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Arts & Culture

Ethan Bortnick: Generations Of Music

Ethan Bortnick performs at Washington Pavilion, Sioux Falls, S.D.
Courtesy of Kent Osborne
Ethan Bortnick performs at Washington Pavilion, Sioux Falls, S.D.

Airs Saturday, June 22, 2019 at 9 p.m. on KPBS TV + Sunday, June 23 at 6 p.m. on KPBS 2

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Sixteen-year-old singer, songwriter, pianist and composer Ethan Bortnick returns to PBS in "Generations Of Music," an all-new television concert special.

Appealing to audiences of all ages and musical tastes, the spectacular song selection spans multiple generations and genres.


Recorded before a live audience in Washington Pavilion, the concert features Ethan and his band along with a full orchestra, a youth choir, background vocalists and special guests Peter Yarrow (Peter, Paul and Mary), singer Bethany Yarrow and cellist Rufus Cappadocia.

Conceived by Bortnick, "Generations Of Music" introduces viewers to Ethan’s new original songs that are certain to be enjoyed for many generations to come.

Ethan Bortnick: Generations of Music: Preview

Guided by Musical Director David Rosenthal (who is also Billy Joel’s Musical Director) and directed by the Emmy®-nominated Leon Knoles, the concert showcases Ethan’s piano virtuosity, vocal variety and powerful presence, while highlighting his boy-next-door charm and appeal.

Special guests Bethany Yarrow and father Peter Yarrow.
Courtesy of Kent Osborne
Special guests Bethany Yarrow and father Peter Yarrow.

From a masterfully performed version of Beethoven’s Pathétique Sonata to an entire audience dancing to “Rockin Robin,” the concert includes top hits from across the decades.

Ethan dedicates a new song he wrote to his grandmother, and then performs her favorite song, “Sweet Caroline” as the audience sings along. Ethan’s young brother Nathan gets in on the act with a surprise of his own.

Ethan Bortnick (at piano) applauds special guest Peter Yarrow (right).
Courtesy of Kent Osborne
Ethan Bortnick (at piano) applauds special guest Peter Yarrow (right).


Recognized at age nine by the Guinness World Records as “The Youngest Musician to Headline a Solo Concert Tour,” Ethan is known internationally as a pianist, composer, singer, entertainer and humanitarian.

At the age of three, the Hollywood, Florida native asked his parents for piano lessons and discovered an uncanny ability to hear a song once and play it back note for note — the musical equivalent of a photographic memory.

He soaked up the music of such diverse artists and composers as Beethoven, Mozart, jazz pianist Bill Evans, Little Richard, Billy Joel and Elton John, and began creating original compositions at age five.

A few years later, Ethan began making television appearances and touring, connecting with audiences in countries such as Japan, Brazil, Canada, South Africa and Australia.

When Ethan was five his brother had three heart surgeries, which influenced him to use his musical talents to raise funds for charities.

“I remember going to the Children’s Hospital and seeing a lot of sick children,” Ethan recalled. “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.”

Since then, Ethan has helped raise over $50,000,000 for nonprofits around the world. At these charity events, he’s shared the stage with artists such as Elton John, Andrea Bocelli, Beyoncé, Josh Groban and Reba McEntire, among many others.

In 2010, he joined some of music’s biggest names — including Barbra Streisand, Tony Bennett, Celine Dion, Carlos Santana and others — as the youngest of the all-star lineup that recorded “We Are The World 25 for Haiti.”

His specials for public television include “The Power of Music,” where he performed with a 50-piece orchestra, a four-piece band and a 120-member children’s choir.

He has also been featured on countless national television shows, including multiple appearances on “The Tonight Show with Jay Leno,” “Good Morning America” and “Oprah,” where he was named one of Oprah’s All Time Smartest, Most Talented Kids.

In 2013, he starred in "Anything Is Possible," a feature film for which he co-wrote all of the songs and scored the music.

Ethan has performed at venues around the globe, charity functions, performing arts centers, large arenas with over 70,000 in attendance, but for him the most fulfilling aspect of success is bringing people joy.

“When I perform at someone’s home or in a huge arena, I just love every moment of it,” he says. “When I see the audience enjoying the music, having fun, smiling and dancing, there’s just nothing better than that!”


Ethan Bortnick is on Facebook, Instagram, and follow @ethanbortnick on Twitter.

Produced by Sun & Sky Entertainment