unfold and soon recognized that his passion for music held great potential to heal and express sympathies that words alone could not muster.
"Music is much more than an event with someone playing an instrument," Wilson says. "Music is a reflection of life, and it is my gift that I want to give to the community. I hope it can help heal."
His diagnosis for a hurting community: Sounds of hope and entertainment that may make way for better times. He truly believes in the power of his art. His piano keys are keys to healing.
Wilson will return to Tucson optimistic and prepared. His last stay included filling in for a pianist very late in the game, in what he considered a very exciting—but somewhat chaotic—experience given the timing. Now, cool and collected, he is chomping at the bit for the chance to come back. Perhaps it has something to do with seeing some real sunshine—a luxury not present this time of year in his New Jersey home—but Wilson assures it's much more than warmth alone that draws him to Tucson.
This time around, his professionalism and readiness to play are evident even in the pitch of his voice. Mastery of talent and discipline are evident not only across his keyboard, but in his speech and outlook as a whole.
"Music keeps life fresh," he says. "Let's just put it this way: Some people take illicit drugs to feel the rush I feel when I sit and play."
To Wilson, the rush of performing is a pulse—a priceless love and lifeline to his persona.
Music is too great a thing for even Wilson to put into a box—he's tried just that and admits even his iPod is busting at the seams with a great variety of genres and artists.
"I like jazz just as much as some old rock; I even like country," Wilson admits. "I have everything from Taylor Swift to Mozart. I can't say I really have any definite taste in music; I just like good music. Good music is my taste."
As for what's on the horizon, Wilson keeps doors open. The only constants—he knows he wants to keep playing and growing as a performer.
"I've been very lucky to play with composers who are still around, and really interact with their music first-hand in their company," he says. Wilson explains that classical performers learn pieces primarily by composers who have already died, so the chance to cooperate with a composer is a great privilege, one that offers insight and a greater appreciation of what a composer may be trying to achieve.
On the subject of learning new pieces, Wilson says he has to focus, but does everything he can to relax. He jokes, "There needs to be some relaxation. I've realized that if I don't have a piece down by (performance time), I'm never going to have it down."
Sounds like that's not the case for Friday.
"I'm always honored to share my love of music with a willing audience," Wilson says. "To me, that will never get old."