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 or an interesting word stumbled across in the dictionary—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 has engaged audiences in concerts and broadcasts around the world. His many commissions include works for the Cleveland Orchestra, Vancouver Symphony, Toronto Symphony, Montreal Symphony, Victoria Symphony, Manitoba Chamber Orchestra, Aventa Ensemble, Arditti Quartet, Tokyo String Quartet, Tafelmusik Chamber Choir, the Canadian Art Song Project, and Tapestry Opera.
Along with individual projects, Ryan enjoys working with artists from other disciplines. Recent major collaborations include Seasons of the Sea with First Nations storyteller Rosemary Georgeson for Vetta Chamber Music; Book of Love, a dance/music work for Kokoro Dance with Standing Wave; and Afghanistan: Requiem for a Generation with poet Suzanne Steele, commissioned by the Calgary Philharmonic Orchestra.
Recordings of Ryan’s music have garnered four JUNO nominations and five more from the Western Canadian Music Awards. His discography includes the portrait CDs Fugitive Colours (Vancouver Symphony/Gryphon Trio/Naxos Canadian Classics) and Quantum Mechanics (Centrediscs), along with many individual works recorded by musica intima, the Canadian Chamber Choir, clarinetist Cris Inguanti, pianists Rachel Kiyo Iwaasa and Yoko Hirota, the Thunder Bay Symphony, the Hannaford Street Silver Band, the 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, the University of Toronto, and the Cleveland Institute of Music, where he studied with the acclaimed composer Donald Erb.
He 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
- Jan V. Matecjek New Classical Music Award 2014 (SOCAN)
- 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 Chick Rice)
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