One can sense Professor Tim Ryan’s passion for music by simply stepping into his office, a space filled with bass guitars and music posters. The audio engineering professor is a seasoned pro of the music industry and a passionate musician; Ryan has toured with the Avett Brothers and 10,000 Maniacs, worked extensively at music festivals across the country and is a devoted fan of reggae. At Webster, he wants to bring his dedication for crafting music to his students.
The Ampersand: What made you initially want to pursue a career in audio production?
Tim Ryan: If you look around, there are a million guitarists, a million people who can sing, but there’s not a lot of people who know how to make it all work. I found that I was better at that than being on stage.
Amp: What are your strongest influences in music and production?
TR: Early on, I did a lot of work on folk festivals like Bonnaroo, smaller stages like that. The people who influenced me the most were the people on those smaller stages. One band I worked with early on was The Avett Brothers — they started off in a tiny trailer. It’s healthy to look up to successful bands, but also to look up to people you work with.
Amp: Could you describe your time with the Avett Brothers?
TR: I’ve probably worked with them twelve times. They are one of the many bands that came to some of the festivals I used to work at. I would describe them in two words: banjos and feedback. They are so loud on stage even with a banjo and a cello — you wouldn’t think they would be. They’re crazy and fun. They’re the only band I’ve seen break a cello string.
Amp: Is there any particular style of music you enjoy working with most?
TR: Probably reggae, particularly dub reggae. There are a lot of special effects and work that you put into the music from the sound engineer’s perspective. There’s a lot of delays and augmentations that aren’t naturalistic.
Amp: What moment did you realize this was the career that you wanted?
TR: I don’t think there was a moment, I just realized that it was the career path I was on. Probably the first time I was on tour, there were a lot of people who were doing this as a college job, but going to school for something else. I realized I had a level of dedication and interest that none of them had. I realized that this is something I would like to do not just for the rest of college, but a very long time.
Amp: What advice would you give students interested in an audio career?
TR: It’s a very rewarding field. You get to create, you get to control. But it’s not all fun and games. It’s incredibly rewarding but it’s a lot of hard work.
Story: Ian Scott
Photos: Julia Peschel