Grammy-nominated recording artist Ryan Stevenson returns to his alma mater.
Bonanza Schools students on Monday got a private concert and a chance to meet and talk with 1997 Bonanza graduate and Grammy-nominated recording artist Ryan Stevenson.
Stevenson also gave a free concert for the community Monday night Bonanza Community Church. At Bonanza School, he performed several songs, including one he wrote about growing up in Bonanza — “Single-Wide Dreamin’ ” from his album “No Matter What.”
Stevenson visited his alma mater to inspire students to follow their dreams and to care about one another.
This was his second visit; he performed and talked with students for the first time two years ago. On Monday, he quickly realized many of the students in Bonanza’s bleachers were children of his former classmates.
“I want them to know how special they are, and that it’s OK to follow your dreams, to follow your heart, to work
hard, and just be diligent in doing the right thing,” he said. Stevenson, 40, lives in Nashville, Tenn., with his wife and two young children. His father and sister still live in Bonanza, and he returns to his hometown about once a year to visit. He has three No. 1 singles (two as an artist and one as a co-writer), a Grammy nomination, Billboard Music Award nomination, two K-LOVE radio Fan Awards nominations, and a 2017 Dove Award.
Bonanza Junior-Senior High School Principal Art Ochoa said he appreciates Stevenson taking the time to visit with students.
“He has a very encouraging message,” Ochoa said. “He keeps kids pointed towards their dreams. He lets them know it’s important to be positive in what they say to each other and how they say it.”
Stevenson played drums in high school and didn’t learn guitar until his youth leader gave him one during his
freshman year at Northwest Christian College in Eugene.
“My roommate and I started a little band together, and that sparked my love for music and songwriting,” he said. He graduated with a degree in elementary education and taught school for two years before working as a paramedic for nine years. During that time, he never gave up his dream of becoming a recording artist.
“I grew up on Christian music, but I also grew up on Michael Jackson and George Michaels and the Eagles. … I’m a lover of all music to this day,” Stevenson said. “Music has this weird way of slipping past everyone’s barriers and all of the protective mechanisms that we put up,” he told the students. “When I saw my songs giving people hope in their heart, impacting people, giving life to people, I really, really started to love that.”
Between songs, Stevenson encouraged questions from students. They ran the gamut from serious to fun: “How do you get the courage to sing in front of people?” “Have you seen people die?” “What do your tattoos mean?” “How old are you?”
Stevenson, who now performs in front of sold-out crowds of 14,000, was not so confident as a teenager. “I wish I could show you all that I looked like my junior and senior year in high school,” he told the group of Bonanza teenagers. “I was 5-foot-5 and really underdeveloped. I was not an athlete. I was really, really insecure, and I was so embarrassed to be in front of people.
“But I realized we’re all just people. We all struggle with the same things. Like insecurities and fears, we all are
dealing with those things.”
ON HIS TATTOOS:
“The cow is really special to me,” he told the students. “You know growing up here in Bonanza, there’s a dairy farm six miles out of town called Langell Valley Dairy. They taught me how to work, showed me how to work. It really changed my life. They never let me be entitled. They never let me get away with being lazy.”
Stevenson also has a tattoo of a lightning bolt. The story behind the bolt, in part, jump-started his music career. As a paramedic, he responded to an emergency call for a woman who had been hit by lightning and wasn’t expected to survive. She did, and the two met again a year later.
When she discovered he needed $4,000 to record one of his songs, she told him she had just received a $4,000
retroactive disability check for the lightning strike. She gave it to Stevenson, and that recording helped start the
career he has today.
For the record, he just turned 40. And he was a paramedic for nine years so, yes, he has seen people die.
CAREER TAKES OFF:
Stevenson’s music career took off in 2013 after one of his songs captured the attention of Grammy Award-winning recording artist TobyMac. The two then co-wrote the No. 1 and Grammy-nominated single “Speak Life,” and Stevenson signed an exclusive recording agreement with Gotee Records.
Stevenson’s first recording for Gotee was “Holding Nothing Back” in 2013, which was a Top 25 single. This was
followed by a full-length album “Fresh Start” in 2015, which featured the No. 1 radio single “Eye of the Storm.” He has three No. 1 singles (two as an artist and one as a co-writer), a Grammy nomination, Billboard Music Award nomination, two K-LOVE radio Fan Awards nominations, and a 2017 Dove Award.
He tours with musicians TobyMac, Newsboys, and Matt Maher, among others.
INSTAGRAM AND AUTOGRAPHS:
At the end of his Bonanza Schools performance, Stevenson took a photo of himself and the Bonanza junior high and high school students so he could post it on his Instagram. He then posed for photographs and signed autographs.