Mar 17, 2012 - Barron Ryan at the Jazz Depot SUNDAY, MARCH 25

Pianist Barron Ryan is a winner



            More specifically, he’s the winner of the 2011 Young Artists Competition sponsored by the Oklahoma Israel Exchange, or OKIE, a group dedicated to developing joint projects between Israel and Oklahoma. Limited to pianists between the ages of 21 and 28 who are enrolled in or have graduated from one of the state’s institutions of higher education, the 2011 Young Artists Competition attracted classical performers from all across the state. Playing “about an hour’s worth of music,” he says, onstage at the University of Tulsa, Ryan emerged victorious in April, and since then he’s been honing the repertoire he plans to perform later this year, when he plays in Israel as the competition’s winner.

            For a preview of that concert, music lovers have to go no further than the Jazz Depot this Sunday evening.

            “The program I’m going to be playing is partially what I’m preparing to play in Israel,” says Ryan, a University of Oklahoma Graduate. “I thought about what I could play that would play to my strengths, and also be appropriate for concert halls, so I’ll be doing some Gershwin -- Three Preludes -- some ragtime music from William Bolcom, and some music from my favorite composer, Nikolai Kapustin.

            “William Bolcom started composing some new ragtime music during the resurgence of ragtime in the ‘70s and ‘80s, and it sounds a lot different from the early work of people like Scott Joplin,” he adds. “He’s still around and composing. And Nikolai Kapustin writes classical music that is very strongly influenced by jazz, but it’s all written rather than improvised.”

            Ryan’s Sunday show will, however, feature plenty of improvisation, too. He will, he says, “do some of my favorite jazz songs, the ones I enjoy playing,” mixed in with the material he’s taking to Israel.

            Although it would be a stretch to say that Ryan’s grown up on the Jazz Hall of Fame stage, he’s certainly no stranger to that venue. He made his first appearance there, in fact, before he was even out of high school.

            “It was maybe 2003, back when the Jazz Hall of Fame was at the Greenwood Cultural Center,” he recalls. “I was with the Holland Hall jazz band when it played there. I’ve done it at least a couple of times since then.”

            Recently, he appeared at the Hall for the annual Musicale, playingg solo and also with his father, the noted pianist Donald Ryan. The two have performed together for the past few years as Ryan & Ryan.

            “We both have our individual strengths,” Barron told writer James D. Watts for an October 14, 2011 Tulsa World story. “Dad tends to focus primarily on the artistic side of things – he does the arrangements we’ll play, for example – and I do a lot of the business things, like the website and social media.

            “Of course, we both have ideas about everything, and we’ll share them with each other,” he added. “But, at the end of the day, he’s still my dad, and Dad has the final word on things.”

            Many of the ideas Donald Ryan has shared with his son over the past couple of decades have been musical ones, and Barron – who’s been playing since the age of four -- says his father’s artistic ability has had a profound influence on him.

            “Our styles are fairly similar, and as I play more and improvise more, I find myself playing more and more like him,” he explains. “I didn’t really grow up improvising; I played classical music. But as I got better at improvising, I found I was sounding more like he sounds.”

            Still, he adds, there are differences.

            “Being younger, I think there’s a different sort of energy I bring,” says Barron. “His playing style is more refined, more mature. Mine is a bit more . . . raw.” He laughs.

            “Let’s say exuberant,” he adds. “And let’s also say I have great respect for his playing.” 

            Barron Ryan is scheduled to take the stage Sunday at 5 p.m. at the Oklahoma Jazz Hall of Fame, located in downtown Tulsa’s Jazz Depot, 111 E. First St. Tickets for the solo concert can be purchased at the Depot or by calling Bettie Downing at 918-281-8609. General admission is $15, reserved table seating $20. Seniors and Jazz Hall members are admitted for $10, and high school and junior high students for $5.  Refreshments will be available for purchase.

            Barron Ryan’s performance is a part of the Jazz Hall’s Spring Concert Series.

            The Oklahoma Jazz Hall of Fame is a 501(c)(3) non-profit cultural and educational organization, with a mission to inspire creativity and improve the quality of life for all Oklahomans through preservation, education, and performance of jazz, our uniquely American art form.