At just 13, Ethan Bortnick has moved audiences nationally and internationally as a pianist, composer, singer, entertainer, and a driven humanitarian, dedicated to combining his musical pursuits with his charity work.
The piano prodigy with the staggering talent will be joined by the Phoenix Youth Symphony and the Phoenix Boys Choir for an exclusive performance Sunday at Chandler Center for the Arts.
Bortnick, who has tourned the world and raised more than $30 million for nonprofits, spoke to GetOut while in transport to one of his concerts.
Q: When you hear or play music, what goes through your mind?
EB: Sometimes I’m so into what I’m doing that I don’t even know what’s going on around me. When I’m playing music, I don’t focus on anything else. It’s really all about the music. I don’t think about what’s coming ahead because I’m so into the moment. I really don’t think about anything until the last song — then I think about what I’m going to eat after the concert!
Q: You’ve gone from studying Elton John to actually playing with him on stage. What was that experience like for you?
EB: Elton John was very nice when I met him. He actually told me to play Frederic Chopin, which I now do. But he was very nice, and we did a charity event for kids who didn’t have money for hearing aides. Performing with him was a lot of fun.
Q: You’ve also played with Barbra Streisand, Celine Dion, Tony Bennett, the Black Eyed Peas, Josh Groban, Beyonce and Reba McEntire. Is there anyone that you haven’t played with either current or past, that you’d like to?
EB: I guess if I had to pick, Michael Jackson would have really been cool. I’ve met a lot of people he worked with, but I never had the opportunity to meet him.
Q: Who is your role model?
EB: That would have to be my little brother, who went through three heart surgeries. He’s my hero because he went through those tough times without complaint. Now he’s fine, and you can’t even tell he ever had surgery. I wrote a song for him called ‘Anything Is Possible,’ and the lyrics pretty much say no matter how hard things are, anything is possible. He is definitely my hero and role model.
Q: You seem to live in such an adult world. What are some normal teenage things you do?
EB: Let’s see. There’s video games, homework, reading, building forts, hanging out with my brother — everything. I’m really a regular kid. I just happen to play piano for a living.
Q: Over your career you’ve raised more than $30 millon for charity. On April 6, you’ll be raising money for the Phoenix Youth Symphony at Chandler Center for the Arts. Why is charity so important to you?
EB: It’s really important to me because as I travel around the world, everywhere I look there is a need for something. There’s so many people who have needs. I truly believe that if we all use our talents — just a little bit — at least once or twice in (our) lifetime (to help someone else), can you imagine how great this world would be? It would be even better than it is right now. I guess that’s why it’s so important to me. It’s something real and it’s something that’s within our grasp if we put our minds to it.
Q: What are you doing to remain humble?
EB: It’s funny you ask because my parents never told me to remain humble; it was someone at one of my concerts who told me it was important to remain humble because a lot of people wouldn’t want to be friends with me or appreciate what I do. To be honest, I’m not the best at what I do. There’s so many other people who are better than me, but it’s still very important to me to remain humble.
Q: You play such a wide variety of music from Beethoven to Beatles to Bieber. Is there any music that really captures your heart, or do you like it all?
EB: You know, I really like all types of music. Every genre of music is very special and unique and you just can’t pick one. Jazz, rock and roll, pop, classic, everything. It’s all great. When I come to Chandler, I’ll be accompanied by the Phoenix Youth Symphony and the Phoenix Boys Choir, and at that concert we’re going to do it all.
• Read more at PressPassBlog.com, the source for Phoenix metro concert news.