Artist spotlight: Ryan Hayes

While talking to senior Ryan Hays about his upcoming recital and impending college graduation, Hays was calm, matter of fact and relaxed: in my experience, a typical jazz bassist.

In Harper Hall on Friday, March 14 at 6:30 p.m., Hays will be performing what people often consider to be the culmination of a four year musical study.

Hays sees it more as the next step in his musical career, similar to each experience and opportunity he has had in his time at Lawrence. Hays has delved into studies of classical double bass, jazz, improvisation and composition through his involvement in Lawrence Symphony Orchestra, Jazz Ensemble, Improvisation Group of Lawrence University (IGLU), jazz combos and other chamber ensembles.

Hays’ recital will showcase his wide variety of interests. Hays has chosen a Baroque sonata by English composer John Eccles, which will feature both Hays and sophomore guitarist Ilan Blanck. Hays is especially excited about this piece because he’ll be playing with a good friend and musical colleague, a special part of planning a recital because the performer often has the opportunity to choose both their repertoire and who they collaborate with.

The recital will also feature part of a bass concerto by Italian composer Giovanni Battista Bononcini, which Hays describes as “slow and sappy.” In choosing his repertoire for his recital, he said that the pieces he chose are works he has been listening to for years and loves. He has now reached a point where he has the skills necessary to play his favorite pieces as he wants them to be performed.

Moving to more recent works, Hays will also perform a sonata for double bass by contemporary composer Frantisek Hertl and an unaccompanied bass solo that highlights the bass’ use of arco bowing and pizzicato, or the plucking of strings. Hays also plans to add his own touch to the work with an improvised section within the piece.

Hays will wrap up the recital with two jazz tunes played by his trio, made up of himself, senior Greg Riss on drums and junior Jonathan Fagan on piano. They will play the standard jazz ballad, “In the Wee Small Hours of the Morning,” written by David Mann and famously performed by Frank Sinatra.

The second jazz tune and last work of the recital will be early jazz pioneer Paul Whiteman’s “On the Trail,” an upbeat and cheeky tune reflecting  Hays’ musical taste and, if we want to be cheesy, a title fitting for his upcoming departure from his undergraduate years.

After graduation, Hays plans on moving to the Twin Cities to pursue his love of jazz performance in any group or ensemble that comes his way. He looks forward to connecting with fellow Lawrence alum who have become part of the Twin Cities’ “jazz scene,” in addition to other musicians who have steered toward this Midwestern jazz metropolis.

For Ryan Hays, every year at Lawrence and every opportunity he has had to play in a new ensemble or work with an incredible member of the faculty he sees as another step toward becoming the musician he hopes to be. Head to Harper Hall on March 14 to hear Ryan celebrate his musical career at Lawrence as he prepares for the next step in his musical life.

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