Story of a...Pianist
Wes Hamrick, 52, hits the right note among audiences with his musical serenades.
When Hamrick played Born Free by ear on the piano at age five, his parents knew he had a gift. “I showed an inclination toward music at a young age and began taking lessons by second grade.”
Hamrick performed professionally throughout high school and received his degree in classical piano performance from the Cincinnati Conservatory College of Music. After graduation, he found success playing at the Hyatt Regency Grand Cypress, and at Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort when it opened 25 years ago. Following a 4-year stint at several celebrated hotels in Hawaii, Hamrick moved back to Orlando in 1996 and now performs at the Grand Floridian and at the Grand Bohemian Hotel Orlando, where he also serves as director of entertainment.
“Having a wide repertoire has helped me immensely. I do everything from classical pieces to jazz tunes to Disney music. It’s important to be able to improvise and figure out what people want to hear.”
“People say it a lot, but I really do feed off the audience. If you have them feeling what you’re feeling, then you’ve done your job. There is an energy you can’t explain when you glance out and see someone with closed eyes feeling the music. For me, a standing ovation is not as meaningful as the silence of capturing the audience in the moment.”
“Probably the most requested song I get is Somewhere Over the Rainbow. I think you can go anywhere in the world and people will know and love that song. I’ll also get little girls at the Grand Floridian dressed as Elsa from Frozen who want to hear Let It Go, and they sing along.”
“There have been lots of huge moments for me. I’ve performed in Judy Collins’ apartment, on televised performances on the Travel Channel—even at a party for the recently deceased Joan Rivers. I try to go into every performance and make it just as special as the last. I feel privileged that hundreds of people get to hear me perform each day.”
When Hamrick isn’t performing, he records his own music and is a partner with Sinatra’s Piano Bar & Cabaret in DeLand. “It’s just a cool place. It’s different; something you might find in Chicago or New York. I took my 7-foot Baldwin piano up there and I perform about once a week as well. The response has been wonderful so far.”
“When I was younger, I felt the uncertainty of not knowing where I would be in 10 years. As an artist, there’s no set structure, so this career path is not for the faint of heart. Being a musician is a journey. You can never stop improving or changing things up. Getting to play the music I choose for live audiences is the best part.”