Q & A With Hannah Ryan, recently hired choir director


Kenzie Costello

Hannah Ryan, the new choir director

Kenzie Costello, Staff Writer

Hannah Ryan was the former JMS choir and show choir director. She was recently hired as the new choir director at JHS. 

>Are there any differences between working with high schoolers rather than middle schoolers?

“I think I’m still in the beginning stages of things so I’m still trying to figure out what that difference is. I think that ninth graders come in with a very different energy than high schoolers, and you spend a lot of time directing that energy into what you’re doing. But then when you’re trying to focus, that is a challenging thing. I was only with ninth grade (students), its not like I was with sixth graders. It’s not like I’ve gone from sixth graders to twelfth graders or anything like that. So I don’t really see a huge difference really, I mean people are definitely more mature, but you expect that.”

>Are there some differences between how high schoolers act compared to middle schoolers?

“Eighth and ninth grade, they’re getting their first real taste of choral music and how fantastic that can be. High schoolers, I think they know how fantastic it can be and they know what it takes to get there and that’s what’s so exciting for me to be here. I love upper level music, upper level repertoire and upper level pieces, just in general and to be able to take that music and go so much further with it is really fun for me. I think in ninth grade, you do spend a lot of time just learning notes to music and there’s so much more to music than notes and that’s the piece of it that I really really love. I’m already feeling in week two of being here that it’s not going to take as long to learn the notes and I get to spend more time doing the fun stuff and that’s really exciting to me.”

>Were you nervous about the transition over to the high school?

“Anybody’s nervous at a new job. I had been at JMS for ten years and that’s a long time and to come over here, yeah definitely. I’m excited, extremely excited, and I kind of go up and down of being nervous and excited. It’s so fun for me to get to work with the students that I’ve had in the past, it’s just something not many people get the opportunity to do in the way that I am, and that will continue. I’m sure some kids are excited about that and some kids are probably like, ‘oh I already had her,’ and I understand that too. This is a choral program that I am very, very passionate about and it’s very close to my heart. I have always said that if there was any job I would leave my previous job for it would be Johnston High School, and that’s why I’m here.”

>What made you want to become a choir director?

“I’ve been wanting to become a choir director for so long, probably since high school, really. Music has always been my thing. I sang in children’s choirs and I did competitions in piano and voice and all sorts of things. I’m just one of those life long musicians and teachers.”

>What is your favorite thing about teaching choir?

“Getting to know the kids, building relationships with kids. The music you can create and the connections you can make. I always say “don’t just sing notes, make music,” and I say that in regards to music, but I mean it in so, many other different ways and I think as a choir director, you get to know your students in a different light because you spend extra time with the students outside of the school day, and you do something that’s closer to their heart and so it’s just a really special part of everyone’s lives, and you know, don’t just sing notes make music, but also don’t just go through life, live your life or don’t just study for a test, learn something. I love helping students grow and develop and everything, musically and as people.”

>What are some challenges that come along with teaching kids?

“Keeping students motivated. I think that kids nowadays have so many things on their lives that they’re doing and that they’re thinking about and all of those things are very very important part of their lives and it’s hard for kids to balance all of those things and so to try and help students understand that if you work hard enough, you can balance all of those things.”

What are you looking forward to the most in the high school department?

“Music and the kids. The upper level music and honestly getting to know the students for more than a year. It became really hard for me at JMS to really only have kids for one year and I know many people only have kids for one year but when you’re a choir director, like I keep saying you get to know these kids in a different level and you get to the point in March where you really know those kids and then they’re gone in May. I did it for the years but it just got to the point where it was hard for me, and it became harder and harder for me each year and so I think I’m so excited for Mrs. Robilliard and I together to have all of these kids for three years.”

>Do you have a favorite song to perform?

“One of my favorites to perform personally was “Remember when it Rained,” by Josh Groben and my favorite choral pieces would have to be “The Awakening,” and “The Quest Unending,” both by Joseph Martin.

>What are you hoping kids take away from choir?

“A life long love for music, not only love but appreciation of music. Music is something that everybody can have in their lives, for their entire lives and whether you’re the one performing it or the one watching it or appreciating it or what have you, its just a really important part of our lives and i just hope the students remember that.”