(Go to Press Kit for downloadable biographies of various lengths, and promotional photos)
Jeffrey Ryan was almost an accountant. Three months into his first semester at Wilfrid Laurier University, he begged to transfer into the Music Faculty to become a composer. Which, after growing up training his ear with Petula Clark, The Partridge Family, and Captain and Tennille, playing saxophone and flute in high school bands, singing in two choirs, and writing his own songs for voice class, surprised absolutely no one.
Now, as a freelance composer based in Vancouver, Canada, Ryan finds inspiration in the world around him—nature, science, literature, visual art, even the stock market—and creates music that runs the gamut from orchestral and chamber works to opera, art song, and choral music.
Praised for his “strong personal voice” (Globe and Mail), “masterful command of instrumental colour” (Georgia Straight), and “superb attention to rhythm” (Audio Ideas Guide), and recipient of SOCAN’s Jan V. Matejcek New Classical Music Award, Ryan’s music engages audiences in concerts and broadcasts around the world. His commissions include works for the Cleveland Orchestra, Vancouver Symphony, Toronto Symphony, Montreal Symphony, Victoria Symphony, Manitoba Chamber Orchestra, Arditti Quartet, Tokyo String Quartet, Tafelmusik Chamber Choir, Canadian Art Song Project, and Kokoro Dance. His song cycle Everything Already Lost won the 2021 NATS Art Song Composition Award, making him the first Canadian to take first prize in this international competition.
Recent collaborations include Seasons of the Sea with Coast Salish/Sahtu Dene storyteller Rosemary Georgeson for Vetta Chamber Music; Afghanistan: Requiem for a Generation with poet Suzanne Steele for the Calgary Philharmonic; and Scar Tissue with poet Michael Redhill for Nordic Voices and Gryphon Trio.
Recordings of Ryan’s music have garnered four JUNO nominations and six more from the Western Canadian Music Awards. His discography includes the portrait CDs Fugitive Colours (Vancouver Symphony/Gryphon Trio) and the chamber collections Quantum Mechanics and My Soul Upon My Lips, along with many individual works recorded by musica intima, the Canadian Chamber Choir, clarinetist Cris Inguanti, pianists Rachel Kiyo Iwaasa, Thunder Bay Symphony, Hannaford Street Silver Band, Penderecki String Quartet, and more.
Ryan was the Vancouver Symphony’s Composer-in-Residence (2002-2007) and Composer Laureate (2008/09). He was an Affiliate Composer with the Toronto Symphony (2000-2002), and is currently Composer Advisor for Music Toronto. He holds degrees from Wilfrid Laurier University, University of Toronto, and Cleveland Institute of Music, where he studied with the acclaimed composer Donald Erb.
He still enjoys doing his taxes.
Awards and Recognition
- Composer Advisor, Music Toronto
- Composer Laureate, Vancouver Symphony Orchestra 2008/09
- Composer-in-Residence, Vancouver Symphony Orchestra 2002-2007
- Affiliate Composer, Toronto Symphony Orchestra 2000-2002
- Western Canadian Music Award Nomination, Classical Composer of the Year 2021
- First Prize, NATS Art Song Composition Award 2021 (Everything Already Lost)
- Jan V. Matecjek New Classical Music Award 2014 (SOCAN)
- Finalist, NATS Art Song Composition Award 2019 (Miss Carr in Seven Scenes)
- Western Canadian Music Award Nomination, Classical Composition of the Year 2013 (Burn)
- Juno Nomination, Classical Album of the Year: Large Ensemble or Solo with Large Ensemble 2013 (Fugitive Colours, Naxos Records)
- Winner, Western Canadian Music Award for Classical Recording of the Year 2012 (Fugitive Colours, Naxos Records)
- Western Canadian Music Award Nomination, Classical Composition of the Year 2012 (Symphony #1: Fugitive Colours)
- Juno Nomination, Classical Composition of the Year 2012 (Equilateral)
- International Classical Music Award Nomination 2012, Contemporary Album (Fugitive Colours, Naxos Records)
- Western Canadian Music Award Nomination, Classical Composition of the Year 2011 (Angeline on Ossabaw)
- Western Canadian Music Award Nomination, Classical Composition of the Year 2009 (String Quartet #3 “sonata distorta”)
- Juno Nomination, Classical Composition of the Year 2008 (Quantum Mechanics)
- Juno Nomination, Best Classical Composition 2005 (Pangaea)
- Barlow Prize, honourable mention 2001 (Found Frozen)
- Sir Ernest Macmillan Award, SOCAN competition for young composers 1991: first prize for orchestral music
- William St. Clair Low Award, CAPAC competition for young composers 1990: first prize for chamber music
- Rodolphe Mathieu Award, CAPAC competition for young composers 1989: third prize for solo/duet music
- Godfrey Ridout Award, CAPAC competition for young composers 1988: first prize for choral music
(photo by Wendy D Photography)