“My dad led me into music,” says Ryan Piersma, the 2016 Otsego High School graduate
who became the 4th winner of the award jointly created in 2013 by the family of well-known local musician “Boogie-Woogie” Bob Peters and the Kalamazoo Valley Blues Association. “He’s one of the band directors at school, and he always encouraged my interest in music. I started playing piano when I was 6 years old, and picked up the trombone in middle school.” Ryan, whose musical credits include nominations for outstanding soloist on both the piano and the trombone through the State Solo and Ensemble Festival, says he can’t say which instrument he prefers. “I get to do different things with each of them, and I really like that.”
The KVBA Boogie-Woogie Bob Peters Music Scholarship was established in 2013 by the family of “Boogie-Woogie” Bob Peters, a well-known and talented keyboardist, guitar player, and music historian, who passed away in March of 2010. Peters, a popular figure on the local music scene for many years, was dedicated to using music to communicate and connect with others on many levels, leaving behind a legacy of music
and relationships that has been kept alive by his family and friends. Martie Peters, Bob’s wife, and his brother Mike and sister TJ teamed up with the KVBA to create and fund the scholarship, which is awarded to an area high school student based on his or her school and community involvement in music.
The music-oriented scholarship is a natural fit for Ryan, who plans enter Duke University in the fall to study Electrical Engineering. Along with a lifelong interest in electronics, Ryan has pursued a dedication to music that has led him in a number of different directions, including memberships in the Otsego High School Marching, Concert, and Symphonic Bands, as well as four years performing with the prestigious Kalamazoo Junior Symphony Orchestra. “The orchestra’s a way different experience than performing in a band,” he notes. “There’s more pressure on you not to miss a note, and that makes it more interesting and challenging.”
A quick glance through Ryan’s musical resume’ makes it clear that he doesn’t shy away from challenges. Some of his many achievements include his status as a two-time All-State Band Member, an eight-time semi-final qualifier for the Student Achievement Day Piano Competition, and six years performing as an electric guitarist for the Northbridge Church Worship Team in Kalamazoo. “Learning and playing music trains your brain,” Ryan notes. “You have to really focus and concentrate, and after awhile it comes naturally.” He expects that his extensive musical background will not only help him with the discipline he’ll need for his upcoming college studies, but continue to give him satisfaction in the future. “I might do something like become a part-time symphony member or a music lesson teacher, but whatever I do, I plan to maintain the important position of music in my life.”
Ryan will be formally presented with the KVBA award at 5:00 pm on Saturday, July 9, at the 23rd Annual Kalamazoo Blues Festival, at the Arcadia Festival Site in downtown Kalamazoo. The Boogie-Woogie Bob Peters Music Scholarship carries on the KVBA’s long tradition of nurturing the musical traditions of the blues, as well as the talents of upcoming performers. Big thanks from the KVBA to the Peters family, and congratulations and best wishes to Ryan! Be sure to be there to help cheer him on!