The Millennial Musician: Part 3

Mary Galime

An interview with Denis Wick artist, Ryan Christianson.

How old are you?

25, turning 26 in May.

What job prospects did you have/perceive entering college?

 Coming out of high school, the biggest limitation I had on my 'job prospects' was me thinking that I knew what I didn't like. Before starting college, I thought I didn't want to be a teacher, I thought I was irreparably bad at classical music, I thought orchestras were boring,  I thought the only route for me was to go to a big jazz school, then move to New York and freelance, and then maybe, if I made a big name for myself, get a job teaching at a university so I could 'settle down...' HA! After one year at a big jazz school, I realized I maybe was short-sighted about the teaching thing, so I left to get a music education degree at the University of Minnesota. While there, I started realizing I really liked playing classical and chamber music. This, in part, led to me joining the Dallas Brass; after joining the Dallas Brass, I began taking my orchestral playing more seriously. And now, all of these things (teaching, chamber groups, orchestras, and, yes, still jazz and commercial work) play significant roles in how I make a living.

What job prospects do you currently see?

First off, I love what I'm currently doing! I get a balance of just about everything I want- some touring with Dallas Brass, several series per year with the Milwaukee Ballet, a lot of jazz and commercial type work in Chicago, as well as maintaining a studio of around 15-20 private students, mostly on trombone, but also on tuba, euphonium, and bass guitar to keep things interesting. I see myself continuing to grow in these fields, as a classical musician, as a jazz musician, and as a teacher. I'll look into full-time options in each of these fairly broad categories as they come, but regardless, I see myself always having some facet of each being a part of my career. 

How do you feel you are approaching your career in music differently from the generation before you?

I guess I just have so much respect for the generations prior it's tough to come up with one significant way that I think of things differently than they do. The biggest source of my 'professional education' so to speak coming up was showing up to gigs, getting my butt kicked, but hopefully playing with someone who had been around the block a few times and soaking up what I could. Those are the kind of gigs that I've always found invaluable and have shaped me in to the musician I am.

If you were to put my feet to the fire, though,  I'd say I try to be as realistic as possible in terms of diversifying my streams of income (jazz, chamber music, orchestra playing, teaching), though that's certainly not a new or novel concept. It might be more necessary now than ever, however.

What advice do you have to students interested in a career in the music industry?

Don't limit yourself like I did! Don't decide you don't like to teach until you've had the opportunity to try teaching; don't decide orchestras, or improvising, or playing solos isn't for you until you really  give yourself the chance to experience each of them. You never know how having a new experience will push your career along in ways you'd never expect.