SC '11 graduate Ryan Vig speaks to us about finding the path to his career in the music industry, and his Trailblazing experiences that shaped it.
An alumnus of Sierra Canyon and Ethnomusicology graduate (B.A. and M.A.) from UCLA, Ryan Vig has spent his educational years learning how to "share music and create the soundtrack of public life." Now, he has coalesced his interests into a music industry career. Read on to learn more about Ryan's trajectory to turning passion into profession.Tell us a bit about what you do now.
I currently work at a music streaming company called Cloud Cover Music in Santa Monica overseeing music curation and digital analytics. We are a B2B (business-to-business) service that sonically brands thousands of businesses across the US and Canada. I have always wanted to pursue a career in the music industry, and I find this job a great fit because it combines my lifelong interests in music, technology, business, design, and culture.
It is rewarding to help share music and create the soundtrack of public life, especially doing so while legally supporting artists. Most times we forget that there is this constant background music in our days. In many cases, similar to film music, not noticing the music can be a sign of successful creative choices. Music has a very important function because it can dictate what you think about a brand, how you feel walking around a certain store, and, in some cases, it can even influence the time and money you spend.
These days I’m listening to the most music I ever have, including genres of all types—from Today’s Hits and Oldies to Latin Mariachi and French Jazz. Outside of work, I am living in Culver City, collecting and repairing musical instruments, training for a triathlon with fellow Sierra Canyon alumni Max Schad, and enjoying free time with my family and friends.
What propelled you to study ethnomusicology? (Please also define ethnomusicology for those who do not know what it is!) Were there any experiences at SC that influenced you?
In the simplest of terms, one of my professors Timothy Rice refers to ethnomusicology as “the study of why, and how, human beings are musical.” I know it sounds broad, and that’s exactly what attracted me! This degree prepared me with the tools of musical and social analysis to study human “musicking” in any cultural, geographical, or historical context.
I actually applied to UCLA to study cognitive psychology in the hopes of researching how music affects the brain. I was particularly interested in how film music can so deeply influence and guide your emotions as well as a narrative arc. This was a topic that I was always thinking about as I composed my own music. In fact, it even ended up being the topic to one of my college application essays to UCLA. Many of my experiences at Sierra Canyon drove me towards this path from composing original music and doing sound design for the school plays to analyzing the narrative roles of music in films and plays during English courses. I am incredibly grateful to all the teachers who pushed me to explore my musical interests in creative and academic ways. I send endless thanks to Christopher Tulysewski, Heidi Ellis, Eric Schrode, Susan Brindley and Tom Quiantance for fostering my musical passions.
It wasn’t until I arrived at campus on the first day of school that I even learned about this small major in the Herb Alpert School of Music called ethnomusicology. It was in this department that I felt most comfortable yet driven because I could study all music traditions through many different approaches. My program was musically and academically rigorous, performance and research-focused. I took typical music program courses, such as harmony, keyboard skills, songwriting, and studio engineering. Beyond these, I took more unique courses on the psychology of film music, the sociology and anthropology of music, Middle Eastern music performance, the culture of EDM (electronic dance music), and musical instrument making. UCLA’s Department of Ethnomusicology is a very rich space to collaborate, learn, perform, network, and research. It was this environment that drove me to apply for a joint Masters degree during my undergraduate program, and I graduated with both degrees in 2016.
What was one of your favorite classes at Sierra Canyon?
Sierra Canyon holds such a special place in my heart. In so many ways—more than I could ever explain—it raised me into the individual I am today. I have been at Sierra Canyon since I was born because both of my older sisters went there before me. My earliest memories are from the Lower Campus in a stroller going to volleyball games and school fairs before the Upper Campus even existed. As a “lifer" attending Sierra Canyon for fourteen years, I can honestly say that it was here where I learned some of the most essential life skills—critical thinking, communication, self-confidence, organization, dealing with conflict, and making friends.
Sierra Canyon offered me endless opportunities as a student. My classmates and I attended the high school at a very early stage of its growth. When we moved to the new campus, a number of classes were still being developed. Some of my favorites were classes offered for the very first time, like the AP Music Theory that my friends and I requested from the administration (another shout-out to Susan Brindley for stepping up to teach us)!
Although it was more of an extracurricular, my favorite will always be the theater department at Sierra Canyon. It was there that I pushed myself in music composition, guitar performance, and sound design. The teachers, especially Chris Tulysewski, gave me endless projects of creative expression. I spent countless hours after school with that talented community of students. I most fondly remember being the pit band, teaming up with all of my close friends in the band and crew—Michael Sheck, Hunter Boyajian, Max Schad, and Jeremy Taylor.
What advice would you give fellow Trailblazers looking to pursue a similar educational or career path as yours?
There are so many brilliant, driven people to learn from in the music industry. Each of us gets to our own dream job in our own way through our own unique talents, but we do it with the help of others. As most entertainment careers are, the music industry is a people’s business. Sure, professional networking is beneficial, but I have always found that being genuinely friendly, interested, and helpful with everyone you meet is a great life approach. Pursue things that ignite and inspire you because others will notice your passion. Optimism and enthusiasm are valuable tools for success because people want to deal with optimistic and enthusiastic people!
I would not be where I am today without the friendship and support of my Sierra Canyon friends and teachers. I continue to keep in touch with many of them, and some of my closest friends today are people I met at age five in Early Kindergarten at Sierra Canyon.