“I firmly believe that people learn best by DOING,” says Ryan. “Engaging the physical, mental, and emotional bodies is paramount for education as a whole.”
In 2008, as part of a community outreach effort of the Downtown Greens Community Garden, Ryan founded a marimba ensemble for local youth. He called it Marenje Marimba (“marenje” means “sacred wilderness” in Shona), and it quickly blossomed into an eight-piece band that blends pan-African songs and rhythms, traditional Zimbabwean marimba/mbira songs, original compositions, and Brazilian drumming. A regular feature of Fredericksburg’s First Fridays Art Walks, Marenje Marimba’s mission is to spread joy and positivity through music, and create community celebrations filled with hope.
“I want to entice people’s interest with mesmerizing examples that conjure up curiosities,” says Ryan. Years before, as a student of Jan Maraire in Maui, his own curiosity lead him, not only to play marimbas with her, but also to build them. “She taught me how to build them by hand,” says Ryan. Recently, he taught the Marenje Marimba musicians how to make the wooden instruments, and repair them as well. “Now they have the whole package,” he says.
Easygoing and optimistic, Ryan divides his time between Maui (teaching at the Haleakala Waldorf School) and Fredericksburg. “I want to reach people who never dreamed of singing, playing, or performing, and give them a deep musical experience,” says Ryan. “By playing together, people create an authentic connection. This collective experience can change the world.”