One life lesson that greatly influenced Middle and Upper School Choral Director Ryan Blevins and shaped his approach to teaching music and choir is: Community first, music second.
Beginning in 6th Grade, Mr. Blevins discovered a love for chorus. As a student, he had a talented director who knew how to challenge students and build a program that was more than just a class. The chorus had many social outings and performance opportunities that helped them become stronger musicians and close friends.
“Many of my best friendships began thanks to chorus,” Mr. Blevins said. He even met his wife through chorus.
Mr. Blevins holds a bachelor’s degree in music education from Virginia Commonwealth University, where he graduated magna cum laude. Additionally, he is an Orff-Schulwerk-certified music educator. This past summer, he began his Kodaly certification process at New York University.
He started his education career teaching Middle School choral music at Berkeley Middle School in Williamsburg, Virginia. While he loved the work, the commute was long so he changed paths briefly to pursue teaching K-5 general music in Henrico County, where he taught between two Title 1 schools each week: Glen Lea Elementary and Donahue Elementary.
“I loved working with these students,” he said, “and it truly helped shape my approach to teaching and classroom management.”
However, Mr. Blevins missed the choral world and returned to secondary education.
“I was drawn to Collegiate for the deep sense of community and positive atmosphere,” he said. “I had completed my Orff levels on campus, and had seen firsthand the care and value the school places on the arts.”
Mr. Blevins hopes to foster a lifelong love of musicmaking in students, which will support and nurture a community of strong musicians and singers.
“At the end of the day,” he said, “my main goal is to support students doing something they love while becoming stronger musicians in the process.”
Mr. Blevins admits that he was a bit overwhelmed at first, trying to grasp the variety of traditions at Collegiate.
“I think knowing the context behind these traditions and seeing how much the community values them is important,” he said. “The students have so many opportunities to perform, and that’s a good thing!”
Memorable highlights for Mr. Blevins included accompanying students to last year’s all-district chorus event and to the national American Choral Directors Association choral event.
“It is so rewarding for all of our younger singers when they see what they can aspire to if they keep singing,” he said.
Inspired by his mentors, Mr. Blevins brings the community-first approach to the Collegiate music program. Sometimes, he admits, the most rewarding days are when the students pull together, and get through a challenging, yet successful rehearsal. He values coming to work with such list dedicated and talented students.
“I feel so lucky to be able to teach in such a strongly supported program and to make fun, beautiful music with hundreds of students every week,” he said.
– Aynsley Miller Fisher ’93