Music Educator

While studying to be a music educator in college, Ryan Byrne had been told during an instrumental conducting class that “conducting is the culmination of everything you are musically”. Byrne took that one step further and adopted the belief that teaching music is the culmination of everything you are musically – your total music education and overall musical experiences. Everything counts! From childhood music lessons to college training, every new instrument learned and to what extent, every new musical work added to one’s repertoire, learning how to play different styles and genres, being exposed to new musical cultures, every gig performed, every song written or musical work composed, every conducting experience, every concert attended, every lesson or class taught, every rehearsal directed, every new instructional technique acquired, every new technology learned to assist in teaching . . . EVERYTHING! Byrne’s passion for music runs deep in every way that music can be experienced: listening to music, writing music, performing music, recording music, teaching music, and, of course, continuing to be a student and taking advantage of every opportunity to learn something new about music!

Elementary – Middle – High School Music Education

Byrne’s own music education started in rural, northern New Hampshire in the small town of Gorham, where he took up alto saxophone in 4th grade through the public school music program. Byrne quickly became a standout in the elementary school band and also joined the school chorus. Continuing with his saxophone studies, Byrne also took up the electric bass guitar when he entered junior high school and joined the school jazz band. He remained an active part of the school band program throughout high school playing alto, tenor, and baritone saxophone in the school concert band, electric bass in the school jazz band, and singing in the chorus. At one point in time, the high school principal, who held a doctoral degree in music, recognized Byrne’s devotion to music and began giving him free, private after-school lessons in music theory. In 10th grade, by way of a teacher referral, he joined a community big band in the neighboring city of Berlin, NH called Berlin Jazz – a group he would remain a part of for nearly 15 years until his move to Nashville, Tennessee. Throughout the years, Byrne became a very versatile member of Berlin Jazz, able to cover parts as needed, be it 1st or 2nd alto sax, 1st or 2nd tenor sax, baritone sax, or electric bass.

College Music Education

Upon graduation from high school, Byrne studied for a year at the prestigious Berklee College of Music in Boston, Massachusetts. Though only at Berklee for a year, Byrne regards it as one of the best years of his life. Living in Boston and being surrounded by students that were as serious about music as he was, Byrne built friendships with classmates that remain to this day (and many of those former classmates are now accomplished music industry professionals). However, after two semesters at Berklee, the financial pressures of being at an expensive private college took their toll, and Byrne had to seek out a more affordable way to finish his education. Having grown up in New Hampshire, Byrne qualified for in-state tuition rates at any of New Hampshire’s public universities. Known for having a strong music education program, Plymouth State University in Plymouth, New Hampshire was very highly recommended to Byrne by both his former high school music teacher and his former high school principal. So Byrne transferred to Plymouth State, where he would go on to earn his B.S. in Music Education. It was during his time at Plymouth State that Byrne founded the indie-rock band, Nostalgic Distortion (ND). ND would remain active for the next 10 years, playing venues throughout NH, ME, VT, and MA, and releasing three albums on their own vanity label, Dissonance Records.

Rural Public School Music Educator Experience

Immediately after graduating from college, Byrne returned to northern New Hampshire and became a public school music teacher at two small elementary schools not too far from where he grew up. He held this position for six years, teaching K-6 general music, 4th-6th grade beginning band, and 4th-6th grade chorus. The enthusiastic young teacher was noted for developing a strong music program during his time there. He was tenured after his first three years of teaching, and was named ‘Staff Member of the Year’ during his final year. During his time as a teacher, Byrne also had the opportunity to join another big band, St. J Jazz/”Big Band 2000″ out of St. Johnsbury, VT, and would also remain with this band for four years until his move to Nashville. In order to keep improving at his craft, Byrne became a conference and seminar junkie, attending such events whenever it was feasible. He would return to Plymouth State University every summer to attend the New England Band Directors’ Institute. He would also return to Berklee College of Music at various times throughout the years to attend various music industry / music business seminars and conferences. At one such Berklee seminar, Byrne attended a panel titled, “Which City is Right for You?”. The panel was headed by representatives from four cities: Los Angeles, New York, Nashville, and Boston. Each panelist gave their views on how the music industry worked in their respective cities, and then took questions from the audience. Living in New England at the time, Byrne went to the conference to gather information about the Boston music scene, but left the conference really intrigued about Nashville after hearing the panelist talk about Music City. Not too long after that seminar, Byrne attended the MENC (now NAfME) national music education conference, which happened to be held in Nashville that year. After a week in Nashville, Byrne had fallen head over heels in love with Music City. He would teach in New Hampshire for another three years, but the lure of Music City would eventually get the best of him. Hungry for new musical opportunities, the then 29-year-old would leave his teaching position of six years and move to Nashville in 2004.

