A portrait of the artist as a young man

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Quincy Ryan, Idyllwild Arts Academy senior jazz major, will attend Cal Arts in Valencia after graduation. He will be part of the performer/composer program at the acclaimed arts school. All students at Cal Arts, much as they are at Idyllwild Arts, are arts majors.
Photo by Marshall Smith

“The object of the artist is the creation of the beautiful. What the beautiful is is another question.” James Joyce, “A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man.”

In talking with Idyllwild Art Academy senior Quincy Ryan, one is struck by his brooding restlessness and his struggle of coming to grips with philosophical contradictions — of finding his unique voice and identity through rigorous introspection and self-examination. It was surprising to find a young man working through existential issues that many older people never choose to examine or consider.

Quincy remembered an early such encounter. He recounted being 10 and going to the dentist. “I thought at the time that pain was a state of mind, that it was not really real,” he said. He noted the realization allowed him to work to remove the pain — to actively affect what was affecting him.

“My family was kind of alternative,” said Quincy (probably named after Quincy Jones, with whom his father Bruce Ryan has worked). “I was always surrounded by artists. I was a very emotional kid, more than most. At a very young age, I learned to respect my emotions. By being guarded it made me less vulnerable to what was going on around me and led to some detachment issues.”

Quincy remembered his first year, as a sophomore jazz music student, at IAA. “When I first came to Idyllwild Arts, I was nervous and a little shut off,” he said. “But though the study of humanities, I began to see the importance of a narrative. Music is abstract but also overt. It is kinetic and manipulates energy and transfers that energy directly to an audience by putting out an emotion, such as anger or happiness.

“But music can be more complex, when there is a narrative, a way to contextualize it and give it more meaning — where the mood of the music is tied to a message.

“I thought I wanted to become a virtuosic performer. Now I understand I want to be something more — I want to be a creator, an artist.

“Understanding literature as an art form, something less abstract than music, has helped me know who I am and what I need to be doing. It’s opened my creative and emotional personality.”

Quincy credits IAA Jazz Director Marshall Hawkins with helping to break his early shell so that he could be more open to grow and experiment. “He told me to relax and be more spiritually involved,” Quincy remembered. “I am so lucky to have had such academic and artistic stimulation here at Idyllwild Arts.”

He remembered a seminal moment in freeing up his mind and musical taste. “When I first came here, my musical tastes were primarily metal,” he said. “Everything had to be compressed, loud and intense. But later – I was on a hike with Daniel Gray [faculty] and listening to acoustic music – David Lang ‘Death Speaks.’ Now I listen to jazz, to modernist classical, to whatever. I don’t shut out any genres. My taste lies in music that has the most intention and the most attention to detail.”

This year, Quincy has been part of the winning IAA jazz combos at both the Berklee High School Jazz Festival in Boston and the Reno Jazz Festival in Reno.

After graduation, Quincy will attend Cal Arts in Valencia, with a focus on composition — to expand, as he says, his artistic palette. “I’m not ready yet to reject anything. I’m trying to find a place for everything. My political philosophy is, I don’t assume I know anything. I’m trying to navigate and understand what to move toward.

“My goal going forward is to get the richest and most diverse experience I can have, and to be the best artist and happiest person I can be.”

Quincy will be in the composer/performer program at Cal Arts. “I’ll be shifting towards composition — sitting down with a score and working things out.”

Quincy talks a lot about navigating forward — finding channels to move through and working things out. His intense introspection and evolutionary journey are reminiscent of Stephen Dedalus in James Joyce’s “Portrait of the Artist.” It will be interesting to see the choices he makes.

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