After transferring to Vassar, leaving school, planting roots in the music industry and returning to graduate, Bryan Ruby reflects on a collegiate career full of unexpected twists.
It was 2:08 a.m. in Poughkeepsie when I got the text: “5pm tomorrow. Douglas Corner Cafe. Tennessee. He will be there.” I was coming off a full day of class, a meeting with a professor and two hours of pre-season “captains practice” for our baseball team (a tiring ordeal because, as captain, I had to both play and run practice). It was the first Monday of school in January, and I had just returned to Vassar after taking a leave of absence the previous fall semester. I was tired, sweaty and just beginning to settle back into my routine at school. Yet here I was, about to leave again.
Let me back up. I didn’t take a leave of absence because I’m bad at school, per se. I left school because I didn’t want to go to school. Big difference. You see, I’m a songwriter. My dream is to write songs and sell them to famous artists. After dropping out in the fall, I wrote songs by day and worked as an Uber driver by night. I saved up money by subletting an 8-by-11 foot room in my cousin’s apartment. Every time I could scrounge up enough money, I’d commute up to NYC and pay for subsidized studio time in a music studio owned by Vassar graduate Chris Connors ’12. We’d record everything I had recently written and then ship the song demos out to people in the music industry. Sounds like a cool semester away, right? Cramped, but cool. Wait, I’m getting away from myself. Back to the text…
You see, the message I received that fateful night in January wasn’t a regular text. Between the lines of that 10-word text sat a clear message: If you show up tomorrow, you’ll get to be in the same room as one of the most well-connected people in the entire music industry. No matter that it was past midnight in Poughkeepsie. No matter that I had class the next day. No matter that the meeting place was 942 miles away in Nashville, Tennessee, and there was no way my beat-up car could survive the trip. This was my chance. I wanted to go. No, I HAD to go.
I sprung into action—I threw a few days worth of clothes in my backpack and slapped together a peanut butter and jelly sandwich for the road. I found an $89 Southwest Airlines flight to Nashville out of Boston, and I began the 3.5 hour overnight drive to the airport in silence, wary of the risk I was about to take. I got pulled over in Connecticut for speeding (sorry Mom!), but still managed to make it to Boston Logan just in time for wheels up.
After a long night of travel, I arrived in the early morning hours at the Nashville airport. I had no place to stay, so I booked a cheap Airbnb using the airport WiFi and set out to catch some sleep before the fateful night that was to come.
As dusk fell upon Music City, I showed up at said music venue and waited in the back, sweating, just hoping I’d get a minute alone with the Big Whig. People skills are my forte, and I knew that if I could just come out of there with his email and a favorable impression, I’d be set.
It turns out, I didn’t get a minute alone with him…I got 15, a direct line to contact him in the future and the numbers of several other influential people in the room that night. Weeks later, after sending him the entirety of my songwriting portfolio, I was sitting in my room back in Poughkeepsie when an email from him upon my screen. Only four words, but a message I’d been waiting to hear for a long, long time. It read: “This is really good.” I’d taken the risk, pushed my fears to the side, and emerged with a foundation for the road ahead.
Back at school, my life (for the most part) returned to normal. Besides the occasional quick trip into NYC for a music meeting, I’ve been able to enjoy my last semester as a college student and athlete. Big dreams may be on the horizon, but for now, there’s been a certain beauty in getting to experience college life just like everyone else. As we move on, I’d like to say how grateful I am that I got to go to school here. It’s been a crazy journey, and I want to thank my friends, my mentors in the community and most of all my teammates for their support. Vassar is a special place.