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Office of Public and Intergovernmental Affairs

Piano Man… Ray

National Veterans Creative Arts Festival

Ray Hopper playing jazz on the piano.

While walking through the ballroom/rehearsal area that our performing artists are using this week...simply put, I was looking for a story. What I should have been doing is listening. Out of nowhere, because the entire area was empty, I heard the prettiest piano music being played. The wonderful jazz riffs drew me along a path to the back of the vast ballroom where a solitary figure was intensely concentrating on the keys in front of him.

Considering that I had interrupted his chance to play alone, William Hopper, "but they call me Ray," he said, has the friendliest smile you could imagine. In a few short minutes I learned some fascinating things about Ray. For example, he is an Army Veteran from Denver, Colo., who has played the piano since he was seven years old. In the 51 years since his passion for music began he has played professionally as an entertainer for Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines, performed in various orchestras and got to jam with legends like B.B. King.

This is Ray’s first Festival, but I doubt it will be his last. The man plays the piano like nobody’s business. When I asked him whom he admired most in music, he said, "That's easy…Andre Watts and Miles Davis, of course!" Ray's favorite part of attending the Festival in Arkansas is that he is able to share his gift that God gave him. Speaking for myself, thank you Ray! I can’t wait to hear you play more.

By Darin Farr, public affairs officer, VA Sierra Nevada Health Care System

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