Ryan Gabbart is a freelance trombonist and educator located in Houston, TX. Since he was in high school, Ryan has consistently worked as a professional musician, playing everything from jazz music in big bands and combos to the classical repertoire, as well as working in a variety of rock, pop, funk and ska bands.

Ryan is the former Assistant Director of Jazz Studies at the University of Houston's Moores School of Music (2008-13). He received his bachelor's degree in trombone performance (2006) and master's degree in music theory (2008) at the Moores School.

Ryan has been a member of Boomtown Brass Band, the Suspects, Clouseaux, The Texas Music Festival Jazz Project, Idol Gossip, Fried Ice Cream, and Thomas Helton's Tribute & Birth of the Cool projects; he has also performed with Michael Brecker, Wayne Bergeron, Diane Schuur, Jon Faddis, Conrad Herwig, and several other notable jazz figures.

In addition to performing, Ryan's background in music education includes instruction in music theory, performance practice, ensemble direction, jazz history, arranging techniques and private instruction. He has performed numerous clinics and masterclasses throughout the greater Houston area.


Art is therapy. The act of creating, experiencing and understanding art, in any medium, is central to understanding our lives. Art offers us new perspectives on life, it increases our empathetic capacities, and ultimately speaks to the varying conditions of human existence that are timeless and universal. Under my guidance, music education gives people a sense of self-worth and accomplishment through the stages of learning. In the beginning, we must be humble at the challenges ahead of us. Each day, we are made to work through a process of learning, both physically and intellectually, as we develop our abilities. Patience is acquired in this simple exercise because of the focus on process-based results each day instead of regular outcome-based motivations.

Learning music gives students more than just a skill. I strive to arm my students with the technical training, an historical context and a sense of developed musical instincts so they can understand, appreciate and perform, but this kind of knowledge goes beyond music. Students who participate in music classes at a young age develop analytical and problem solving skills that serve them well into adulthood. Working together to create music teaches us all about personal responsibility, teamwork and collaboration through an artistic medium. The sense of accomplishment in overcoming a musical challenge or passage is a gratifying one, and exercises both our intellectual and physical bodies.

There are several ways to learn anything—you just have to find what works for you. I believe that we are our own best teachers. Through the practice of introspective thought, awareness and remaining true to our values, we are able to find the keys to unlocking our potential. With guided learning, a great instructor acts as a facilitator, leading students through proven methods to help them find what works for them. I often ask my students to explain their thought process and strategies in order to re-frame their obstacles. This, in turn, creates solutions not by giving answers, but by introducing new possibilities. It allows my students the independence to teach themselves armed with a few basic methods posed as questions. You are your best teacher. I encourage everyone to ask bigger questions and to try to explain things out loud.

Creativity is in everyone and needs nourishment to thrive. We all have a great potential to be creative. Technique is developed, instincts are sharpened, and tastes emerge. The constant beneath all these stages of learning is the creative means of adaptation and expression within each scenario. The worst thing an educator can do is discourage free play, because new ideas are allowed to take root only in a space that is free of policing and judgement. Better original creative ideas will emerge after a period of skill acquisition and exposure to new concepts, but it’s in the act of free play that we are allowed to align all these practices in one process. These methods need to be emphasized to the student in order to train their instincts for quick reaction and creative thinking.

Deeper knowledge brings deeper appreciation. I always take the time to explain how music works and the different ways we can listen, with the hope that all my students have a better grasp on looking at those separate elements that make up all music: rhythm, harmony and melody. In showing how each element works together, I try to demystify and demonstrate the rudimentary steps toward building any musical composition. In understanding how music is composed, I have found that students will have a better grasp on their musical interpretation. This, in hand, strengthens their creative base and analytical skills. Musical analysis is not hard, but it is vital and can be taught in small doses.