Fourth-generation ASU student earns doctorate in musical performance

School of Music student Ryan Downey is graduating May 2017 with a DMA in music performance.

School of Music student Ryan Downey is graduating May 2017 with a DMA in music performance.


Editor’s note: This is part of a series of profiles for spring 2017 commencement. See more graduates here.

Ryan Downey is not only a native Arizonan, from Mesa, he’s also a fourth-generation ASU student: His great grandmother attended the university when it was still known as Tempe Normal School.

Downey knew from an early age that he wanted to be a musician.

“I began singing in the Phoenix Boys Choir when I was 10,” he said, “and sang throughout high school.”

He chose ASU for both his bachelor's and his doctorate not only because it runs in his family but also because at ASU, he found a great voice teacher and vocal coaches. Also, he adds, “ASU grants access to tons of resources for both academic research and performance opportunities, and the school is surrounded by a thriving and growing arts scene.” 

This week, Downey earns his DMA in music performance with a focus on voice from the School of Music, after which he plans to move to San Francisco to pursue a career in music, teaching and nonprofit administration.

Question: What’s something you learned while at ASU — in the classroom or otherwise — that surprised you, that changed your perspective?

Answer: The university’s continued and increased emphasis on interdisciplinary participation made me rethink what it means to be a musician today. It is important to be well rounded and flexible in your art and academic concentration.

Q: What’s the best piece of advice you’d give to those still in school?

A: Think outside the box and take risks while you’re in school. Study something outside of your area that you think might have an impact on your career after you graduate.

Q: What was your favorite spot on campus, whether for studying, meeting friends or just thinking about life?

A: Old Main! When I see it, I can’t help but imagine all of the ASU students who have made an impact in our community, our country and across the world.

Q: If someone gave you $40 million to solve one problem on our planet, what would you tackle?

I would increase access to, and recording of, oral history. I think personal stories have the ability to change lives and inform others of specific communities’ struggles and successes.

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