Ethan began playing a keyboard when he was three years old and started composing music by age five. He plays by ear and knows thousands of pieces of music by heart. At six, he beat Michael Jackson for the record as the youngest performer ever to headline a solo tour, and in 2011, he was the youngest entertainer to headline in Las Vegas.
He has performed all over the world, has done PBS concert specials, and has been interviewed by the likes of Oprah and Jay Leno. If that isn’t enough, he has shared the stage with such luminaries as Barbra Streisand, Tony Bennett, Celine Dion, Elton John, Andrea Bocelli, and Josh Groban.
Ethan is also a humanitarian who has raised more than $30 million for charities, including his favorite, the Children’s Miracle Network.
In “Anything is Possible,” Ethan plays Nathan, a young boy whose Army Lieutenant mother (played by Lacey Chabert of “Party of Five” and “Mean Girls”) goes missing during a tsunami rescue mission in Japan. When he overhears that the man he thought was his father (played by Jonathan Bennett of “Memorial Day” and “Mean Girls”) is not his biological father, he runs away.
While Nathan is on the street and while his dad frantically tries to find him, he discovers his musical gift. It’s a heartwarming movie with shades of “August Rush” that tweens especially will love.
I spoke with Ethan about his experience of making the movie and just how easy it is for him to play the piano. The script was written with Ethan in mind, and his character is named after his real life brother, Nathan, who endured three heart surgeries when Ethan was five.
Besides starring in “Anything is Possible,” Ethan co-composed the music for the movie and sings several of the songs on the soundtrack.
Acting, I assume, is more collaborative than playing music on your own.
Yeah, it’s almost like an orchestra where everybody knows what to do and everybody’s together. Then, at the end, the results are so powerful, and it all comes together. It’s a lot like music, but it’s really amazing.
How natural is it for you to play piano? Do you have to practice a difficult piece a lot?
When I play music, usually I listen by ear, and then I’ll play it. But usually, if it’s a difficult piece, I’ll try to learn it on sheet music. But yes, it comes naturally to me.
So, you don’t have to work that hard for it?
No, not very hard for it.
I love all kinds of music because each type is unique. And I try to play many varieties – classical is great, jazz is really cool, rock is fun, pop is really awesome, and I really just try to play all kinds of music. But I love writing my own music. It was amazing writing it for the film.
Have you ever gone to regular school?
Yes! I go to regular school, and when I’m on the road, the teachers give me the homework. So, I have my dad’s laptop, and they email me the homework. I Skype with my teachers and everything.
What else is on the horizon for you?
I’m going to tour soon, and I also just finished my public television special. It’s going to be really big. And the movie’s coming out soon!
What would you like to say to kids who might be afraid to follow their dreams?
If you really believe in yourself and you really want to achieve a goal, but somebody’s making you upset – just go for it because anything is possible. You can achieve your goal, and if you’re not great at it, that doesn’t matter because you can just keep practicing. And if you have fun, it doesn’t matter if you’re horrible or if you’re amazing because if you enjoy it, that’s what matters.