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The independent news website of The Kent Stater & TV2


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Kent State Ph.D. music student releases newest album after accident

Marty Ryan, a Kent State music education graduate student, got the idea for his latest album after surviving a fall at a restaurant which led him to write down his memories in fear of forgetting them.

Ryan, now 31, started teaching himself how to play guitar at 14 through YouTube, his own ear and tabs, a method of notating music for beginners. After a year of learning guitar, he started his first band, he said.

“We were terrible, but I was a little bit savvy with computers for the time and was able to make us a website that looked pretty legitimate,” Ryan said. “And we got to play all around Ireland as a result.”

Since then, he has been in a number of bands with each one hopefully being better than the last, he said. Finishing college and starting Anna’s Anchor in 2015, the band was signed to a number of labels throughout the years.

While Ryan is working on his music career and studying at Kent State, he also teaches in music educational settings. He taught at Music Generation, an organization started by the band U2 that puts accessible, creative and relevant music instruction into schools in Ireland.

“Part of that relevance was that they would have full-time professional musicians actually teach the classes because they felt that was a way for students to be able to relate to the type of music that was being taught,” Ryan said. “So, I was one of the lucky few that got a job at Music Generation.”

Ryan worked in other programs in Ireland with children who dropped out of school early and other students in music education.

Ryan said he wanted to pursue research in music education he had been working in. There are a few places around the world that specialize in the area known as popular music education, and Kent State had faculty prominent in that field, so he applied and moved to Ohio in the fall of 2021, he said.

“I wanted to get some kind of security in life that was away from touring and that was kind of why I wanted to do a Ph.D.,” Ryan said. “It’s very kind of career focused as to how I ended up in Kent, in particular.”

Not only does Ryan tour and make music professionally, he is also a Ph.D. student and graduate assistant at Kent State. He is pursuing his doctorate in music education after studying environmental science and earning a master’s degree in project management.

Ryan separates his music career and his studies at Kent State, said Jay Dorfman, professor and coordinator of music education. Dorfman is Ryan’s advisor and also co-teaches with him.

“When Marty started his doctoral degree with us he had a background that was very different than most doctoral students,” Dorfman said. “But he sought out a program where he believed he could succeed and we believed that he could succeed. So, we were thrilled to bring him in, especially because he brings a different perspective outside of the regular American music teacher.”

Shortly after moving to America, Ryan had an accident. 

After waiting for a table in a restaurant, out of nowhere Ryan felt incredibly hot and then fainted, falling onto the back of his head. His head split completely open because it hit a metal bracket on the ground, he said. Ryan does not know what caused him to collapse.

“In the blur of that accident,” Ryan said. “I wrote down a list of memories as kind of like a means to trigger remembering things and also out of fear that I wasn’t sure what I was or wasn’t going to forget when this accident happened. I know all of that sounds really dramatic, especially now that I’m 100% OK, and I’m very lucky, but it was actually a pretty serious thing.”

His band, called Anna’s Anchor, which was once a solo project, released its album “The Merries” July 7 on the Irish label Strange Brew Records. The songs on the album document the memories he wrote down after the accident. Anna’s Anchor is an indie rock band with elements of folk and punk, he said.

Ryan and his band toured this summer traveling around Ireland in a van, playing 11 gigs. The band played its new songs for the first time, promoting the album along the way.

After graduation, Ryan said he hopes to work at a university teaching music industry and music production classes. Another option is going back to Ireland and working with a nonprofit like he used to, but at a higher level where he’s designing the direction of the type of instruction being delivered, he said.

“Marty is a serious student who is totally dedicated to music and teaching and making those things his life,” Dorfman said.


Josie Burkhart is a reporter. Contact her at [email protected]

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