We had the good fortune of connecting with Ryan Rongone and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Ryan, why did you decide to pursue a creative path?
Where to begin? Not having a 9-5 job. The road less traveled. Wanting to prove all the naysayers wrong. The fact that I always have a song in my head…. There are countless reasons, but I think it comes down to three primary reasons for me. The first is the challenge. Excellence in music was/is extremely hard. Many things came naturally for me but not music. I had/still have to bust my butt for every inch of progress. But I love it. Achieving a level of mastery at anything is an incredible feat. You sacrifice a lot and spend thousands of hours alone in a practice room in order to reach it. So when you play something really well, especially when it was once very difficult, the sense of accomplishment is incredibly satisfying. Knowing you just played the snot out of a piece is ALMOST better than sex. The second is the emotional aspect. Music has made me laugh, cry, reminisce, sing out loud, burst into dance, and so much more. It’s my coffee in the morning and my tea at night. It reminds me of the good times when I am sad. I’m not a particularly religious person, but several performances have been incredibly spiritual for me. The third is a combination of the sound and energy. When played well, brass instruments make some of the most beautiful sounds I can possibly imagine. To be on stage in the middle of it all, well that’s a special side of the music making process that most don’t get to experience. Being on stage with great musicians is like being part of the living beast. There are so many different elements that make it work, but once it’s in motion, there’s no stopping it. You almost can’t play out of time or out of tune when all the moving parts are completely in sync. And it’s the coolest feeling in the world. A career in music isn’t easy. It’s not glamorous, financially stable, or conducive to weekend planning. But I love what I do and haven’t worked a day in my life. I can’t imagine doing anything else.
Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
I play and teach trombone for a living. I’m a regular substitute with the Houston Symphony, Houston Grand Opera, Houston Jazz Orchestra. I also perform with a number of different groups in a variety of musical styles ranging from classical to jazz to commercial to Latin. My career includes performances with Ryan Shaw, Dave Bennett, Tony DeSare, the Temptations, the Four Tops, Lionel Cole, Chris Botti, Sal Lozano, and Johnny Mathis. I think my versatility sets me apart from others. I also always try to put the music first. I’m pretty proud of that and think that has helped me do what I do with such high caliber players on a regular basis. I think it also helps my students a lot because I’ve got experiences from all sorts of backgrounds. How did I get here? Lots of patience and practice! Every step was struggle, but it’s been the most satisfying journey. I’ve learned to slow down and do things correctly and more efficiently before increasing speed. I’ve also learned to be a much better listener, both to the music and those I work with. Communication is definitely something more people could work to improve.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
Food: Killen’s BBQ, the Breakfast Klub, Tacos Tierra Caliente, Original Ninfas, Street Food Thai Market, Tamashi, BB’s during crawfish season
Drinks: Lei Low, Axelrad, Truckyard, St. Arnold’s, Valhalla Museums n Parks: Museum of Natural Science, NASA, Rothko Chapel, Hermann Park, Bayou Trails
Areas to spend an afternoon/evening: 19th St in the Heights, EaDo, Downtown, Rice University/Village
Music: Downtown (symphony, opera, ballet, Main St. bars), Tropicana, Miller Outdoor Theatre, Shepherd School, anywhere my friends are playing
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
Anyone that has ever supported me or reminded me that I can do whatever I put my mind to. The president of my fan club has always been my mom. She’s always the first person to encourage me and give support to what I want to do. I know a tremendous amount of my success is due to her unconditional love and support. Then there are the three incredible mentors I’ve had at formative stages in my life: my swim coach and my two trombone instructors. Coach Lacroix, taught me about work ethic and always doing the right thing. Mark taught me to always put the music first and that good things will happen if you do. Mr. Barnhill taught me to strive for the utmost beauty and ease in all aspects of music.