Melody of a pianist

Music means something different to everyone. There is music to dance to. Maybe a playlist for traveling. Some music is just for relaxing. But some of the greatest music has to be classical.

 When someone thinks “classical,” their first thought is old music. But Pianist Raymond Ryder proves many listeners wrong with the kind of music he plays.

Getting lost in the music

Ryder gave a free concert on the grand piano at Arizona Western College on October 12. His concert began in the evening at around 6 o’clock in the Music Building.

Rodney Abriol, Professor of Music at AWC, introduced Ryder to the audience. Ryder then gave a bit of history on each composer and on the music they composed before enchanting everyone with his piano playing.

“It was lovely,” said audience member Laura Davila. “I don’t even go to college anymore, but I came for the piano music.

“Piano is always so relaxing,” she said. “You can’t help but get lost in it.”

Indeed, listeners were mesmerized by how fast and calmly Ryder’s fingers moved along the keys. His expression was always serious as he absentminded bobbed his head to his own music. After each set, applause would follow, and he would take a bow.

Ryder’s first piece was “Prelude [Sinfonia] from Cantata no. 29.” It was a very calming melody that one could almost fall asleep to. “Menuet, Op.1, No. 2” had a happier melody. His third set is one known in this country as “America the Beautiful” but is originally called “7 Variations on ‘God Save the King.’”

“Souvenir de Porto Pico, Op. 31” was a fast piece based on the image of prairie dogs running over a hill and being chased away. “Angel” was arranged in three sets following the life of an angel. Ryder’s final piece, “Desperate Measures, Op. 48,” was the longest set in his playlist.

A prodigy

“I started playing in fourth grade,” said Ryder. “My mom was an organist, but we had a friend of hers [Ruth Bradley] teach me.”

Ryder fell in love with the piano from then on. He grew up in Fort Collins, Colo., and then went to Florida State University in Tallahassee to pursue his Masters in Vocal Accompaniment. He also holds a doctorate in piano performance from the University of Arizona, where he won the Honored Teacher award in 2014.

Ryder commented that Abriol saw a video of him on YouTube. They are both part of the Music Association in Tucson.

“We actually just met today at the concert,” Ryder said. “This whole time, we just communicated through email.”

Now Ryder works as a faculty member at Pima Community College while still being a private tutor for piano. He also plays the bells, organ and cello at Desert Skies United Methodist Church every week.

Photo by Vanessa Bejarano

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