Due to the popularity of our first interview with the one and only Ryan Van Tuyl, Founder of the Van Tuyl Music Academy, we have a followup interview. If you enjoy this, be sure to send in your questions, and we will start a part 3!
What do you find about music to be so magical? Why is it your passion?
Ryan: You know, for me the magic comes in live performance, when you’re on stage, when you are with musicians that you’re in tune with. What’s great is that, when you’re having a great performance with musicians you play a lot with, you learn each other’s tendencies to the point where, sometimes, you can just look at another musician in the band and they’ll know what you’re thinking and vice versa. Some really, really great things happen! And that’s where some great live performances have come from bands or studio sessions. A lot of it is just being in tune with these other musicians and this non-verbal communication that happens between us, where we start to kind of guess what the other person is thinking and then, little by little, we actually learn that our guessing is correct. They were thinking what we were thinking, and it just kind of happens without saying anything. That’s pretty- probably my favorite part about what makes music magical.
Ryan: The second thing I would mention is the personal effect that music has on someone. Of course when they’re listening, but, more importantly, when they’re playing. With the way things are nowadays, where all of us are constantly staring at phones or tablets or computer screens and there’s just constant information, our brains are buzzing at a million miles a minute. As a musician, one of the great things about being able to play is that you get away from that screen or that phone, your brain starts to slow down, to relax, then to open up to different thought processes or relieve your stress or whatever. That’s probably the next part that I think is the best about playing music.
Nice. And what is your personal favorite instrument?
Ryan: Yeah! I played bass guitar, piano, guitar and very, very basic level of drums. I’d say, in my off time, my favorite instrument to play is the piano. If I’m at home and I want to play some music, I’ll probably just play piano, because it’s more of a relaxing hobby for me. I play bass guitar professionally; so, I really have a blast playing bass but that’s more of my work. So, if I’m relaxing at home, I play piano.
Who are some of your personal musical heroes?
Ryan: I have two favorite bassists. The first, who I grew up playing and studying his music, was James Jamerson, the bassist on all the Motown songs that you hear. If you love Motown music and classic R&B, he was the guy playing bass on the studio on tracks from The Temptations to the Supremes to the Four Tops. Second is Led Zeppelin’s bassist John Paul Jones. He is my absolute favorite because of his ability to blend rock and R&B and blues and all these different styles into one really unique sound. Those are my two absolute favorites. And then I would say my absolute favorite artists are Bruce Springsteen and Tom Petty because, as songwriters, they’re really unique and special songwriters.
And what does it mean to you then to be a modern performance academy? Why do you think that’s special?
Ryan: I think our academy is special because we really try to take the important aspects from classical music (which are rhythm, reading technique, music theory) that are really great! These concepts come from classical music and classical music education. What we are doing differently is applying these concepts to modern music. And modern music academies have become really, really popular. There are national schools now that specialize in only teaching you this. There’s a school of rock, which is an international company, a franchise of music schools that teach modern music. There are several copycat schools; but, the difference between my school and others is that we haven’t lost the importance of actually learning music theory, including rhythm, technique, and reading. It’s not just memorizing and recreating a song but knowing what you’re doing, how you’re doing it, and why the person who wrote the song did it in a certain way. I think that’s what makes us unique and special in that regard.
Any other thoughts on what makes your school special?
Ryan: The other thing is the selection process for who we hire as instructors. It has become really common to go to a music school and find an okay musician who is older, and, generally, a nice person in the role of a teacher. There’s nothing necessarily bad about that as a way to get someone initially interested in music. What we do, however, is go out and we find professional level musicians to come and teach at our school. All of the teachers here have a combination of degrees in music and extensive touring and recording performance experience. This means they’ve spent four to ten hours a day practicing their instrument in college, playing concerts, and performing. They have extensive performing and training experience with some major, major acts. Teachers at our school have toured with classic acts like Stevie Wonder, Earth Wind & Fire, America, two modern pop acts like Miley Cyrus and Demi Lovato, and two blues legends like Kenny Neal and Buddy Guy. The instructors that we hire aren’t just great teachers, they are also incredible musicians. We can take a student who is seven years old, who has never played the instrument before, and that student can study with our instructor for the next ten years and have somewhere to go with that instructor. That is one of the things that we are really proud of at our school: all the musicians who work with us are of that caliber. That’s another thing that make us unique.
Thanks, Ryan. You inspire us as artists.