Seasoned Music Producer & Educator Roger Ryan Discusses New Teaching Role At Berklee Abu Dhabi, His Record Label, & More

Nashville’s Roger Ryan has quite the list of impressive titles: Grammy and Dove nominated artist, producer, vocalist, music director, CEO, and now Masterclass Instructor.

Ryan’s accomplishments and talents have earned him a teaching position at the prestigious Berklee Abu Dhabi, where he will be joining other top-ranked instructors and music professionals.

Ryan will be an instructor for the institution’s Performance Artistry and Leadership (PEARL) program. The program offers educational opportunities through faculty-led workshops, masterclasses, ensembles, and labs. Being a highly competitive program designed to provide participants with the tools and resources required to sustain careers in music production, songwriting, marketing, and entrepreneurship, it comes as no surprise that Ryan was chosen for this position.

Already a teacher in his own right, Ryan has directed a number of chorales across the country and the world. He has worked with iconic artists such as the late Whitney Houston, Faith Hill, Kenny Rogers, Wynona Judd, and Kirk Franklin, to name a few. Nowadays, Ryan finds himself involved with projects regarding his own record label, AfterTouch Music, which he launched in the early 90s.

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It’s clear from his extensive resume that Ryan has a deep passion for the musical arts, as it is a spiritual entity for him. “I truly do believe that music is for the soul and should come from the depths of who we are…from the core,” Ryan says. “The mind isn’t deep enough, neither is the heart. To inspire it must come from the soul.”

We had the pleasure of chatting with Ryan about his incredible opportunity, as well as some of his musical collaborations and what inspired him to get started in the field.

So how did you get your start in music production, and what inspired you to pursue such a career?

I always had a knack for arranging, and decided to use production as a way to display my arrangements. I thought I could be good at producing with my arranging skills. I was the music director for some major artists and tours. Doing demos for the artists and watching my demos passed into the hand of “name” producers wasn’t fun, so I decided to pursue the production aspect of the music, so I could be in the driver’s seat and see the vision for the artist and song to the end. Still a challenge at times. LOL

What drove you to create your label, AfterTouch Music, and what is its mission?

During a lot of my recording sessions over the years, I would have discussions with hopeful artists who are talented, and they’d express their disappointment and disenchantment with our industry, along with doors being closed in their faces, meetings that went nowhere, and so on. Some of them have had bad label experiences or bad experiences with producers, etc. I started saying to them and I suppose myself, “If I had a label I would sign you…” I got tired of saying, and decided to start a label. A place where I could work with artists I believe in and develop them. Give them an opportunity to express themselves musically in their own and unique ways. This is the mission of AfterTouch Music.

You have a variety of talents: from producing, to teaching, to running a business. What would you say it takes to succeed in these different roles?

It takes sleep and a therapist! LOL! Seriously, it takes intentional planning, patience, time management, responsible delegation, understanding the strengths of the people in your team and allowing them to function where they work best. Listening, really listening and paying attention is a big deal. Since all of this involves people, mutual respect is super important. I always say smile and be gracious. The biggest thing is love…

What might be some favorite collaborations you’ve done in the past?

Wow. Let’s see. I’ve been honored to do collabs with Mark Kibble(Take 6), Joey Kibble(Take 6), Cece Winans, Kirk Franklin, Shirley Caesar, Faith Evans, Oleta Adams, Brian McKnight, Paula Champion, Sheila E, Dadra Crawford Greathouse, Lalah Hathaway, Wendy Moten, etc. Most recently Mayssa Karaa. These are some favorites. I consider all of my work with others a collaborative effort. Never a one way street!

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Congratulations on your teaching position at Berklee Abu Dhabi! What has that process been like, and how do you prepare for such a position?

Thank you! It was an amazing experience. One of my mentors Clint Valladares made it possible. The preparation is the sum total of all of my experiences on this music journey. In our industry, we should always be ready for anything. I enjoy sharing, mentoring and developing artists so the PEARL program at Berklee was a good fit.

What’s your favorite part of being an instructor at such a prestigious institution?

The students for sure. I had the pleasure of working with three selected students. We are connected forever. They’re very special to me. Each different with different personalities and gifts. It was difficult to leave them. Music isn’t about notes. It’s about people…

More generally speaking, what is it about music that has kept you active and involved over the course of your accomplished career?

I’m a dreamer. I dreamed about doing music since I was a boy. Started playing the piano when I was four years old. I absolutely love what I do. I can’t imagine doing anything else. That dream still keeps me going today. Doing what I love to do and spreading light through music is everything.

What advice would you give to today’s youth that may seek to follow a career path such as yours?

Make sure you really want to do this, to take this long walk. Make sure that you truly love it enough to devote your life to music. Go after it with reckless abandonment. Work hard and work smart. Keep working on your craft. Do it daily and often. Most of all, have fun doing what you love to do.

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