It’s the Ryan dynasty.
Last November, Weldon Ryan was named the Flagler County Artist of the Year, the occasion marked with a retrospective of his work at Hollingsworth Gallery. Thursday evening, Ryan’s 17-year-old son, Xavier, was named Flagler County’s Youth Entertainer of the Year in the senior division after capping the Flagler County Youth Center’s three-hour annual talent show with a vibrant interpretation of the first movement of Haydn’s piano sonata in E minor (No. 34. Watch the full performance video below.)
“All of the years of playing and us on his back telling him to practice, practice, practice,” is how Xavier’s father, beaming after the show, explained his son’s success. Last year, Xavier placed third in the show. It is the second year in a row that a solo piano act wins the Entertainer of the Year award. Last year, Krystene Maceda’s solo performance of Chopin’s Waltz in C-sharp minor for piano won it.
Adam Pryor, the son of Matanzas High School principal Chris Pryor, won second place in the senior division, for “Sunshine Song,” written by Jason Mraz (the two Pryors occasionally perform together). And Flagler Palm Coast High School’s Felicity Furtado won for an interpretation of “Don’t Know Why” that would have made Tracy Chapman proud. (Or Norah Jones.) In all, 20 acts competed in the senior division, seemingly the most entries in the history of the Spotlight on Flagler Youth.
In the junior division, Amanda Lee Pirkowski, a homeschooled student, took first place for a ballet number called “Disneyland,” displaying Amada’s true grace and and beautiful stage presence. Belle Terre Elementary’s Eric Dangerfield probably had every parent in the audience experiencing major flashbacks to Michael Jackson’s youth when Eric pulled off “I’ll Be There” with Jacksonian-era authenticity. And Kali Nina Cobb of Old Kings Elementary took third place for “Hurt.” Some 11 acts competed in the junior division, with Flagler Palm Coast High School’s Ben Jones and Melissa Boyle serving as masters of ceremony.
The event raised about $700 for Carver Gym, now known as the Carver Center, in Bunnell–where yet another member of the Ryan Dynasty has her shop: Richlin Ryan, an artist in her own right, coordinates the publication of Voice, a magazine produced by teens (among them, Xavier, who is also a photographer).
How Xavier fits it all in? A mixture of adolescent flightiness and home-schooling flexibility. “He has such a love of music, it just comes naturally,” Weldon says of the piano playing. “We try to get him to practice every day, at least two hours each day. Sometimes he doesn’t hold up to it but he does make up for it. In particular, later on at night, when he’s a little settled won, and everyone else is relaxing. That’s when he really gets to practicing. In between his digital music which he devotes a lot of time to.” (At the end of the show, while waiting for the judges’ results, Xavier treated the audience to a recording of one of his techno-inspired digital music compositions.)
“I’m proud of the accomplishments,” his father continued. “He has really stepped up his performances, his play, he’s amazing a lot of people in the sense that he’s come around to understanding that practice is important to be where he wants to be, if he’s going to devote his life to music. The whole notion of things is you have to treat music,piano playing, as a religion, and he’s starting to embrace that.”
Xavier Ryan plays Haydn’s Piano Sonata No. 34 in E minor, first movement:
Video courtesy of the Ryan Dynasty.