Ethan Bortnick, the pianist, songwriter-performer and one-time child prodigy who raises millions, packs houses but still can’t legally drink, is bringing his show to the Flagler Auditorium for one night only on Dec. 4 at 7:30 p.m.
It’s the 18 year old’s 11th concert this year and his second in Florida (he plays Gainesville next April). He’ll be joined by choral groups from Flagler County schools and will involve the audience (he’s been known to order everyone to dance), taking suggestions to compose songs on the spot and changing hats as rapidly as he changes genres (and centuries).
Born in South Florida on Christmas Eve 2000, he was not yet 5 when YouTube was created, 7 when a hand first palmed an iPhone, but right in time either way for the era of the viral video: Bortnick has grown up in front of millions in video clips and millions more in person–the Guiness Book of World Records claims at 10 he was the youngest solo performer to headline his own tour–transformed from a shades-wearing cherub with an alto voice into the geeky, mop-haired teen now fit for an 11th tenor.
He’d have to make efforts to seem like a brooding teen. He could pull it off. But he’s more focused on pure pep and pop, mixing his own songs with covers from the charts of a generation or two ago, because Bortnick, a born fund-raiser, is also strategic. He knows that it’s the Boomers he must appeal to to keep the funds rolling, and he has the numbers to prove it: he’s raised $50 million for charities so far.
The original reason: when he was 5, his younger brother had to endure three heart surgeries. “I remember going to the Children’s Hospital and seeing a lot of sick children. I learned that some of these kids could not afford surgery so the hospital raised money for them. It made me want to help these kids,” he says on his website. He’s a regul;ar fund-raiser for PBS, he’s sung alongside Elton John, Andrea Bocelli, Beyoncé, Josh Groban, Barbra Streisand and Tony Bennett, he’s starred in a movie (“Anything Is Possible”), and he shares Billy Joel’s music director (Dave Rosenthal).
But he’s assured Oprah since his first appearance on her show more than a decade ago that “we must stay humble.”
Tickets are $29 – $39 and can be purchased online at www.flaglerauditorium.org or at the box office. For more information call (386) 437-7547.