Ryan Casey was an eighth grader in his hometown of Freeport, Illinois, when he experienced something that would guide him into adulthood and become a major part of his life: the love of music. Casey said joining the school choir fueled his passion for music.
“I have had amazing music teachers at every level of my education. They are the reason I am a performer today,” said Casey, a McFarland resident, an award-winning music teacher at Stoughton High School and a live performer who has played his guitar before audiences at taverns and restaurants throughout the Madison area.
According to Casey’s website, ryancaseymusic.com, one of his biggest music influences is James Taylor, who recorded numerous hit records in the 1970s and 1980s such as “Your Smiling Face,” “Fire and Rain” and “Shower the People.”
He also received inspiration from performers such as singer/songwriter Ryan Adams, who has recorded 16 albums and produced recordings for artists such as Willie Nelson, Counting Crows and Norah Jones, and Martin Sexton, known for his combination of rock, folk and blue-eyed soul.
Casey’s concerts consist of covers of popular musicians, but he will mix in his own compositions. According to his website, “Casey directs his music with a spirit and presence rooted in tradition. This unique brand of adult alternative music aims to inspire listeners.”
After earning his bachelor’s degree in music education from Western Michigan University, he started performing in concerts in 2000. His first gig was at a place called Bell’s Brewery in Kalamazoo, Michigan.
“I was very nervous,” Casey said of his first live performance.
Casey later received his master’s degree in curriculum and instruction from the American College of Education in Chicago. He is currently director of choral activities and audio recording at Stoughton High School. During his tenure, he was named a Top Notch Teacher in 2006 and received the Herb Kohl Educational Foundation Fellowship Award in 2008.
In 2017 Casey was honored as the Madison Area Music Association Teacher of the Year, and his choirs at Stoughton have received numerous top ratings at both local and state festivals.
Casey recorded his last album in 2009 after marriage to his wife Allyson and the birth of his two sons, Benjamin and Liam. He said his music career has been on hold since then, but he still plays concerts.
“I still perform, because I want to have a pulse on the live music scene to share with my students,” Casey said.
Casey believes music uplifts a person’s soul and the world would not be the same without it.
“Music is all around us. It adds emotion to everything,” he said. “Could you imagine life without music?”