It's been 16 years since Worthington native David Cook moved to New York City for what he expected would be a two-year stint.

It's been 16 years since Worthington native David Cook moved to New York City for what he expected would be a two-year stint.

As the song says, "If I can make it there ... "

Cook, a 1993 Thomas Worthington High School graduate who studied jazz at the University of Michigan, has made a living playing piano, in one form or another, in one genre or another, ever since. A regular in NYC jazz clubs, Cook also has worked as an audition and rehearsal pianist on Broadway and played keyboard for touring acts including N'Sync, Jennifer Hudson, Natasha Bedingfield and, for the past five years, as keyboardist and music director in Taylor Swift's band.

He has played at the Olympics, the Super Bowl halftime show, all the major late-night television shows and has traveled around the world to play music.

He'll return to his hometown with Swift for a Thursday, Sept. 17, show at Nationwide Arena.

"I love all kinds of music," Cook said.

"Jazz is my favorite. For me, it's the most difficult to play. But I've always loved that Duke Ellington quote: 'There are two kinds of music -- good music and the other kind.' "

Cook has been a guest artist appearing with a number of pop artists, and has played in numerous jazz bands and combos in New York and Los Angeles. Cook leads his own quintet, which recently released an album, Scenic Design.

After the current tour with Swift, he will travel to Mexico for dates with a band led by drummer Mark Guiliana.

Cook displayed an early knack for music and the piano, said his mother, Janice Cook. A local musician, she and her husband, Ron, co-founded period ensemble The Early Interval, from which they recently retired.

"He was darn precocious. We went to a movie when he was 5 and he came home and was busily, madly working at the piano. I just thought he was making stuff up, but he had internalized the theme song of the movie and had it all worked out and played it back to me," she said.

"(Ron and I) just looked at each other and said, 'OK. We've got something going on here that's pretty special.' "

Cook makes his home in New York with his wife, singer Shayna Steele, and their 3-year-old daughter, Caia.

"I guess you could call us New Yorkers now. But Shayna's proud of her home in Mississippi and I'm proud of Columbus," David Cook said.

"That's one of the cool things about New York, is that there are musicians from all over the world who are all proud of where they're originally from."

The couple's careers keep them on the road quite a bit. Cook is grateful for the technology that allows him to remain connected to his family.

"Whoever invented Facetime -- that's an amazing thing. I get to watch my daughter grow up in ways that were not available 10 years ago. When I played with N'Sync, the drummer was always depressed because he was missing his daughter growing up."

While in town for the Swift gig, Cook will back up his wife in concert Saturday, Sept. 19, at Worthington's McConnell Arts Center. Tickets are $20. Visit

"We've wanted her to do a show in Columbus for a while, so it's great that we'll be able to share this music with so many people in my hometown and with family and friends."

"She's high-energy, and the most gifted technical singer in the world," Cook said of Steele. "The rest of the band, we just try to keep up."

Janice Cook is equally excited.

"It'll be great to see him perform on stage with Taylor and then it will be even nicer to see him perform some of his own music with Shayna," she said.

Playing Nationwide Arena marks just one of a handful of annual trips to the venue for Cook, a staunch Blue Jackets fan.

"I get to as many games as I can. And I've got old friends in town, with their own kids. There's plenty of family and friends to keep up with when I'm here."