Touring with 13 Year-Old Pianist Ethan Bortnick

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IMG_4089It’s been a pleasure touring and getting to know the great young entertainer, Ethan Bortnick.  At only 13 years old, Ethan tours the world as a pianist/songwriter, starred in his own movie, has the current #1 rated PBS TV special, and has raised over $30 million for charities.  Not bad for 13.

My good friend, Ryan Skiles has been Ethan’s music director for several years now and asked me to join the current tour playing bass.  We just finished up 2 weeks of touring playing 6 U.S. shows and it’s been a blast.  Next week we leave for another 5 weeks for a dozen more shows around the U.S.  Glee star, Damian McGinty has also been on the tour as a special guest.  He’s an amazing vocalist and it’s been great to work and get to know him as well.

The first 2 Weeks

I thought it would be fun to share some stuff I learned from the first 2 weeks touring with Ethan.  As you might imagine, it’s a little different than your stereotypical music tour.

Ethan Tour Pic 2

You gotta make time for family

Touring is tough.  Most days are spent riding in a van, on a plane, or setting up/tearing down at the show.  It’s easy to let the busyness and exhaustion take over.  Despite this, it’s extremely important to make time for family.  It always made me smile seeing Ethan say goodnight to his mom and brother back home on the phone.  I’m newly married and it’s been very challenging to leave my new bride for weeks at a time (Roopa, I love you and I’m already missing you!).  I’ve learned it takes extra effort to make sure I’m staying connected with my loved ones back home.

You gotta do your homework

While touring the country, Ethan also has to make time for his studies.  That means he’s doing homework on the way to the gig, at intermission, and basically anytime there are a few extra minutes to spare.  I may not be doing math homework anymore like Ethan, but I’ve got my own projects in the works and it’s easy to let things slide.  I’ve learned there are some great opportunities to get great work done on a 12 hour drive and I want to make the most of that time.

You gotta keep learning

As you might know, my first instrument is guitar.  Ethan’s tour is my first tour I’ve done on bass guitar.  As a bassist you have to approach the music differently that you would as a guitarist.  It’s been a fun challenge learning how to get into that mind set every night, locking with the drums, being that low support that’s so important in the music.

You gotta have fun

If touring with a 13-year-old has taught me anything is that you gotta have fun.  You gotta have fun making music on stage and you gotta have fun with the traveling as well.  Ryan helped us do that by bringing his frisbee along for the ride.  Every bathroom break and meal stop was instantly transformed into a fun game of frisbee.  Honestly, it was one of the funnest parts of the tour.  As you might imagine there are some pretty sweet prairie fields in Arkansas perfect for frisbee!  Also, Ethan found time to draw us all self portraits on Photoshop!  See below.

Ethan Tour Pic 3

The Band

A big shoutout to the band these last two weeks!  Honored to work with such talented musicians.  Make sure you check out their sites say hello on Facebook or Twitter.

Ethan Bortnick – piano/vocals
Damian McGinty – guest vocalist
Ryan Skiles – keyboard/M.D.
Jeremy Ting – guitar
Sam Price – drums
Cole Peterson – drums (Sacramento show)
Gary Lee – bass
Kevin Stowell – tour manager

Upcoming Shows

Make sure to click below for more info on upcoming shows in your area!