Ryan Marvel

Pianist, Arranger and Composer




Ryan Marvel is a native of Colorado. He began to tinker on the piano at a young age, watching his brother and grandmother play and recreate what he was hearing. Once in lessons, he frustrated his early teachers as reading music seemed like a burden to him. Eventually, he would come to know a teacher who understood individual creativity and taught him the value of reading to enhance arranging and composition.

Ryan began to think about classical piano as a career through his high school years, studying with Patricia Weaver in Durango. Responding to his desire to go to Julliard, his teacher would tell him “Great! Get ready to give everything to the dream…and get ready to give everything else up…like basketball, tennis, skiing…” Ryan reconsidered. He continued to compose and arrange music and attended NAU in Flagstaff on a music scholarship. At the time, it wasn’t a good fit for Ryan so he returned home to focus on composition.

For the next several years, Ryan worked in the restaurant industry. Days off were spent skiing and hiking and camping, and piano became more of a side pursuit. While he found success in the business, he always felt that calling back to music. In April 1999, he took a very part time job as a pianist at a small church in Chandler, AZ. That decision would bring musical fulfillment back into Ryan’s life for good.

In 2005, he released his first solo album, “Left Hand, Right Hand”, a collection of Rachmaninoff, Chopin, Gershwin, some original arrangements and two original works for piano, including the evocative “Rainfall”. In June 2010 he followed with a record of all original material, “Possibilities”. A “musical journey of personal reflection”, the album has been nominated twice for Album of the Year honors, by SoloPiano.com and Whisperings Piano Radio, respectively. In November 2013, his first seasonal album, “Winter” was released. A collection of holiday music, the CD also features guest musicians on three tracks, adding flute, cello and didgeridoo. The title track is an original composition reflecting on the stillness and depth of the season. The album has recently been nominated for Album of the Year for a holiday album by SoloPiano.com.

In October 2017, he released his fourth album, “Reflecting Forward”, an all original release. The record is a very personal reflection of cathartic healing and moving through profound challenge.

Ryan served as Director of Music and Choirs at Foothills Unitarian Church in Fort Collins,CO from 2006-2017. Prior to moving to the Front Range, he worked as pianist in Chandler, AZ at Valley Unitarian Universalist Church from 1999-2005. Since moving back home, he has performed around the Front Range as a pianist, including as a featured soloist with the Front Range Chamber Players. Ryan frequently concertizes in homes and churches locally and nationally, and is in demand as a guest pianist and conductor. He works as an independent arranger and composer and also maintains a full private piano studio. Current projects include plans for future albums, arranging and composing for SATB choir and collaborating with songwriters for studio sessions.

In his spare time, he loves to be outdoors at the ocean, or in the mountains hiking, skiing and camping. Passions include family, wolves, nature, red wine, really good coffee and sleeping until 11:00. Ryan’s true love is daughter Elena Rose, affectionately called “Lanie”.



What does music mean to you personally?

Music is where I feel the most vulnerable, the most passionate. I believe music to be one of the most spiritual and powerful forces. I think it transcends cognitive thought and can evoke emotion unlike any other art. It has the ability to reach each of us on a deep personal level, while bringing together community in the same moment.

If you were not a professional musician, what would you have been?

I think I would own a wine bar...nice place with couches and big oak tables, cheese plates, dark chocolate and coffee. And really great live music for people to enjoy casually.

The classical music audience is getting old, are you worried about the future?

No. I'm quite excited about so many young composers and performers bringing their renewed energy to the music scene. I do think we as artists need to engage with younger generations to help bridge that gap. I think that's possible with the online community of musicians to support live audiences. Truly, I think classical audiences need to adapt, and open their ears to new ideas. Think about how new Beethoven, Gershwin and Copeland all sounded when first heard. I hope people give new composers a chance to make their mark with their art.

Do you think that the musician today needs to be more creative? What is the role of creativity in the musical process for you?

I think it needs to come from very personal place. Music is a manifestation of thought, of memory, of pain, of hope. It's vulnerable, so it needs to be part of you to begin with. Then we need to release that and let people hear with their own ears, and apply what it needs to mean to them. The creativity process is different each time… Sometimes a mood, sometimes weather, sometimes a color/word/flavor entices inspires pieces. Or sometimes, it's just playing an interval that sounds good, and going with that.

Do you think we as musicians can do something to attract the younger generation to music concerts? How would you do this?

More education, more exposure in school to live music and performance. More group singing at a young age, more dancing and drumming, to get the body involved. And less emphasis on perfection or technical skill… Instead, focus on the passion and feeling when listening and performing.

Tell us about your creative process. What is your favorite piece (written by you) and how did you start working on it?

My last album “Reflecting Forward” was a personal musical journey through healing. I had been through a difficult time, with a lot of personal and professional turmoil. I turned to the piano to express what I was going through in real time. When words failed, I played the piano… and the album came out in three months. So sometimes, music is born of raw emotion and exportation deep into my own life. My favorite composition right now is called “Apology” from that album. As described above… I had to find a way to apologize to someone who I loved very dearly and I had hurt deeply. I think you will be able to hear the journey through pain, realization, sorrow, shame… And then a hope for forgiveness as the piece gently turns from minor to major toward the end.

Do you think about the audience when composing?

Not really… unless it is a specific project for hire, such as a documentary or a choral piece. But when I am writing for me, and for music sake… I want to create without anyone in mind. I think it's possible to lose the integrity of the art if you start thinking about what people want to hear. That said… When I release a new project,then I absolutely start thinking about the audience and what they will think! :)

What projects are coming up? Do you experiment in your projects?

I am releasing two new singles in the next month, and then a new seasonal album in late Nov 2018. It will be my fifth studio album. I do like to experiment… My New single “Rainfall” is a good example of that, which uses prepared piano and string plucking and dampening to create the rainstorm effect with thunder and lightning.