20+ questions with Kwame Ryan

The son of Trinidadian parents, Kwame Ryan is the music director of the Freiburg Opera and Orchestra in Germany

Photograph by Kwame Ryan

Kwame Ryan is the music director of the Freiburg Opera and Orchestra in Germany. He was born in Toronto of Trinidadian parents who were studying there. His father is the political scientist and pollster Selwyn Ryan, while his mother Joy is an actress. Ryan attended the University School and Fatima College in Trinidad, and went on to boarding school and university in England. Although he studied music at Cambridge, Ryan did not study conducting. With the university orchestra he was pianist and violinist. His orchestral conducting studies began in Germany in 1992 with Peter Eotvos, the composer and interpreter of contemporary music.

 

What’s your birth sign?

Taurus.

 

What’s on your bedside table?

 Infrared headphones and many remote controls.

 

Who has influenced you the most?

Simon Rattle, the British conductor.

 

Where do you see yourself in ten years?

I don’t believe there is any sense in visualising so far into the future. I think one has to leave some room for life’s surprises.

 

Apart from world peace, how would you like to change the world?

I believe that in our own way we musicians and theatre-makers change the world by holding up a mirror to society and making people reflect on their lives. Catharsis is a deeply political process.

 

What don’t people know about you?

That which I do not allow to be printed in magazines.

 

Do you dream in colour?

Yes.

 

What are your favourite colours?

Green and blue.

 

What scares you?

Frogs and lizards.

 

What’s your secret weakness?

Sugar and anything with a considerable flour content.

 

What’s your greatest extravagance?

See above.

 

What do you do for relaxation?

Watch a movie or, if I have nothing to do for a few days afterwards, go dancing.

 

What’s your favourite comic strip?

Don’t have any.

 

What quality do you admire most in people?

Kindness.

 

When did you know you wanted to be a conductor?

At about the age of nine.

 

What’s your favourite piece of music?

It’s hard to say . . . maybe the slow movement of the Brahms D-minor Piano Concerto.

 

Who’s your favourite composer?

If I had to answer at gunpoint . . . Beethoven I guess.  But it’s hard to pick one.

 

Do you play mas?

No. It comes right in the middle of the concert season here.

 

What do you miss most about Trinidad/the West Indies?

On a regular basis, nothing really. I’d love however to get there more to go diving.

 

What gift would you most like to have?

Perfect pitch.

 

What do you like most about yourself?

I wouldn’t know how to begin to assess that!