Voices (ISL Stories)

Meet Ryan

Learn more about Ryan de Ryke, renowned opera singer and ISL alumnus.

Where are you living now? 

I live in Chicago. 

What did you do after you left ISL? 

I went to ISL when my dad, who worked for General Motors, was transferred to Luxembourg. In 1995, he was transferred again to Indianapolis. I started 11th grade at a public high school there, but I quickly found that my academics at ISL had put me far ahead of my fellow students, so I only spend one year there, and I graduated early. 

Where did you go to university? 

Part of the deal with me graduating early involved finishing some summer classes and being enrolled at Butler University, where I had found a really good singing teacher named Steven Stolen. I got a BFA in Vocal Performance there, and I went on a study abroad program that they offered, where I was able to complete the Advance Performance Studies program at King’s College London and The Royal Academy Of Music. I got to study with legends in my field – people I had worshipped as a young singer like Ian Partridge, Julius Drake, and Lawrence Dreyfus. It was an incredible experience. 

I went on to do a MM and AD in Voice Performance at the Peabody Conservatory of Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, where I met and studied with the great mentor of my life John Shirley-Quirk.

Do you think that your time at ISL helped you pursue this? If yes, how? 

I absolutely attribute the successes in my journey to ISL. The school gave me an ability to move easily in a wide variety of cultural settings, which makes a huge difference if one is pursuing an international singing career. When I was at ISL, the music program was a lot smaller than it is now, but Peggy Jenks, who headed the choral program was ready to tackle anything what would help the students learn, including putting on the first full musical the program had done which was Stephen Sondheim’s Into the Woods. She offered me every opportunity imaginable to help me explore the role that music could play in my life, always encouraging me to try new things and make bold choices. I’m very much indebted to her and ISL. 

What advantages has studying at ISL given you? 

First of all, the academic program was extraordinary. The teachers were so passionate, it was infectious. I not only found myself with an excellent foundation of knowledge, but a love of learning and a curiosity of the world. Furthermore, the teachers took me seriously and maintained a real interest in my well-being and growth both academically and as a human being. My English teacher, Lynne Thill, seeing that I fit in with the kids a year above me, suggested that I skip the 8th grade, tailoring the curriculum to my unique needs and allowing me to move at my own pace, which was breakneck in those years. 

What advice would you give students to help them make the most of their time at ISL? 

I think the unique thing that ISL has to offer is in the first of those three initials. There are so many cultures there, so many languages, so many types of people. It felt somehow like a microcosm of the whole world. My advice would be to ask your fellow students to tell you about their cultures. Learn as much as you can from your peers as well as from the incredible teaching faculty there. 

Were you engaged in any ISL clubs/activities? What did you enjoy about them and what benefit to you think they have for students? 

Well, as I mentioned, I was involved with the choir and the drama club, but coach Kasi even dragged me into running track for a season. I was a theatre kid… sports felt SO far out of my comfort zone. But that’s what the great teachers there did. They showed an interest in every student – not just the ones with a particular talent or interest. They really did want to help each of us reach our full potential and to become well-rounded human beings. 

Describe some of the things that ISL does above and beyond teaching and learning: 

Well, as I mentioned, it facilitates intercultural dialogue. I was there before the internet had taken off, and we didn’t really have the chance to chat randomly with a person on the other side of the world. The world has no doubt gotten smaller thanks to technology, but interfacing through technology is not the same as learned to behave respectfully toward other people with a sensitivity to each other’s cultures. With globalization undoubtedly here to stay coupled with the dangerous political climate, new wars, and social injustices we find all around us, places like ISL go a very long way to ensure that the next generation is poised to tackle these challenges. 

How did your time at ISL help shape you as a person? 

ISL gave me a sense of responsibility for my place in the world. It taught me that what I have to offer matters, and that my efforts have effects far beyond what I can see at the moment. It made me feel connected. I felt connected to my teachers because they took such a personal interest in me and were willing to share their passion for their subjects. I felt connected to the students, because we were all in the same boat as expats at impressionable ages. Because of its size (it was much smaller then), it made me feel part of a global community. I am much more acutely aware of the supposed six degrees of separation between people. It’s amazing where you will run into people with connections to this school.

What do you think is unique about ISL? 

Once again, I would say the sheer number of cultures and languages, but also the size of it. I never felt lost in a bureaucratic shuffle there. I always felt seen and heard, appreciated and encouraged. 

If you could thank a teacher or staff member, who would it be? 

I object to the use of the singular article [laughs].

I mentioned a couple of people already. I will say that I kept a very close relationship with Lynne Thill for most of my life, and she has had a powerful and lasting impact on me. I’d also like to mention Paul Astin who gave me a love of history for which I’ll always be grateful. 

Please describe ISL in 5 words: 






  • Alumni