On many weekends between 2012 and 2014, one could stroll into Mozzaluna Pizzeria and Ristorante in Brookfield and see the local J. Ryan Trio playing some smooth jazz or an incredible blues number.
Today, it’s a lot easier to find the trio playing at the likes of the Wisconsin State Fair, Milwaukee County Zoo, the Milwaukee Art Museum, various beer gardens, and even the occasional grocery store. And that’s just in the Milwaukee area. The group plays all the way up to the Fox Valley and as far south as Chicago, not keeping a single dime of their earnings.
“We’ll play anywhere, but it has to be for a donation,” said Ryan Janscha, the founder and namesake of the J. Ryan Trio. “Anybody that’s kind enough to pass our name along and help us, do more good for those who need it. I’m always just hugely appreciative.”
The J. Ryan Trio, now with a few more members than a traditional group of three, began with three men meeting at the Brookfield Lutheran Church in 2012. Ryan met Andy Keyes, a drummer, and Mike McOlash, a bass player, and their jam sessions quickly turned into a 10-track CD. Slowly, they added some vocalists, including Alissa Weber – “the Milwaukee native with the Detroit sound” – and Kristi Lontok, along with a variety of other instruments and musicians who then began to play for the general public.
The group’s relationship with Feeding America Eastern Wisconsin has been thriving for over 2 ½ years, with the group performing at the organization’s two signature fundraising events: the annual Grateful Plate Gala and Feed Your Soul art auction.
“From the very start I said I’ll never take a penny from any note that I ever play,” Janscha said. “So anything that I bring in for my share is donated to charities.”
The band started out working with Feed My Starving Children, but wanted to refocus their donations on something more local. “One of the ancillary benefits of this music that I just didn’t anticipate was all of the wonderful people that we would meet.”
After refocusing their attention more on the Milwaukee community, the group decided to concentrate on two charities in particular for their time and funds to go to: eeding America Eastern Wisconsin and the Milwaukee Homeless Veterans Initiative. Their favorite part of partnering with Feeding America Eastern Wisconsin is that the organization serves the entire eastern part of the state, and the Appleton location is local to a lot of the performances the band does up north. Anywhere they go to perform, the people know about Feeding America Eastern Wisconsin, so the impact feels that much closer to home.
To learn more about the J. Ryan Trio and see their performance schedule, visit jryantrio.com.