This Bucks local is making a name for himself in the music industry.
By Samantha Bambino
Growing up, most kids sing along to the songs of Sesame Street and Dora the Explorer. Avi Wisnia preferred Mozart. The Bucks County native recently won the Bucks Happening Award for Musician of the Year, and owes it all to his childhood influences and unique style of music.
Wisnia grew up in Yardley Estates right off of Edgewood Road, and belonged to a very musical family. The youngest of three, he watched his older brother and sister take piano lessons at the home of a teacher who lived behind them in their development. Naturally, he wanted to be just like his siblings. At 5 years old, he begged his parents for piano lessons only to be told “you’re too young, your hands are too small.”
Still, he did not give up. After more pleading, his parents finally gave in, and he hasn’t stopped playing since. Wisnia started with classical lessons, though he eventually formed a love for jazz and improvising.
“Instead of practicing what I was supposed to practice, I would start making up my own stuff and riffing off of Mozart,” he said.
Throughout his school years, Wisnia participated in as many choirs and plays as possible, and spent his time at home singing and “drumming on the couch with chopsticks.” His sound up to this point was jazz improvisation with a mixture of pop and harmony. Though he enjoyed the idea of a catchy melody and was always drawn to pop songwriters such as Stevie Wonder and James Taylor, the freedom of jazz and never playing the same thing twice was even more attractive to him. One particular song took that a step further.
It must be said that Wisnia is not Brazilian, nor does he speak Portuguese. But after hearing the Bossa Nova track “The Girl From Ipanema,” he fell in love with the genre. It was different than anything he had heard or grew up with, and he formed an unexplainable connection with the simple yet complicated sounds and rhythms. This newfound Brazilian music began to influence his sound, allowing it to all come together into what fans hear today.
To do the sound of Bossa Nova justice, Wisnia took advantage of an opportunity to travel to Brazil for a month-long tour. He spent one week in San Paulo and three in Rio de Janeiro, meeting with Brazilian musicians and learning all he could from them.
“It was really a dream come true to be able to explore this music that I love so much in the place it was born,” he said.
The musicians he met were all extremely welcoming and willing to share their culture and musical experience with him. According to Wisnia, music transcends languages.
“It’s about being in the moment and sharing with other people,” he said.
Once he was back in the United States, Wisnia kept in touch with his new Brazilian friends, and recorded the song “Sky Blue Sky” via satellite from his home. They used Skype to send portions of the song to each other and eventually fused them all together. The track sounds so flawless, Wisnia says he almost forgets they weren’t all in the same room when it was recorded.
Though he hopes to get back to Brazil soon to perform for his fans, Wisnia will be touring along the East Coast this spring. The tour will run from D.C. to New York, with a bunch of shows in Bucks County, including Havana in New Hope and Aldie Mansion in Doylestown. More information can be found at aviwisnia.com/tour. He is also in the process of writing music, and hopes to have a new album released by the end of the year.
Wisnia will be gracing the red carpet of the Bucks Happening Awards on May 4, and is looking forward to meeting other locals. He felt proud when he learned he won Musician of the Year, and honored that his community voted for and supported him.
“This is my hometown and where I grew up,” he said. “It’s hard to make music unless you have people listening to it.” ••