Note: Our periodic Alumni Spotlight segment will highlight a Highlander Music Program alumnus of note. In our first installment, we highlight Ryan Meyer, music educator in the Hampton Township School District and Baldwin HS Alumnus, Class of 2011.
Tell us briefly about who you are and how music is a part of your current daily life.
I am in my second year of teaching orchestra and choir at Hampton Middle School and Hampton High School in Hampton Township School District in the North Hills of Pittsburgh. Music is an incredibly important part of my professional and personal lives. I play music, listen to music, and think about music every day inside and outside of work.
How were you first introduced to music?
My uncle played football at Shippensburg University, and as a small child we used to go to many games there to see him play. I don’t remember the games particularly well, but my mom always told me how excited I would get listening to the marching band at those games. With that in mind, I always seemed to have a strong attraction to and interest in music. Then in third grade, I was presented with the opportunity to play a string instrumental at Baldwin, which turned out to be a significant catalyst in my life.
Tell us about a person/event that was particularly influential to you in your growth as a musician?
Participating in my first PMEA District Orchestra was an influential experience for me when I was in high school. Being surrounded by other students who loved music and playing with an ensemble at a higher level than I ever had before was certainly something that made an impression on me, and led to my seeking out similar opportunities.
I remember the first piece we played through and rehearsed at that district orchestra was the Brahms Academic Festival Overture. Then, coincidentally, my first semester of college, the first piece I played with the Penn State Philharmonic was Brahms Symphony No. 1. Perhaps it is not a coincidence that Brahms is the composer who has possibly had the biggest impact and influence on me.
What did you gain from your study of music at BWSD that has had a positive impact on your career? On you as a person?
My experience in the music program at BWSD was a significant contributing factor in my great fortunes of getting to study music at Penn State and subsequently getting to teach music at Hampton. In reflecting back, the greatest thing I acquired from studying and participating in music at Baldwin was the curiosity the program fostered in me to know more about and experience more music. Fortunately, I was able to satisfy a great deal of my musical curiosities by being involved in a variety of instrumental and choral ensembles during my time in BWSD.
Music at every level I have participated in has also given me the opportunity to meet so many great people, some of whom are my best friends. My involvement in the music program at Baldwin was no exception. Now I’m lucky enough to call some of those friends, colleagues. All in all, studying music has had a positive impact on my personal and professional lives, and I owe BWSD a great deal of thanks in starting me on my way.
Why is it important to study music?
It has always given me immense joy to participate in music through playing, listening, composing, teaching, and conversing about music. In addition to the sheer aesthetic power and beauty of music, it helps us better understand ourselves, our neighbors, and the world around us. It is an integral part of so many aspects of human life and the human experience. In short, it is a constant part of our world and unequivocally makes human life better. For these reasons, I believe every person deserves to study music and have their musicianship cultivated.
Music has also taught me the lesson that if you work hard, you can achieve excellence. I think especially in high school; students develop a detrimental ‘fixed mindset’ in which they convince themselves they could never be ‘good enough’ or as good as someone they admire, no matter how hard they work. On the contrary, my experiences as a music student and now teacher have taught me that anything is possible if you commit yourself to a goal and work your hardest to achieve it.