Christian Ryan

Saxophonist/Flutist • Performer • Arranger • Instructor

The Rewards (and Risks) of Being a Performer

Since the start of 2014 I have played 583 gigs and started keeping track when I came back to Florida.  Excluding additional sit-ins, jam sessions, etc., that equates to roughly 2/3 of my days in that span being spent performing on stage in front of an listening (hopefully) audience.  I don't say this to try and sound impressive, but more to display how of my life playing live music entails.  #583 was a great one as I played with Ancient Sun for an encore showing of their Prince Tribute at Tanquerays.  It was a wild one to say the least and as I walked off stage, I was immediately brought to attention to what occurred at the Plaza Live.  An unthinkable tragedy happened, as singer Christina Grimmie was shot and died shortly after playing a concert opening for the band Before You Exit.  She was 22 years old.

This truly hit close to home not only being at a venue less than 10 minutes away from where we were playing, but a situation that could have happened to any of us.  Performers/Entertainers are constantly in the public eye no matter the level of recognition and you never know who may be watching or why they are there.  We are asked to put aside whatever our own issues and current shortcomings may be, and provide an outlet for others escape their realities if but for a few moments.  Music, and other performing arts for that matter, truly heal and it's a gift I am thankful to present to family, friends and what amounts to mostly strangers on just about a daily basis.  You genuinely connect to a group of people no other outlet can, that has the chance to tap into the deeper parts of a person's being.

I can recount numerous stories and encounters after shows where people have come up to me, some I've never even met till that moment and say things along the lines of, "I've seen you play so many times out here and I just want to say how much your music and watching you perform makes me feel rejuvenated, refreshed, happy, etc."  Or, "I've been having such a rough time lately and this is just what I needed." Or, "You guys really remind of why I push through the difficult times and what life is about; your energy and passion really moved me."  Impactful stuff and quite rewarding!

While that idea is the forefront of what we do, it also comes with a risk that's often not considered.  Being on stage provides an opportunity of vulnerability and not just in the artistic or emotional sense, rather the fact you are known whether you'd like to be or not.  With my own introverted personality and reserved nature, I generally like to be low key in social situations.  As an active musician, I'm not granted the option very often these days once the sun goes down.  With that vulnerability comes increased chance of danger.  I've known too many musicians have been attacked, ambushed, robbed, and so forth before/during/after gigs.  Some instances so tough that bands break up, musicians quit, and then unfortunately even the worst of all...  

This terrible act went down right as we were beginning our show only 2.5 miles away, and it puts into perspective how each time on stage or each day rather, should be cherished.  This travesty happened at the last local venue I would have imagined, at a concert that would have never been stereotyped for violence that was filled with teenagers, parents, and daughters; where it even ended early in the grand scheme of shows at 10pm.  Not outside a nightclub at 3am in the bustle and chaos of the downtown night life where intoxication is rampant and tensions are high.  It brings forth a sad reality of the need to never tread lightly and be aware of your surroundings wherever you might be.  Whether it's down the road or across the world, that risk is there.  My heart and thoughts go out to Grimmie's family & friends, the musicians, the staff, the witnesses and aides, all who attended the concert, as well as my fellow performers.

May this serve as a reminder that we must all look out for one another, treasure every moment and make the best of the time we have!  Thanks for reading friends.