Not a Moment Wasted: Ryan Dunn

Molly Grace WatkinsAlumni, ASOTA, News

Not a Moment Wasted: Ryan Dunn

Ryan Dunn 
Freelance performer  
Bachelor of Music in Musical Theatre ’18 
Master of Arts in Musical Theatre ’21 

With every step I make into new territory in my field, I realize that I’ve been equipped for it since all the way back in my undergraduate time at the University of Mobile. It’s beautifully baffling to see things come full circle. 
– Ryan Dunn ’18, ’21 

“My time in undergrad prepared me for my career in more ways than I even realized. When I shifted into songwriting, I realized just how equipped I was for the road before me,” says freelance performer and singer/songwriter Ryan Dunn, a 2018 and 2021 graduate of the University of Mobile

From a young age, Ryan has always had a passion for storytelling and music. As a kid, he was a movie fanatic, eagerly watch what the actors were doing and listen intently to the music score.  

Ryan Dunn

Ryan was so intrigued that he decided to pursue a career in musical theater. Upon graduating from UM in 2018 with a Bachelor of Music in Musical Theatre, he moved to New York City, performed in theatre Off-Broadway and even went on a National Tour.  

During the pandemic where theatres and live performances shut down, he returned to UM and earned a Master of Arts in Musical Theatre

Now he’s back in NYC where he is focusing on songwriting and composition, while occasionally performing in theatre. Recently, Ryan earned rave reviews in Broadway World for his own show, “A Seasonal Playlist.”  

“I love being able to communicate my experiences and feelings in such a unique way. Putting together a song is sometimes scary and vulnerable, but there’s also incredible freedom with sharing those vulnerabilities and personal lessons with others through music,” Ryan says.  

Ryan Dunn

Q. What inspired you to enter the career you’re in?  

A. Since I could learn to talk, I was singing any chance I could. I was constantly intrigued with music scores. Also, my father, Steve Dunn, a fantastic orchestral composer in his own right, has always been an instrumental figure in my life. He would always draw my ear to the intricacies in each music score. 

Q. What does your songwriting process look like? 

A. I’ll write down or record ideas when they come, and when I can sit down with a piano or guitar, I’ll start to work away at a song idea until it’s done or until I hit a wall and need to step away for a moment. When a song is complete, I will create a chord chart transcribe the song to sheet music. I will also try to record a demo with my own set-up, so I have an audio reference on file. None of my original songs have received official studio recordings yet, but once it’s time to record, each of these materials will be so helpful for musicians I hire. 

When it comes to songwriting, I may be writing for myself or for a collective project I’ve been hired for. No matter where I am, I always have my notes app and voice memo app ready for when inspiration hits.  

Q. How would you say your time at UM helped prepare you for this?  

A. My degree provided me with plenty of training in singing, dancing and acting. For songwriting specifically, I had music theory education, which has helped me when composing as well as when communicating with other musicians. I learned choral conducting and even spent some time as a student leader for one of the university’s performing ensembles, which gave me experience for how to lead a band. I also received strong piano training, and I’m performing with piano now more than ever.  

Ryan Dunn

Q. What would you say to current or incoming students? 

A. In everything you do, pray. Ask God where He wants you, what He has called you to study, who He has called you to give your time and energy to. Once you’ve done that, listen. His word is true, and His plans are good. You’d be surprised the way God weaves experiences together into something beautiful beyond what you see now.  

When I was in school, I told people I wasn’t a songwriter, and I would never be one. Now people ask me why I ever thought such a silly thing. So many skills I used to brush off as irrelevant are now an integral part of my day-to-day. With God, nothing is wasted. Trust Him.