By Sarah Ludeman
He recorded his first PBS national television concert at the age of nine; in 2008 he was named one of Oprah’s “All Time Smartest Most Talented Kids;” in 2013 he completed shooting a full-length film which he starred in, as well as co-wrote all of the film’s songs and scored all the background music; and on May 15, 2014 Ethan Bortnick will be bringing his concert series, The Power of Music, to Green Bay’s Weidner Center for the Performing Arts.
It all started in 2003 when at only three years old, Bortnick asked his parents for piano lessons. Being told “no” didn’t stop Bortnick, who turned to his toy keyboard and soon began playing back songs he heard on TV and the radio. Realizing they had their own piano man in the making, Burtnick’s parents changed their minds about lessons and two years later, Bortnick wasn’t just playing the piano, he was composing his own music.
“I play all types of music now,” said Bortnick. “The reason I have such a wide range of music at shows is because I really love every type of music. It doesn’t matter what it is, it’s still music and every type of music is special and unique.”
That’s why audiences can except to hear everything from Michael Jackson, Elton John and Neil Diamond to Chopin, The Beatles and Bieber at Bortnick’s upcoming show. Bortnick will also be performing several of his own songs as well as those he makes up on the spot … with the help of the audience.
“Oh, it’s really fun to play around with the audience,” Bortnick said. “I like to bring them on stage. I’ll ask people to tell me a story or play me their ringtone and based on the story or ringtone, I’ll compose a song. It’s really just a fun time and I like to interact with the audience.”
Joining Bortnick on stage will be the Green Bay Southwest High School Trojanaires along with Damian McGinty, a former member of the popular Irish group, Celtic Thunder who is also known for playing Rory on the hit FOX show, “Glee.” Bortnick met McGinty through PBS and invited him to play last year’s show at the Weidner, which was also filmed for the 2013 PBS special, “The Power of Music.” Afterwards, Bortnick asked McGinty to go on tour.
“He’s such a nice guy and very, very talented,” Bortnick said of McGinty. “He’s really like a big brother and we are going to have so much fun coming back to the Weidner Center this year.”
It was from the PBS special that Bortnick’s tour took its name, because to Bortnick, there is nothing more powerful than the power of music.
“After filming the show, we realized that all the music we play really does represent the power of music, so we decided to name the PBS show and the tour after that,” Bortnick said. “Because as I travel, I really see how people are effected by music. I see people laugh, sing, dance, cry and hug and all these different things. And it’s all from music. It’s pretty amazing to me how powerful music is.”
It’s through the power of music that Bortnick has managed to tour the world, taking his love for music and combining it with charity work, helping to raise more than $30 million for charities. In 2010, he joined such music greats as Gladys Knight, Barbara Streisand, Celine Dion and Tony Bennett and became the youngest of the lineup to record “We are the World 25” to aid victims of the Haiti earthquake.
“When my brother was born, he went through three heart surgeries,” Bortnick said. “After that, I started seeing other kids in the hospital who really needed help. And now as I travel, I see how many people really aren’t as fortunate as others so I understand why it’s really important to help other people and especially to use your talents to help others.”
At the end of the day, this 13-year-old composer, entertainer, actor and humanitarian really just cares about one thing, helping others while sharing his love for music with the world.
“It doesn’t really matter how many people I play for and what type of piano it is. Whether its one person or one million, a grand piano or a tiny keyboard with ten keys, it doesn’t matter. I really enjoy it all,” Bortnick said. “I just like to play music and share my music with the audience.”
Bortnick’s show at the Weidner is no exception.
“It’s really a fun show for everybody and a way to bring the power of music to the entire family. I’d really like for everybody to come and enjoy the music. It’s going to be a blast and I can’t wait to be back in Green Bay.”
Tickets for the show are available and can be purchased at www.ticketstaronline.com or by calling (800) 895-0071. n