He may not be on a popular singing competition or part of a well-known band, but Ryan Kendall is the kind of musician that evokes standing ovations and makes people’s heads turn.
The 23-year-old has a rare genetic disorder called Prader-Willi syndrome and loves to sing. His dad Brian said Ryan discovered his knack for music at the age of six.
“His voice had this great pitch to it, where as most special needs people can’t hold a tune,” Brian said.
The father-son musical duo formed soon after, with Brian playing cover songs like Fishing in the Dark on his guitar and Ryan singing along. Because of his disorder, Ryan couldn’t stay up late enough for bar gigs, so they started playing for seniors at retirement and care homes.
It wasn’t the warmest reception at first, Brian said. He described getting disapproving scowls from residents who expected an accordion instead of a guitar.
Now, they play weekly shows at some of those centres. Brian said his son is probably the busiest musician in Saskatchewan at the moment. They’re in the midst of playing 23 senior homes in almost 25 consecutive days during the Christmas season.
They even have three upcoming shows in one day.
“The seniors just take to him like a grandchild they’ve always wanted,” Brian said.
Over the years, Ryan has performed for everyone from bikers at Buds on Broadway to folk music fans at the popular Ness Creek Music Festival near Big River, his dad said. Add to that several charity and community events around Saskatoon.
“You’ve got a wide variety of people that need to put a smile on their face and ‘boom,’ Ryan can do that,” Brian said.
The father and son play mostly cover tunes but have been adding more material to their repertoire, including Christmas songs for the holiday season. Brian recently wrote an original song called “Karma” which talks about spreading kindness.
Ryan said he loves when people stand up and dance along to his music.
“I also like going to say hi to the audience after our performances. It makes me feel pretty good, yeah.”
It’s especially heartwarming when they perform for people with dementia, Brian said.
“All of a sudden you see all these mouths start singing along to ‘You Are My Sunshine’ or ‘Silent Night.’ It’s pretty special.”