Sunday, March 25, 2018
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20180111 Iva 100 Year Old Piano Player MILLER IMG 8252Iva Ryan was born to play piano. She's been playing for 87 years and if South Texas is lucky, she has several more years to go.

The 100-year-old resident – yes, a 100-year-old rockin' pianist – of Enchanted Valley Ranch says she has been playing since she was 13. She is a constant in the Big Band Jam at Dream Valley Ranch. As she goes, so does the jam – and wow, can she go.

“It's just in me,” said Iva, who was born and raised in St. Louis County, Missouri and moved with her husband to Enchanted Valley in 1985. “Even before I started playing whenever I was around a piano I would just start banging on it.”

Iva may be 100 years old, but when she's sitting behind that piano, life has no age. Her fingers furiously flurry through the keys and her arms swing up and down, banging out the notes when necessary. While she may be in a wheelchair and she may get tired a little quicker than years ago, her mind is alert, her attitude is feisty and personality, ironically, is enchanting.

“She is a perfectionist,” said Dick Brown, Dream Valley's activity director. “If someone is off in the band or is something is wrong while we're playing she'll just tell us – 'shut it down.' She has us spoiled.”

Iva started playing a lot of piano and organ in church. She married “a professor during the week and a musician on the weekend,” she said, her voice cracking just ever so slightly and her eyes glistening just a bit as she recalled her husband of 63 years before he died. “He was a great man and he was so great on the saxophone and clarinet.”

Years later, Iva found a love for the sounds that emanate from jazz. It doesn't take someone long to realize that when Iva is interested in something, she jumps in determined to conquer that task. Learning jazz was no different.

“I would sit down for hours and learned chording,” she said. “After many years I finally started playing jazz like Georgia and anything that Benny Goodman played.”

Chording is a combination of usually three or more musical tones sounded at the same time, establishing oftentimes a particular harmony. While she reads the music that is the melody of a song, she is many times playing a harmony to accompany it – and that is not on the sheet music.

“She's filling in the notes on her own,” Brown said. “She's an amazing woman and musician.”

Brown said that he and Ivy have played in jams for 22 years and there have been a couple of times when she said she was going to retire from playing in the jams.

“One time we went over and asked her to come back and she said that she would try, and she did,” Brown said. “Another time she heard the person who had taken her place and just couldn't stand it and was back the next week.”

She keeps coming back because, as she said, it's in her.

The big band jam at Dream Valley Ranch, located at 2401 N. Abram Road in Mission, is held from 1 to 3 p.m. on Thursdays. Don't miss an opportunity to see Iva. It's more than worth it.

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