The Tabernacle Choir Blog

Ryan Murphy Arranges Remarkable Reunion in Boston

Can you imagine inviting your elementary, middle school, and high school music teachers to attend a concert where you are conducting? That’s exactly what Ryan Murphy, associate music director of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir did when he learned that all three teachers still lived within driving distance of Boston, location of the Choir’s final concert of its recently-concluded 2015 tour. Each one accepted his invitation without hesitation! “The fact that I felt comfortable calling them, knowing that they would still care, shows what kind of people they are,” Murphy commented in a group interview before the performance.

Ryan was fortunate to grow up in Newtown, Connecticut, where the school district placed a high priority on arts education. What was it like to have Ryan Murphy in class? All agreed with his elementary school teacher, Suzie Ziemann, that Ryan was “well respected by his peers and friendly with everyone.”  “He was very talented but didn’t flaunt it,” said Lois Fiftal, Ryan’s middle school instructor. However, Lois did note that “as we worked on the school musical, I could tell he was analyzing my directing!”

Murphy served as Tony Inzero’s accompanist all four years of high school. In fact, Tony said that Ryan was the main reason they were able to take the high school choir on tour to the Soviet Union in 1989. Not only was Ryan an expert accompanist, he was able to transpose on the spot and help Mr. Inzero write special arrangements for the group. Mr. Inzero thinks that Ryan’s experience on that tour may remain embedded in his tonal memory as he works to get deep, rich tones from the Mormon Tabernacle Choir.

Ryan responded to his teachers’ praise with grace and a bit of self-deprecating humor, expressing sincere appreciation for each instructor’s ability to instill confidence in their students and to give him responsibilities that made him grow. Both Lois and Tony said they often felt like they were working with a colleague, not a student. 

And now they are true colleagues. Two of his former teachers thought Murphy would grow up to be a concert pianist, but one said she got goose bumps when she saw him take the podium. Like Murphy himself, all three teachers recognized early on that music was what made them happiest in life. But that night in July at the Wang Theatre in Boston, they had a chance to see the happiness he brings to audiences who hear the music he conducts (and often writes or arranges). Ryan Murphy has found his place in the music world, and it was heartwarming to see the pride and respect on the faces of three talented and caring teachers who helped him get there.