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NorthPark’s piano man: Play ‘Star Wars’ for me

PIANIST IN THE PARK

Photo by Danny Fulgencio

Brad Hanson is best known as the man behind the piano at NorthPark Center. The father of three plays from 5 to 9 p.m. every Friday and Saturday and has filled the center with music for the past 10 years. When he’s not entertaining at NorthPark, he’s teaching private lessons in piano or guitar. Hanson takes on every genre of music, including video game theme songs. He also composes his own music and mashups of songs. 

How did you start playing piano?

I grew up the son of a piano teacher and music minister so it was natural for me to gravitate toward music. I started piano young and gradually grew in my dedication to the art form. By the age of 12, I was playing challenging classical pieces. In college, I began playing contemporary worship music, which was a new challenge, and it allowed me to explore using my ear for music. This opened the door for me to start improvising, blending and arranging pieces like I do now. 

What do you like about performing music?
I love the ability to create any mood or sound I want. And NorthPark is like a blank canvas for me to do just that. There is freedom to develop a song, repeat something, work two songs together, or add in a request. 

How did you get the gig?

I was 22, just married, and I was a pianist for a church at the time. I was approached by NorthPark’s manager because they were looking to revive the live pianist position they had in the past. I agreed to give it a shot. I felt unqualified yet honored. For whatever reason, NorthPark saw something in me and kept me on. 

What is your favorite song to play?

My absolute favorite piece is “I Giorni” by Italian pianist Ludovico Einaudi. I really enjoy emotional and profound pieces like soundtracks, post-classical or modern classical instrumentals, a few British artists (Ed Sheeran and Adele) and the occasional pop song. 

What does your piano playing bring to NorthPark?

I hope customers get a sense of peace, that it is a kind of oasis where they can come and slow down for a minute and take in something beautiful and enjoyable. 

What are some memorable moments you’ve had while playing at NorthPark?

I’m a dad so it blesses me when kids come dance and move to the music. I’ve been there so long that I have had some kids come back as college students who say they grew up listening to me. I’ve had so many people tell me that they had an awful day or tragedy in their life and that hearing music totally changed their mood. I’ve played for couples dancing, ballerinas, hip-hop dancers, fashion shows, a “Mary Poppins” singalong, “Star Wars” stormtroopers and singers. 

Have you met any celebrities while playing?

I’ve met business magnate Ross Perot, gospel singer Kirk Franklin, musician Paul Baloche, the Shane & Shane band and musician Bethany Dillon-Barnard.  I’ve played for actor Dennis Quaid, businessman Mark Cuban, former First Lady Laura Bush and several local news anchors and politicians. It’s electrifying and a little scary to play in front of celebrities, but above all else, it’s just cool.


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