Music City – Music History – Music Performance

For Byrne, being in Music City was akin to the proverbial kid in the candy store. An entirely new musical world had just opened up – accompanied by a fairly significant culture shock! From the north to the south; From a small town to a big city; From a place where music is something you “do on the side” to a major music industry center where people live, sleep, eat, and breathe music and the business behind it! Byrne found an apartment and took the first job offered to him (a car rental agent at the Nashville airport) so as to start bringing in an income. But even this seemingly non-music-related job started putting Byrne face to face with some of his musical influences. The rental company he was working for (National Car Rental) had a corporate contract with EMI Records, so anytime artists, songwriters, session musicians, etc. were in Nashville for EMI business, they were getting their rental cars at National. At that National counter, Byrne met Cheap Trick bassist Tom Petersson, singer-songwriter Gunnar Nelson, session bassist Lee Sklar, session drummer Matt Chamberlain, and many more.

As he began to settle into his new city, Byrne began to scour the want-ads, looking for audition opportunities as a bassist with bands and artists. He also joined the Nashville Community Concert Band as an outlet to keep his saxophone playing up. It wasn’t long before he began subbing a few gigs here and there for some other bass players he had befriended – and eventually became a regular member of various bands around town with a steady weekend gig schedule. However, Byrne  knew that he would most likely have to hold down some type of a day job for a while before he could establish himself as a professional musician. Though his job as a car rental agent helped him get his start, Byrne began to look for a day job that was a bit more music related. And so his next little dream came true when he was offered a job at the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum. Though his new position was merely that of an exhibit monitor, Byrne was ecstatic! His job entailed being a visible staff member on the floors of the exhibit hall in case visitors had questions, or in a worst-case scenario, politely advising visitors of the “no flash photography” policy that was in effect at that time (though that policy was eventually phased out). But basically, Byrne got to go into work every day at the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum and be surrounded by country music history. The museum is set up in chronological order, so you begin in the late 1800’s with the folk and mountain music that country music was born from, and as you move through the museum you progress forward in time, until you get to the modern country era towards the end of the museum. Byrne would walk through the museum exhibits every day, reading different exhibit summaries and soaking up the various audio and video clips. Talk about an education! After a couple of months, Byrne had acquired a pretty thorough grasp of the history of country music. It was like being in the world’s most exciting classroom for country music history! Byrne also spent most every Saturday morning attending the museum’s ‘Songwriter Saturdays’, where Nashville’s top songwriters would come in and give intimate concerts of their songs and talk about the stories behind them. They would also answer audience questions about the songwriting process. Byrne just took it all in, week after week after week.

Suburban / Inner-City Public School Music Educator Experience

As Byrne began to get a little busier with gigging, he began to seek out employment that would allow him a more flexible schedule to be able to take on more weeknight gigs or even extended weekend gigs out of town. As a former public school music teacher, it didn’t take Byrne long to realize that becoming a substitute teacher was the perfect fit. After all, Byrne loved teaching, and subbing allowed him to choose which days he wanted to work – giving him complete control over his schedule. Byrne went through the multiple-week screening process of becoming a substitute teacher for Metropolitan Nashville Public Schools (MNPS). And as soon as he was officially an MNPS sub, luck struck once again for Byrne. One of his band mates in the Nashville Community Concert Band was a middle school band director that was about to go on paternity leave for about six weeks, and was looking for a sub that specifically had experience directing school bands. The connection was made, and Byrne began his subbing job with a six-week assignment directing middle school band. Subbing for MNPS was another learning experience for Byrne. Once again, there was an element of culture shock. Being a full-time music teacher in rural northern New Hampshire was quite different from being a substitute teacher in the southern, urban setting of the Metropolitan Nashville Public Schools. But Byrne’s positive attitude would overcome, and he would become a respected and well-liked sub. Working around his gigging commitments, Byrne would remain a sub for MNPS for the next three years, subbing mostly for music teachers at about 14 of Nashville’s 38 middle schools.

National / International Music Performance Experience

It would seem that Byrne’s foresight to find employment that allowed him more gigging flexibility would prove to be almost prophetic. For, after two years of networking, auditioning, and gigging around Nashville, Byrne won an audition that would take his music performance career to the next level. Recently signed to indie label Aria Records Nashville, singer-songwriter Stephen Cochran and team were putting together a new road band that would tour with the artist in support of his debut self-titled album. Byrne was chosen as Cochran’s new touring bassist. Within six months, Byrne was watching himself on GAC (Great American Country) in Cochran’s debut music video, “Friday Night Fireside”, and was touring the country in Cochran’s custom-wrapped 35-foot RV (with matching custom-wrapped 16-foot gear trailer), opening shows for the who’s who of the country music world in over 30 states. Cochran and company performed internationally as well, embarking on a 17-day Armed Forces Entertainment tour of the Middle East to perform for Coalition Forces in Kuwait and Bahrain.

