Ryan Lester: Arts Honoree’s Career Began Here

These days, Westport is a town of hedge funds (and their managers), ginormous new houses (even as the housing market for them slows) and a TV show featuring our 2nd fattest housewife.

You may think we’ve strayed from our artists’ colony roots.

But you would be wrong.

Tomorrow (Sunday, October 23, 2 p.m., Town Hall), the Westport Arts Advisory Committee presents its 4th TEA Talk.

tea-talkThe acronym stands for Thinkers Educators Artists. The program features remarks on our town’s arts heritage, and a panel including author/lyricist Tom Greenwald, writer/radio commentator Jessica Bram, multimedia artist Sooo-Z Mastropietro, artist/photographer Miggs Burroughs, musician Frederic Chiu, and composer Ryan Lester.

Ryan epitomizes Westport’s arts past, present and future. A 2007 Staples High School grad, he receives the Horizon Award at tomorrow’s event. It’s given annually to a Westport artist under the age of 32, who shows “extraordinary accomplishment and potential.”

It’s a great honor, and Ryan is flying in from Los Angeles to receive it. That’s his home now, where he composes music for film, TV, video games and the concert stage.

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Ryan Lester

For the past 6 years, Ryan has composed for “The Daily Show.” NBC Universal recently asked him to score their animated sitcom “Mystery Island.” He’s worked as an orchestrator and synth on the NBC thriller “Crossbones,” the feature film “Barely Lethal” and Discovery Channel’s “Harley and the Davidsons.” Ryan is currently scoring “Confessions of a Boxman,” for early 2017 release.

He studied at the Oberlin Conservatory of Music, the Royal College of Music in London, and the Juilliard School.

But Ryan’s path to a musical career began in 4th grade, when Long Lots Elementary School teacher Betsy Tucker introduced him to the recorder and steel drums. At age 10, he began writing music.

The next year, Frank Coppola encouraged him to play trombone. Then came middle school jazz bands with James Forgey and Gregg Winters. Both teachers stoked his enthusiasm for that unique art form.

Important Staples influences also included Candi Innaco, Nick Mariconda, Adele Valovich and Alice Lipson. “Westport was a ridiculously great place to grow up, musically,” Ryan says.

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Staples Players’ pit orchestra exposed him to a whole different side of music. A decade later, he says he draws on that experience for much of his work. In fact, he notes, “Westport schools were a lot more influential on what I do now than college.”

“I always knew I wanted to compose,” Ryan adds. “I just didn’t know if I could make it a career.”

He certainly has. And tomorrow — back home — Ryan Lester will be honored at what is still the start of his musical career.

His horizon is limitless.

(Tomorrow’s TEA Talk is free. A reception follows at the Westport Historical Society. For more information, click here.)


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5 responses to “Ryan Lester: Arts Honoree’s Career Began Here

  1. And a most unfortunate acronym it is, because, as one drives by the signs the first take one has is of a Tea Party meeting being held.
    Why would anyone in this tumultuous political time choose, out of the millions of possibilities, an acronym so easily confused with such a Party?

  2. Sally Campbell Palmer

    Nice story! Congratulations all around.

  3. Bart Shuldman

    Feeding the beast-Dan. A town of hedge funds and their managers? Ginormous houses?

  4. Thank you Dan! This is lovely.

    -Kelle

    >

  5. Isn’t the brand name “TEA Talk” just a tiny bit derivative? Not sure it would stand up in court should anyone from the TED organization notice.