STOCKBRIDGE — In some ways, not much will have changed for Ryan Harvey when he returns to his alma mater in the fall. In other ways, though, it will be a whole new world.
He will interact with some of the same teachers he remembers from his teen years attending Woodland High School. This time around, however, the cellist will be their colleague.
“I’m pretty nervous,” said Harvey, a 2012 graduate of Woodland High. “I’m not too far removed from my students in age.”
Harvey graduated in May from Columbus State University with a bachelor’s degree in music education.
He celebrates his 22nd birthday July 5 and begins a few weeks later taking on leadership responsibilities, first as a marching band camp instructor and then as Woodland High’s orchestra director.
His mentor is his former high school orchestra teacher, Sam Lowder, who will spend most of his time instructing at nearby Woodland Middle School making periodic trips to the high school to assist Harvey with his transition.
“I am thrilled that one of my former students, and Woodland High School graduate, Ryan TéRaye Harvey, has accepted the position as the new Woodland High School orchestra teacher,” said Lowder, who graduated from Jonesboro High School. “Like me, he is starting his teaching career in the same county where he first became an orchestra student.”
Lowder has built a 20-year career in music education, gathering honors such as school-level Teacher of the Year at Lovejoy Middle in Clayton County and at Woodland Middle.
Lowder, a professional cellist in his own right, is a Master Music Educator and National Board Certified Teacher. He has chaired the Georgia Music Educators Association District VI Orchestra and presided over the American String Teachers Association-Georgia Chapter.
“While I am going to really miss teaching my current high school students and incoming freshmen, I am so excited for all of my students,” said Lowder. “Now, both the middle school and high school at Woodland will have dedicated teachers who can each give their all to both programs.”
Lowder said the two full-time teaching positions will allow for growth in the orchestra programs in the Woodland school cluster and increase opportunities for advancement and student retention.
Harvey will have a full schedule of orchestra classes, from freshman to advanced levels of play. And he plans to draw upon the inspiration of his former teachers to succeed like them on the conductor’s platform.
He started in orchestra at Union Grove Middle with Kathy Saucier. He also spent some time under the guidance of Richard Bell at Union Grove High, before joining Lowder’s orchestra at Woodland High.
Harvey has long been wide-eyed and impassioned about music. At age 15, in a previous interview with the Henry Herald, he noted “music has a way of teaching us to interpret meaning [and] to form lyrical, melodic thoughts.”
But he credits Saucier’s zest for teaching as critical in his decision to become a music teacher.
Harvey said he was impressed, too, by her abilities — helping teach him to play the viola and cello in the seventh grade.
He has since collected various remarkable experiences of his own, including performances with the Metropolitan Youth Symphony Orchestra of Atlanta, the Emory Youth Symphony, the Atlanta Youth Symphony Orchestra and the Southern Crescent Youth Orchestra.
“Eventually, I want to be a professional orchestra conductor,” he said. “Having a music education background will definitely help me in the professional conducting world. It’s an out-there idea but one day, I want to conduct for the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra or New York Philharmonic.”