Old habits die hard, as Palm Beach Atlantic University student Ryan Ruark well knows.
The once-aspiring musician is now pursuing a career in nursing. But when top college and university musicians from across the state gathered in Tampa this month to perform as the Florida Intercollegiate Band, Ruark, who plays euphonium, was among them.
In fact, it was Ruark’s seventh time being chosen to be part of a Florida all-state band, starting from when he was in seventh grade at Congress Middle School in Boynton Beach.
“It’s always exciting to go there,” said Ruark, a senior who represented PBA in the intercollegiate band along with trumpet player Matthew Langford. “You see thousands of people who share the same interests that you do. It’s always a joy to go.”
Led by former Eastman Wind Ensemble conductor Donald Hunsberger, the Florida Intercollegiate Band performed at the Tampa Convention Center on Jan. 13 during the Florida Music Educators Association conference. The band performed such challenging pieces as Symphony No. 6 by Vincent Persichetti, Hymn for the Lost and Living by Eric Ewazen and Three Dance Episodes by Aram Khachaturian.
Christine Brooks, assistant professor of nursing, said she is honored to teach such a talented student.
“I pray that he will be able to combine his talents with nursing and music in the future,” Brooks said. “He is a student who will achieve much success with his diligence and focus. I commend him on his successes thus far, and I am excited to see what God has planned for his future.”
Ruark said his interest in the medical profession began when he was a sophomore at Dreyfoos School of the Arts in West Palm Beach. He began volunteering at Bethesda Memorial Hospital to meet graduation and Bright Futures scholarship requirements.
“I immediately fell in love with the atmosphere and working with both the staff and the patients, not to mention the other volunteers,” he said.
By his senior year in high school, he had accumulated more than 1,200 community service hours at the hospital, far exceeding the required number. He later was recognized for this achievement during the annual Heroes in Medicine awards luncheon presented by the Palm Beach County Medical Society.
When he enrolled at PBA, he planned to pursue a career in medicine. His intention was to double-major in music and pre-med, he said. But as his focus changed, he enrolled in the School of Nursing and decided to minor in music.
“I was fascinated with the human body, the way it worked and the different things that influenced it,” he said. “Also, I want to help people.”
He says his music professors, including Dr. David Jacobs and former faculty member Fred Dart, encouraged his ongoing interest in musical performance.
“It’s a passion I still love,” Ruark said. “It’s a form of release for me. It’s such a huge part of my life.”
Because of his extraordinary talent, Ruark has been selected twice to represent PBA in the Florida Intercollegiate Band and has been a rock solid performer in large and small ensembles at PBA, Dr. Jacobs said.
“Ryan has not only been a star in his performance ability, but also has a warm and encouraging personality that impacts the students with whom he interacts,” Dr. Jacobs said.