Darren Ronan, Owner/Teacher, Ronan School of Music
Photo: Laura Evans
You play drums and other percussion instruments, as well as string instruments including guitar, bass, and ukulele. Is there one you consider best at conveying your personal artistic voice?
No one instrument in particular helps me express myself more than another. I am very fortunate in that I get to play in many different musical settings so anything I feel I need to express is able to happen.
You teach music at Grace Episcopal Day School and then at your own music school, Ronan School of Music. That’s a long teaching day! What gives you the energy?
Good question!! Lots of caffeine, I guess. I do try to keep my energy up for the students and parents we get to work with. Learning to play music is hard work but it’s also incredibly fun and fulfilling. I want to help everyone feel the excitement and satisfaction of both learning and playing. I also recognize the expense of lessons so I want to make sure I respect that by giving the best I can.
What inspired you to open your school of music?
I had been working at Nice Music in Orange Park for 17 years and wanted to have my own music school/store. My wife, photographer Laura Evans, had studio space we decided could work as a music school. The Riverside/Avondale neighborhood is my favorite part of Jacksonville so getting to put our business in this area was a great opportunity we didn’t want to miss. The building’s previous owner, Robert Rodriquez, was an amazing person and helped make everything possible for us. It’s hard to believe, but we’ve been open over 12 years and in that time, we have formed so many great relationships. I enjoy watching the young people grow up and seeing where they land. We have one former student playing in a military band, other former students playing in bands around town, and have a few former students now teaching music. I even have a former student that is an Olympic gold medal winner—not in music, of course.
Can you tell us about touring? You shared the stage with some notable musicians!
I toured the way you always hear about unsigned bands touring—a Ford Econoline van, cheap hotels or floors in someone’s house that you met during the gig, and a diet that made my body hate me, but we had a great time! Along the way, I met many talented and generous musicians and played some amazing shows to enthusiastic crowds. One of my favorite stories is when my band, The Senses, was supposed to open for The Rembrandts in Savannah for St. Patrick’s Day. They canceled at the last minute, so the radio station played us on heavy rotation and acted like we were a big deal even though no one had heard of us. We never got a hard total, but we know we played to over 5,000 people that evening. A great memory for sure.
Do you have an all-time favorite musician or piece of music/song?
Not really. If I said I did, it would change the next time you asked me. Some that I never get tired of are Wes Montgomery, the Beatles, the organist Jimmy Smith, and Elvis. There are others, of course, but those don’t come to mind now.