100 Creatives

Ryan Downey of Phoenix Chorale on Why He Fills His Life With Music

Every other year, New Times puts the spotlight on Phoenix's creative forces — painters, dancers, designers, and actors. Leading up to the release of Best of Phoenix, we're taking a closer look at 100 more. Welcome to the 2016 edition of 100 Creatives. Up today is 83. Ryan Downey.

Ryan Downey's not saying that his musical career can be credited to listening to classical music as a young child growing up in Mesa. But he's not not saying that. 

For Downey, devoting himself to music was something that happened naturally. "I started singing at an early age in the Phoenix Boys Choir, and I knew that I wanted music to be what I pursued," Downey says. "My mother remembers coming home when I was 6 or 7 and finding me with headphones on, listening to Mozart’s Requiem at full volume and in total awe of what I was hearing."

Now 29, the creative's days, which he describes as "crazy," revolve around music. "I try to fill my life with music," the bass-baritone says. "Whether that is singing, teaching, creating, researching, or making a space for it to happen, I am always trying to find ways to advance music in this digitally connected world."

This, as it happens, is no exaggeration.

Downey works part-time as the development coordinator for the Grammy-winning Phoenix Chorale, is studying for his doctoral degree at Arizona State University, and teaches voice and diction courses at Phoenix College. "In the evenings," he says, "you can usually find me at a rehearsal with either the Phoenix Chorale, Trinity Cathedral Choir, Arizona Opera, or Tucson’s True Concord Voices and Orchestra."

I came to Phoenix with so much excitement to be back. I was born and raised in Arizona and, even driving back into Phoenix from Cleveland (where I earned my master’s degree) on a sweltering August day — with broken A/C — I still felt like I was home.

I make art because it’s important. No matter who you are or what you find most important in life, some type of art can be moving and thought-provoking.

I'm most productive when I have a ton of stuff going on. I am at my best when I don’t stop.

My inspiration wall is full of books. I hated reading as a kid, but now I can’t get enough. I find inspiration in gaining knowledge regardless of the subject, from botanical herbs to the future of virtual reality, from global health care to historical fiction, and of course, tons of books about music.

I've learned most from living the creative life. I would never trade in what I learned regarding the technical and historical aspects of music at Arizona State University and Cleveland Institute of Music, but actually living and working as a professional musician, rather than a student, is invaluable.

Good work should always be an expression of yourself. Not everyone is going to like what you create even half the time, but if you believe in your work, it will be so much more enjoyable for both you and your audience — and when you (as an artist) enjoy your work, that contentment and satisfaction truly shines through.

The Phoenix creative scene could use more… of everything! More artists, more dancers, more musicians, more audiences, more venues. That being said, the Phoenix art scene is beginning to thrive and come into its own, and I can’t wait to see where it goes in the next 10 years.

The 2016 Creatives so far:

100. Nicole Olson
99. Andrew Pielage
98. Jessica Rowe
97. Danny Neumann
96. Beth Cato
95. Jessie Balli
94. Ron May
93. Leonor Aispuro
92. Sarah Waite
91. Christina "Xappa" Franco
90. Christian Adame
89. Tara Sharpe
88. Patricia Sannit
87. Brian Klein
86. Dennita Sewell
85. Garth Johnson
84. Charissa Lucille