I am Ryan Sullivan: a shakuhachi player, maker and teacher from Tallahassee, Florida, USA.|
My path has been winding and adventuresome, and full of wonderful, generous people.
It seems that I was destined to play flutes.
In 2006, a friend handed me a small transverse, bamboo flute and said that if I could play it, I could have it. After 10 minutes of honing in on the sound, I received my first flute. The journey was just beginning...
At a flute gathering called Musical Echoes, Utah Farris led me into the Native American Flute world.
The following year, at the same festival, Michael Allen, aka Coyote Oldman, provided my first rim-blown, Anasazi flute.
On my third year attending Musical Echoes, Scott Kennedy gifted me a PVC shakuhachi.
I played and played, taught myself notation from Tanaguchi's book, and found some CDs at the library.
One of these CDs was of Stan Richardson, who lives outside of Dallas. When I went to visit my in-laws, I met with Richardson-Sensei and heard my first REAL shakuhachi played by an adept.
I was hooked.
I taught myself how to craft the instrument and set about filing and filling the PVC until I had a very nice sounding instrument. Then, I harvested some bamboo and moved away from plastic. I travelled to New York and met Ronnie Seldin and Perry Yung. I knew I needed a much better flute. Eventually, I found a nice 2.1 Suikyo.
Then, I met Dale Bai-O Olsen who took me on as a weekly student. He schooled me in Kinko-ryu, in pitch, timing, music, tradition, and respect. He taught me how to be legit.
Due to life's circumstances, I could no longer study with him after a year or so.
I was not deterred.
Upholding the Komuso tradition of travelling from temple to temple learning pieces, I have sought teachers as I have journeyed throughout the world. I have been very blessed to learn from some of the world's best players and makers. I have been fortunate to attend the Prague Shakuhachi Festival, The Shakuhachi Summer Camp of the Rockies, and the Shakuhachi Roots Pilgrimage--a month of immersion in Japan. I have listed teachers I've worked with below. Some taught me pieces, some taught me technique, some taught me style, some taught me abstract things, some I have only met a single time, some I travelled with for a month in Japan. All taught me how to be a better person and live a happier, more content life. I thank them all.
I would like to offer a special thank you to Suzuki Roshi of Kokokuji in Wakayama Prefecture. He is abbot of the temple where shakuhachi entered Japan, yet he no longer plays. He and his wife, together, maintain a very large, very old, sacred space. He says that when you play shakuhachi, you feel as though you Must play, you Must practice. He says that he has many, more essential, things to do that he just left the flute behind. He said this with a very comfortable smile. He was not in any way fettered. He was happy that we play and happy that he did not. He had another flute master come and play with us.
He also showed us the riddle of Fuke--Just flow with it, whatever it is.
Most importantly, Suzuki Sensei told us this:
Everything is okaay."
Master from Kokokuji
J.R. Schmick Jr.