Ryan Thomson

Instructor in Music
Ryan Thomson holding a flute in a music shop.


M.A. University System of New Hampshire

B.S. San Diego State University


Mr. Thomson was raised in a musical family. His pioneer ancestors transported the family fiddle and hammered dulcimer westward across the country in a wagon and settled in a frontier town. 

After growing up in Southern California, he returned to his New England roots to attend graduate school at the University of New Hampshire. He earned his master’s degree at UNH while studying the psychology of music and performing several times a week in folk music ensembles. While at UNH he hosted a folk music radio show on WUNH, and later a weekly show on National Public Radio station WEVO.

After a stint playing fiddle in a full-time touring Nashville country-rock band, he was hired in 1988 by former Phillips Exeter Music Department chair Mimi Bravar to teach fiddle and banjo at the Academy. His teaching has since extended to include instruments such as the pennywhistle, ukulele, accordion, mandolin, mountain dulcimer, and piano accompaniment. 

Fiddling is closely integrated with dancing, and in 1993 Mr. Thomson was hired by Senator Ted Kennedy to call a square dance at the wedding of his son on Block Island in Rhode Island. The New Hampshire State Council on the Arts includes Mr. Thomson in its Traditional Artist Roster and sponsors his performances in the state. 

During the summer, Mr. Thomson has taught and performed at music camps and festivals in New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, New York, California, Washington State, Canada, England and Ireland. He has authored books on fiddling, left-handed violin playing, music theory, banjo and improvisation, and has produced instructional videos featuring several different folk instruments.

Mr. Thomson’s Irish band has made three tours of China, sponsored by the Chinese Ministry of Culture. He has performed across the U.S. and in England in a duo with his fiddling son Brennish, as the Fiddling Thomsons. Recognition of Mr. Thomson’s music-making includes the Northeast U.S. regional fiddle championship award at the National Fiddle Contest, numerous banjo-contest awards, and a Boston Music Awards nomination for his accordion playing while leading his Cajun and zydeco band.