Assistant Professor of Jazz; Chair of the Jazz and Global Music Department; Affiliate Faculty for the Center for Latin American Studies
Ryan Middagh is the Chair of the Department of Jazz and Global Music at Vanderbilt University Blair School of Music. An innovative educator, composer, arranger, saxophonist, band leader and clinician, he has traveled the globe sharing his unique blend of talents and musical influences with audiences and music students. A passionate advocate for jazz education at all levels, he pursues creative programming and is devoted to reaching diverse communities through jazz. Since his arrival in 2014, the school's jazz program has received national and international recognition, including two DownBeat magazine student music awards, invitations to the 2017 Jazz Education Network Conference in New Orleans and performances overseas.
In addition to creating a new jazz curriculum, Middagh has recruited an all-star jazz faculty and installed the Nashville Jazz Composers Collective as the Blair School’s jazz ensemble in residence. He enjoys collaborating with his faculty colleagues and student ensembles; a product of which is the Blair Big Band’s first studio album, Such Sweet Thunder (Naxos), which features Vanderbilt faculty and Nashville jazz piano legend Beegie Adair. The Blair Big Band’s second studio album, Songbook, features new and creative interpretations of classic pop and rock songs for big band. All of the Blair Big Band’s albums and EPs are available wherever you stream music. Many of Middagh’s former students have successfully gone on to enter graduate music programs, win performance and composition competitions, and begin significant, fulfilling careers in the music industry in Nashville and around the world. The Nashville Scene named him "Best Jazz Educator and Advocate" in its 2020 Best of Nashville awards.
An active jazz composer and arranger, Middagh has received numerous commissions from musicians and ensembles throughout the United States. He has written for Grammy-winning artists, DownBeat award-winning educational ensembles, and his work has been recorded by prominent collegiate and professional ensembles. Some notable collaborations include arranging for Victor Wooten, Wycliffe Gordon, Caleb Chapman’s Crescent Super Band, the Nashville Jazz Orchestra, and his Blair School of Music colleague Jeff Coffin. Several of his works are published and available by JW Pepper, UNC Jazz Press and eJazzLines.
Equally skilled as a soloist, collaborator and band leader, Middagh performs at jazz festivals around the world, including tours and performances on behalf of the U.S. State Department. While at home, he is a top-call studio musician in Nashville and performs in a wide array of genres. In addition to leading his own jazz small groups, he has recently started the Ryan Middagh Jazz Orchestra, which features some of Nashville’s finest musicians and acts as a vehicle for his new compositions and arrangements. His jazz orchestra released the album Live From Nashville in 2019 and is the recipient of a Global Music Award, and was nominated for Best Jazz Group and Best Jazz Album in the 2020 Nashville Industry Music Awards.
Beyond the world of jazz, Middagh enjoys a diverse musical career. This includes educational and performance collaborations with the Nashville Symphony; playing on projects produced by Questlove; serving as musical director for actor and comedian Bob Newhart; arranging for Toto keyboardist David Paich; playing for Country Music Hall of Fame inductee Ray Stevens; arranging and recording with Grammy-award winning blues artist Keb' Mo'; writing for the Boston Brass; playing on Disney soundtracks; and producing chamber music records.
A scholar of jazz, Middagh has presented his research at multiple universities and conferences, hosted panel discussions on jazz composition and arranging, and presented at the International Jazz Composers’ Symposium. He is the director of the Jazz Education Network (JEN) young composers program which aims to spotlight and mentor young jazz composers, culminating in an annual showcase at the JEN Conference. At Vanderbilt University he was the recipient of a 2017 Provost Research Studio Grant, 2018 Research Scholar Grant, and in 2019 was awarded Vanderbilt University’s Chancellor’s Cup in recognition for his work inside and outside the classroom. Middagh is affiliate faculty for the Center for Latin American Studies and serves on the Executive Committee of the faculty senate in his role as vice chair-elect.
Middagh is an artist and clinician for Yamaha Saxophones and D’addario Reeds.