BRICK – Piano virtuoso and township resident Nicholas George Xavier Blum, 25, has 1.2 million followers on TikTok, his videos have 31.3 million “likes,” and he recently penned a deal with brand management to handle sponsorships for social media influencers and content creators.
Blum, who goes by NGXB, plays in a virtuosic, bravura style, with a contemporary twist. Or, in layman’s terms, in the style of Liberace, who, like Blum, studied classical piano but also played popular music.
“How this whole thing started was during the pandemic. I didn’t have any gigs going on, so I started making content, and one thing led into another, and some of my videos started to get a few million views each,” he said from his home on the north side of Brick.
“I made one where I was wearing funny sunglasses and there was a lot of screaming involved and me playing the piano, and I just thought it was something funny,” he recalled.
Within 40 minutes, his TikTok had over 100,000 views, and by 8 a.m. the next morning, it had gotten over 4 million views. Within a few days he went from 60,000 TikTok followers to nearly a million. NGXB also has some 200,000 followers on Instagram.
Blum, who was born and raised in Brick, still lives there with his parents George and Linda. George, who has a degree in classical piano, was his son’s piano teacher from four years old until he was 15.
“My Dad never pursued a career in classical piano, but he will never stop being my piano teacher,” Blum said.
Linda quit her job to become her son’s operations manager.
Blum attended Lanes Mill Elementary School, Brick Memorial High School and University of the Arts in Philadelphia, where he graduated in 2020. Blum still keeps in touch with his high school vocal music teacher, Kevin Bettys.
Asked about how often he practices, Blum said, “You have to work to get the work, and there’s more of an emphasis when it comes to being an artist,” he said. “That’s the one thing I had instilled in me from my dad, who taught me from the ground up, you have to practice a few hours a day, build up your repertoire, and make sure your technique is great.”
Blum, who has perfect pitch, averages 30 paid piano gigs a month. He plays both by ear and by reading music.
One of his piano teachers told him that if he really wants to make a living playing piano, he needed to know at least 100 songs so he could take requests.
“Fortunately, what I do has made me stick out tremendously in the New Jersey music industry and has made me as busy as I am,” he said.
His biggest gig to date was in October when he played for the 10th anniversary of the Nobu Tower at Caesars in Las Vegas. Blum has had gigs at nearly every Atlantic City casino, has performed at celebrity chef David Burke’s restaurants, multiple Hard Rock locations and at various philanthropic events.
One of his goals is to become a high-profile performer and he said he would love to accompany or perform with Adele or other high-profile celebrities.
Meanwhile, Blum said he is open to any career opportunities, but has declined gigs where he would be performing as background music.
“There are also gigs I can’t take because of my availability; my calendar is full,” he said. “But this is the kind of industry where you have to be ready at all times, you have to be prepared for any kind of situation at any given moment because that’s what makes a professional.”
“America’s Got Talent” wanted Blum on their show, but they wanted him to wear the funny sunglasses and scream like he did in his viral TikTok.
“They wanted me to make a fool out of myself just for content – it was also shown that I could actually play, but they didn’t want that,” he said. “They wanted me to just, unfortunately, get buzzed off. It wasn’t going to help my career in the long-term.”
Blum gets his greatest inspiration from not only Liberace but also from Franz Liszt (a Hungarian composer, virtuoso pianist, conductor and teacher, born in 1811).
“Liszt was a showman, and was technically one of the first rock stars – people would go crazy just listening to his music,” Blum said.