Nashville Music Business Experience

For a few years, Byrne had found a nice balance between his travel commitments with Cochran’s band, and working as a substitute teacher when he wasn’t on the road. However, by 2009, Byrne was pretty busy with Cochran’s road schedule, and eventually “fell off” the MNPS sub list for not subbing the minimum number of days per semester to remain active in the system. Once an MNPS sub becomes inactive, they have to go through the entire multiple-week screening process again to become active. Not wanting to repeat the lengthy process, Byrne decided to find “temp work” through a temporary staffing agency when he wasn’t on the road. Having been a great typist since high school (where he was the champion typist in typing class), Byrne was always comfortable in an office environment, and learned new software quickly and thoroughly. Specifically wanting to be placed in office-related temp work, Byrne went through the testing procedure and became an employee of Office Team. Byrne developed a great working relationship with Office Team that would last for the next several years. Knowing that Byrne had a particular interest in the music industry, and tested very well on Quickbooks accounting software (thanks to his years at Byrne Auto Center), Office Team assigned Byrne a temporary accounting assistant position with Debut Broadcasting Corporation (DBC) on Music Row. At the time of Byrne’s placement with DBC, they had a few different divisions. The broadcasting division owned several radio stations in Mississippi. The syndication division syndicated radio shows for national distribution to thousands of stations across the country. The marketing division did everything from advertising agency services to special product launches, CD releases, book releases, etc. Once again, Byrne found himself in a situation where he could just soak up all kinds of knowledge about how the radio/media/marketing business works. A likeable and friendly person, Byrne once again found himself making new friendships and industry connections around the DBC offices that would last far beyond his time with the company.

Though Office Team did a great job of finding temporary work assignments for the ambitious musician, Byrne spotted a new opportunity to find work that was a little more permanent, yet still flexible. The Nashville Symphony had an open position for a part-time marketing associate. Byrne applied and was offered the position. Byrne absolutely loved working for the Nashville Symphony! His job entailed calling previous concert attendees to offer them specials on multi-concert packages or even season subscriptions. Byrne has great phone skills and really loved the product that he was selling – after all, it was the Nashville Symphony! But there were also some really great side benefits to working for the symphony. He was able to attend a lot of the concerts for free. Always eager to take in live performances, Byrne took advantage of the opportunity and attended lots of concerts. He took mental notes on everything from concert etiquette to concert presentation and repertoire to studying the movements of the conductor, and filed them away for potential future use in music education settings.

Private Music Academy Music Educator Experience

While an employee of the symphony, Byrne started dating Misha, who would become his wife a year and a half later. In 2013, the newly wed couple settled in Misha’s native city of Knoxville, TN, about two and a half hours east of Nashville. At the time, Misha was the Director of Operations at Knoxville Academy of Music (KAM). Through Misha, Byrne met and befriended Jeff Comas, the executive director of KAM. Byrne began substitute teaching at the academy. He was also trained to work the front office so as to be able to sub for office staff when needed. Upon learning that Byrne is also a freelance web designer, KAM contracted him to build two new websites. This eventually led to Byrne accepting a part-time position as the academy’s Digital Media Coordinator, administering the school’s websites and social media accounts in alignment with their content and marketing objectives. Substitute teaching at KAM allowed Byrne to stay active as a music educator, and during a long term sub assignment in 2014, he was offered and accepted the opportunity to take on a regular teaching schedule. By March of 2020, Covid had thrown the world into upheaval. KAM went virtual with all online lessons for several months to do their part for social distancing. By December of 2020, Byrne and Misha separated. Since lessons were being held virtually, and Byrne could teach from anywhere he had an internet connection, he decided to move back to his hometown of Gorham, NH to be close to his parents and other family. Eventually, as the pandemic subsided, KAM would return to in-person lessons. However, online lessons were still offered as an option, and Byrne decided to remain an online-only instructor. To this day, Byrne still teaches online exclusively through KAM. He is available for 30-minute private music lessons Tuesday – Thursday evenings from 6:30PM – 9:00PM, and is accepting students aged 5 to 95 on the following instruments:

  • Bass Guitar (beginner, intermediate, advanced)
  • Alto & Tenor Saxophone (beginner, intermediate, advanced)
  • Acoustic/Electric Guitar (beginner, intermediate)
  • Banjo (beginner, intermediate)
  • Mandolin (beginner, intermediate)
  • Ukulele (beginner, intermediate)
  • Piano (beginner, intermediate)
  • Drums (beginner, intermediate)

To sign up for or learn more about private music lessons with Ryan Byrne, please contact:
Music Lessons with Ryan Byrne
Knoxville Academy of Music
165 West End Ave
Knoxville, TN 37934

(865) 675-1655

Bass Guitar Lessons with Ryan Byrne at Knoxville Academy of Music
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