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Choir Ninja, with Ryan Guth

Nov 22, 2017

TEACHERS: Share this episode with your choir! In our “winning is everything” culture, the goals of competition seem crystal clear: the medal, the role, the spot in the honor choir. Sometimes when the competition is fierce, those rewards don’t seem worth the effort. But there are rewards inherent in the audition process, and they are enduring. Competition is one of the most effective ways to become better at your art, and it deserves a place in your curriculum.


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Highlight to Tweet:         “Winning is important. But I want to put it into perspective.” - Ryan Guth

“No one has ever regretted the effort to become a better musician.” - Ryan Guth
“You miss 100% of the shots you don't take.” - Wayne Gretzky

Show Notes:

  • Competition should have a place in your curriculum. Performance is important, but it’s not everything a musician needs to know. Some lessons are taught better by competition. But there are lots of ways to compete
    Region/Area/State Auditions
    Solo and Ensemble contest
    Auditions for solos in school performance
    Auditions for parts in school musical
    School talent show
  • What competition teaches
    How to practice effectively
    How to budget your time for long term goals
    How to persevere, even when the music isn’t fun
    How to focus in the midst of distractions
    How to perform under pressure
    How to win
    How to lose
    How to prepare for the next audition
  • What do you say to your students who win?
  • What do you say to your students who lose?
  • What you actually win when you win: the spot in the choir, the medal, the rating
  • What you actually win even when you lose:
    Everything you gained in your preparation, you keep.
    Every bit of technique you perfected, you keep.
    Every step forward into greater musical maturity and expression, you keep.
    Every note of expanded range, you keep.
    Every extra second of breath you gained, you keep.
    Every nuanced understanding of lyrics or poetry, you keep.
    Everything you learned about the composer or the music’s historical context, you keep.
    Every bit of dynamic variation you mastered, you keep.
    Every bit of confidence and poise you earned, you keep.


Having spent most of his middle and high school career in detention, Ryan Guth loves to speak to audiences about ways for choral directors to engage the seemingly un-engageable.

Ryan learned fearlessness and indomitable spirit from a young age through many years studying the martial arts while also pursuing music – especially the time in middle school when he tried to break a board with his head in front his entire ninth grade class and failed spectacularly.

He believes the best choir directors face challenges head-on (no pun intended), are solutions-oriented, and take full responsibility forall aspects of their program.  Ryan’s most popular and surprisingly positive article “Your Choir Sucks Because You Suck” was shared over 2,200 times in 48 hours, and has since become his manifesto, mantra, and the platform that his work was built upon.

Through his first podcast, Find Your Forte, Ryan connected thousands of weekly listeners with some of the most brilliant minds in choral music such as Helmuth Rilling, Patrick Quigley, Joseph Flummerfelt, James Bass, and 80-plus others. He recognizes the fact we become the best when we learn from the best.

Ryan Guth recently created the Choir Ninja podcast to share solutions with middle and high school choral directors so they learn to work smarter – not harder. That’s why he focuses on sharing what works in choral programs across Choir Nation in a way that makes running a great choral program approachable, fun, and rewarding.

When not dressing up in his ninja jammies or buffing his diploma from Westminster Choir College, Ryan is a financial advisor in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Before that, he spent a decade building a large middle school program and six-figure-choral-ensemble-based-for-profit-business in central New Jersey. He is also the founder and sole member of the Hyphenation Club of America.

Ryan enjoys getting lost outdoors with his beautiful fiancé, Amanda, and pitbull-lab Sasha. He also dislikes socks and only wears them when absolutely necessary. This bio was sponsored by Gold Bond Powder.

Resources/links Mentioned:

Sponsored by: Sight Reading Factory (Use promo code “NINJA” at checkout for 10 free student accounts!)

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My Music Folders (Use promo code “NINJA” at checkout for “last column” or best pricing - usually reserved for bulk purchases only!)

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