Hear Ricky’s voice and story

Published 9:14 pm Tuesday, August 13, 2019

A brilliant young singer who’s overcome great hardship will perform his next recital this Sunday in Suffolk, and donations are being collected to help this determined young man go to school this fall.

Ricky Goodwyn Jr., a 20-year-old rising sophomore at James Madison University in Harrisonburg, will sing for his benefit recital at 4 p.m. Sunday at Main Street United Methodist Church, 202 N. Main St.

This will be his fifth full recital, with a tenor voice that’s stunned audiences since 2017, when he first came to Sundays at Four in Smithfield. This group provides a venue in which professionals and students can perform and showcase their talents to the community.

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According to Mary Cole, the founder and managing director of Sundays at Four, Goodwyn’s talents are exceptional and well beyond his years.

“He is definitely ahead of others his age in being able to interpret and present the music,” Cole said. “He doesn’t seem like he’s 20 years old. He seems far older in his ability to handle recitals.”

On Sunday, Goodwyn will sing songs and spirituals, works from George Frideric Handel’s “Messiah” and “The Creation” by Joseph Haydn, and opera pieces.

His rendition of the “Confession Aria” from Jake Heggie’s opera “Dead Man Walking” has already proven to leave audiences with a deep, emotional mark. The piece will have Goodwyn embody a character that’s facing exaction and finally confesses to his crimes.

Heidi Bloch, the artistic director for Sundays at Four, said Goodwyn comes to each performance fully prepared and effectively embodies these characters and lyrics. His most recent delivery of this confession left his audience speechless.

“He did this three weeks ago in Smithfield and there was not a sound for many seconds after he finished singing,” Heidi Bloch, the artistic director for Sundays at Four.

Goodwyn wants to show audiences that a young African American who has overcome as much as he has can succeed in opera, but only if you put your “heart and soul” into the work.

“The impact I want to leave on the audience is that anyone can do this. It just takes time to study and really capture what it’s all about,” he said. “It’s more than just singing, it’s more than just music and it’s more than just the notes and lyrics on the page.

“It’s about finding a way to connect with the music. You take something from your personal experience, you study what the song is about and you do your best to go deeper.”

It’s his drive and tenacity that have elevated him from years of struggle, moving from place to place with his mom and two sisters after his dad left — living in motels, cars and occasionally with other family members.

He remembered being taken away from his mother after an incident, then living with his father from 2014 to 2017. But difficulties with his father pushed him out of his father’s house.

“Ricky has faced more challenges than any other 20-year-old I know,” Bloch said.

Goodwyn’s last concert was at Christ Episcopal Church in Smithfield on July 14. His mother, Laquette Chante Wilson, died from a stroke three days later.

He will dedicate his recital on Sunday to his mother, the woman “we called Angel,” he said.

“I am grateful for the time that I had her with her,” Ricky said. “I just wish I had more.”

When Goodwyn had to move out of his father’s house in 2017, Mary Cole took him in, helped him find the right path and continues to be a solid, supportive rock for Goodwyn.

She has spearheaded what’s become a community campaign to help Goodwyn succeed, according to Bloch, and he is immensely grateful for all of it.

“They are God-sent,” he said. “I thought to myself that I wasn’t going to get into college. I also thought that this was going to be the end of the road and I would have to probably go work in a factory somewhere for the rest of my life.”

Through it all, his music has been the factor that’s kept him focused, he said.

“It was an outlet for me to stay off the street and focus on my (musical) ability. It kept me grounded,” he said.

But he needs financial assistance in order to stay in school, and any and all contributions will be greatly appreciated.

Cash and checks will be accepted anytime. Checks may be made payable to Ricky Goodwyn Jr. or to PCCMI for: Ricky Goodwyn Jr. PCCMI is a 501c3 non-profit that is collecting money on his behalf. Donations may be mailed to Sundays at Four, P.O. Box 61, Smithfield, VA 23431.

Contact Mary Cole at 675-5777 or marycole@tidewaterarts.com for further information.