Ryan Ash

A new school year will mean fresh faces at the Center for Young Musicians! We are excited to announce that new teachers for piano, cello and guitar will be joining the CYM family, bringing unique experiences and solid training in music education. And as always, we happily look forward to greeting new students and their families.

To help everyone get to know each other a little better, we’ll be posting short bios on all the CYM teachers and staff. Ryan Ash is our brand new faculty cellist and pianist beginning this Fall 2012.

Ryan Ash, cellist, began his musical studies on the piano at the age of six. He earned his Bachelor of Music degree at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, studying cello  Brandon Vamos (of the Grammy-winning Pacifica Quartet) and piano with Dr. Yu-Chi Tai, and his Master of Music degree at the Chicago College of Performing Arts at Roosevelt University with Dr. Tanya Carey, former president of the SAA and with whom he continues long-term teacher training every summer. Ryan has also taken teacher training with Dr. Louis Bergonzi and Dr. Karen Hendricks (cello), Caroline Fraser (piano),  and Melanie Ron (early childhood music).   He has performed in masterclasses for Steven Doane, Richard Aaron, David Halen, Amit Peled, John Sharp, Wendy Warner, the Arianna, Biava, and Shanghai String Quartets, and has spent summers studying at the Meadowmount School, Innsbrook Institute, Madeline Island Music Camp, Britt Festival, and the Astona International Festival in Leysin, Switzerland.

Before relocating to Pittsburgh, Ryan performed frequently as a member of the Sinfonia da Camera, the Champaign-Urbana, Eastern Illinois, and Decatur Symphony Orchestras, and the Lyria Piano Trio. His performance of Gian Carlo Menotti’s Trio for Two Cellos and Piano was also featured on Chicago’s classical radio station 98.7 WFMT. Ryan has since performed recitals of solo and chamber music on the Holy Trinity Concert Series in Robinson Township, Music on the Edge, and appeared with Ripieno Pittsburgh as well as the McKeesport, Butler County and Ohio Valley symphonies. He currently serves as cello faculty at the Center for Young Musicians and as cellist of the Peccatte Trio.

Q & A with CYM:

CYM:  Do you play any other instruments other than the instrument you teach?
Mr. Ryan: My first instrument was the piano.  I also play the recorder as a hobby.  Playing recorder in every clef seriously helped my reading, by the way.

CYM: When did you start music lessons?
Mr. Ryan: I honestly have no idea when I started playing piano.  I switched to cello at age 9.

CYM: Can you describe your teaching style (as if you are speaking to a student/parent)?
Mr. Ryan: I’ve been traveling a lot this summer, and I can really feel my speaking accent taking on the qualities of Midwesterners, Hoosiers, Chicagoans and even Minnesotans.  My teaching feels the same way too: I’ve been exposed to many different styles of teaching in my career, and certainly different ways of bringing Dr. Suzuki’s method to life.  At the present moment, there are two things at the rock bottom of my teaching: we must all feel well, and we must all learn.  Some characteristics of my teaching/goals for my studio include experiencing playing music easily from the inside, learning new skills with old pieces, lots of useful games, manual assistance, non-verbal lessons, sight-reading from a pulse, performing, and personal joy from music.

When I reflect on my experience as a teacher, I see that I want to raise the ability of those people around me.  I have noticed that I coach not just in terms of instrumental proficiency, but also in terms of creative thinking and generosity of spirit.  I believe everyone is an artist, and everyone learns and grows through contact with one another.  With these beliefs at the core of my teaching, I search for an honest connection with my students and provide them with tools to discover their relationship to music.

CYM: What do you think are the hardest problems students face, and what is your approach to solving them?
Mr. Ryan: Well, in a perfect world, students wouldn’t have problems, ever!  As I see it at this moment, learning to make music is an amazing experience when a student is faced with an appropriate challenge, has the tools to meet that challenge, is fueled by a powerful interest in music and experiences success frequently.  If a student is feeling pinched, these are the things I check on first to see if one is out of whack.

I often imagine for myself that making music–that wonderful ability in which all musicians engage–is the hub of a wheel, while the spokes are the ways we might use to approach that hub.  A spoke might represent our chosen instrument, for instance, or an element of music which we really love, like a beautiful tone, the drama of a piece, or the real live interaction between players in performance.  A spoke might even be a learning modality like the kinesthetic sense or the aural sense, or even a style of playing: fast vs slow, aggressive vs refined, singing vs rhythmic, and so on.  Eventually, it all comes together, but we all start somewhere, and we’re all different.  Each one of us has our own favorite spokes and spokes we don’t yet understand.

I feel very lucky to be where I am in my development as a musician because I can feel many different spokes starting to come together.  For instance, I can go to a violin class, piano class, or even a saxophone class and learn so much that helps me on my own instrument, because at the end of the day, we’re all aspiring to the same thing.  The most important thing is never to give up.  I’ve certainly surprised myself!

CYM: What is your favorite kind of music to listen to for fun? Where/when do you listen to music for fun (outside of work, teaching, practice, etc.)?
Mr. Ryan: Ah.  Yes.  I had a great time driving through West Virginia because I found a radio station where I was able to listen to two solid hours of banjo.  I love Irish fiddling but I don’t play it.  I use techno for driving and chores.  But honestly I love classical music through and through, and I never ever get tired of it.

CYM: Are there other things you like to do/hobbies/accomplishments that you’d like to tell us about?
Mr. Ryan: Two words: “bicycle soccer”.

The Center for Young Musicians