Meet area educators that shine while inspiring us—and our children—to learn and succeed. Introducing Ryan Fellman.
Years Teaching: 2
School: Oñate High School
What brought you to music?
My father was a musician who played tuba in a community band. He urged me to pick up a brass instrument and I took up trombone when I was 10 years old. I played in the school band and even went on a community band tour of Europe with him. That was a big bonding moment.
What is your hometown and how did you end up in Las Cruces?
I’m originally from Brainerd, Minnesota. I graduated from Concordia College and started looking for a job. A friend posted on Facebook about a job here in New Mexico. I applied on a Wednesday. I got a call from the fine arts coordinator on Thursday. Friday, I had an interview via Skype, and, on Saturday, I was traveling to Las Cruces. Traveling across country was a big step, but I thought it was a great stepping-stone.
What is your day like teaching at Oñate?
When I first moved here, the choral program was small. I had 38 students in three choirs. I also taught piano classes and co-taught theatre as well. My job was to increase the choral program and give students the opportunity to sing. I now have 92 students. Before school, I have a fall chamber music choir and, in spring, a folk and jazz choir. I have my concert choir first thing every morning. Then I teach musical theatre. After lunch, I have my women’s choir and I’ve reduced my piano classes to one taught in the afternoon.
What is the best thing about being a choral director?
There’s something different standing in front of a choir than an orchestra. It’s more powerful because there’s the eye contact and the human contact. You have to have a lot of trust in your singers and your singers have to have a lot of trust in the director or the message just doesn’t get across. It’s all about the message and the music. I have to take whatever’s in the score and translate it to the singers. Then I have to teach them to translate it to the audience.
Who inspires you? Who is your hero?
One of my favorite composer/conductors is René Clausen. He was actually my conductor in college and my mentor. What I love about him most is his ability to balance his world-renowned persona and still have a family at home. He’s been a role model for many things. —Bud Russo