York City government officials, economic-development pros and businesspeople are hoping to reinvent York through the talents of creative people. Allow us to introduce you to the folks who could be the key to unlocking York's future. Using video, photos and text, we're putting together a database of sorts, showcasing local artists of all stripes. Check out the other artists we've tracked down and featured. We call this section "I Art York."
His fingers slap at the black and white keys like a bass player slaps the strings.
Ralph Washington smiles while his voice and fingers dance. Subtle movements betray the influence of Washington's idol, Stevie Wonder.
"I want to be like that dude," Washington, 33, said. "I went to his concert, and I cried."
The whole world might not know Washington the way it knows Wonder.
But the York City man -- whose stage name is Ralph Real -- has taken his myriad talents far beyond the southcentral Pennsylvania region where he grew up.
Like so many musicians, Washington got his musical start in church.
As a youngster, he recognized a shortage of keyboard players and eagerly taught himself the instrument to fill that niche.
Washington said his father introduced him to the world of secular soul and jazz -- and, of course, Stevie Wonder.
"It was real apparent that he wanted me to understand music more broadly," Washington said. "I got the best of both worlds."
As he learned, Washington said he became enamored with the idea of music production and the types of people who not only perform but also write and create full sounds.
Wanting to know everything he could about music, Washington said he began to explore folk, country, African, rock and Latin music.
In high school, Washington said, he often introduced his friends to music they'd never hear on the radio.
Today, Washington said he considers himself a musical "chameleon" who will "find a way to rock" any stage.
That includes stages all over the world.
Washington has been a touring musician for more than a decade.
At 22 years old, his first gig abroad was in Nigeria, where he traveled to perform Christian music.
Washington has since toured all over the United States and Europe. He plays the keys for two bands, Oddisee and Good Company.
Meanwhile, Washington has maintained strong roots at home in York, where he has a home studio and plans to expand.
He's a husband and the father of a 2-year-old son.
He's also a fixture of the local music scene, the kind of guy who can add an infusion of soul to any genre.
Washington said he'd like to see York's diverse music scene -- sometimes divided into categories by race or genre -- merge into one force.
"It's going to be awesome when we bridge that gap and come together," he said.
WHERE TO FIND HIM: https://www.facebook.com/rrealproductions