Why I Play

Today’s post comes from a man who consistently kicks my booty in Words With Friends, and who is a former student of my husband. He is a talented musician and when he and his father play piano together, you can’t help but oooh and ahhh and smile. You guys are going to love him. Meet my friendBarron Ryan.

The Music Bug

I got the music bug early. I can only barely remember sitting in front of the stereo, transfixed by Glenn Miller’s ‘In the Mood’ blasting through the speakers. As my pianist father tells it, I would bang on the family piano every chance I’d get, so when I was four he decided to teach me how to play something useful.

Music was always a part of who I was, growing up. At first I resented having to practice the required thirty minutes before I could go play with my friends, but when my skill started to impress people, I somehow stopped minding so much. I liked making music for its own sake too, so throughout middle and high school I took every available opportunity to play.

A Hobby Becomes Something More

So it wasn’t a drastic step for me to decide to pursue music in my career—you could even say it was logical. The problem was that I had no idea how I would actually turn a pastime into something that could actually support me. All I knew was that I would soon go to college, and I needed a major. I figured I could take things one step at a time.

I mostly liked life as a music major. I could actually get credit for courses like music theory (which I actually enjoy), jazz band, and piano lessons—this was great! I liked doing that stuff anyway, and the school would give me a degree for it? That’s a pretty sweet deal.

I was still concerned about how I would make a pastime and academic pursuit a career, though. There are so many musicians out there, how would I differentiate myself? What would I do to make my identity as a musician irreplaceable? I didn’t know the answers, and I got more than a little scared.

But I was asking the wrong questions. The only question that mattered was ‘How can I best express myself?’ I had to remember that I am truly unique, and if I started to explore how I can communicate with people, I’d have no trouble being different from anyone else.

A Perspective Shift

So I started thinking about how I wanted to express myself. One quirk of musical personality is that I like some seemingly disparate genres: classical, jazz, and hip-hop. Really, hip-hop? That’s not something my fellow music students were into, but I loved it.

So I started exploring how I could combine the music I loved to listen to in interesting new ways. It didn’t really matter that nobody listened to (or had even heard) anything like this music before—it’s how wanted to express myself, so I did it.

I also love performing with my dad. Having listened to all his favorite music growing up, we have a deep musical (not to mention familial) connection that is a joy to experience. So we perform together any music that interests us: Rachmaninoff, Gershwin, Duke Ellington, or movie theme music.

I can’t say that I’m experiencing overwhelming commercial success so far with my music career, but that doesn’t concern me. For one, I’m still early in the game, and there’s a lot of time left for big things to happen.

But even more importantly, it doesn’t matter. If millions of people come to adore my music, that’d be great. But if it turns out that my mother is my only fan, that’s okay too. My only goal is to express myself in the best way I know how, and if anyone else likes what I have to say, that’s just an added bonus.


Jen here. I can’t help it. Barron didn’t want to overwhelm with links, but here’s one of my favorite videos. His dad and him. So fun.