By Aaron Faier, Staff Writer
Ryan Ashworth is Payton’s new orchestra director, band director, jazz band director, and general music teacher. He is Payton’s second general music, band, orchestra, and jazz band director since the school opened over 20 years ago.
Mr. Ashworth has worked as a band and orchestra director before, previously serving as a high school teacher in southwest Philadelphia and at Josephine Locke Elementary School in the Montclare neighborhood of Chicago. He moved to Chicago because he likes that Chicago is a city in a large metropolitan area with a thriving jazz scene, and his wife had always had her heart set on Chicago.
“I can always remember music having a very strong impact on me and being something that I always felt compelled to participate in and understand,” he said. “If I were not teaching music, I would not be a teacher … The subject matter and the potential for transformation and individual enrichment is what fires me up about music, education and teaching.”
About transitioning to a new school during remote learning, he said it can be overwhelming and stressful, but said that he is trying to maintain a positive mindset and sift through the overwhelming nature of the environment to a place where everyone is extracting at least some learning and development. As a new teacher, Mr. Ashworth feels that Payton is like working at “a university in a high school” because of the the students’ and adults’ mentality and the behavior of the students.
Seeing as he teaches multiple different classes, the impact that he hopes to have at Payton is quite wide. For the instrumental students, his priorities are to encourage improvisation, elevate the level of musicianship among all of his instrumental students, bring the music “into the 21st century,” and give students more voice with regard to the music that they are playing. Additionally, Mr. Ashworth would like to make General Music “a little more engaging.” He wants students in that class to walk away with “usable music skills,” whether with a guitar, piano, or accompaniment instruments, as well as a “firm understanding of music as a language.”
In addition to improving the current music program, he also would like to fight against inequity. “My approach to offsetting or balancing inequity is to put myself in a position in which when I recognize and I see inequity, I take direct action in any way that I can counteract, or set balance to,” he said. “I just don’t see any reason for there to be any sort of gross inequity in an educational setting, particularly when we’re talking about public schools.”
Mr. Ashworth enjoys Thai food, distance cycling, and is an avid boxing fan. His favorite color is black and he has three children.
Image courtesy of Ryan Ashworth