For Ryan Howe, of La Crescent, Minn., Winona State University offered a stimulating natural setting along with skilled and dedicated faculty members that created the perfect environment for him to explore his creativity and musical talents.

“Winona State University, given its location in the beautiful Driftless Area on the gorgeous, life-giving Mississippi River, is in a unique position,” said Howe. “Natural beauty is always something I look to to de-stress, calm myself, and gain inspiration for musical composition and musical performance.”

In addition to the natural beauty of the area, Howe selected WSU because the smaller class sizes provided the opportunity for enhanced interaction with faculty, and he was able to form strong relationships with his professors.

“The highly personable faculty in the Music Department welcomed me here and made me feel at home,” explained Howe.

Specifically, Dr. Deanne Mohr, Dr. Rich MacDonald and Professor Larry Price had significant impact on Howe’s growth as a student and musician, working alongside him to study classical music and expanding his horizons in the world of jazz music.

“All three of these fantastic teachers have expanded, facilitated and helped channel my creative musical energy into a more refined skillset of abilities,” he said, “which I know will make me prepared for grad school and after that, the real world of work.”

Along the way, Howe encountered some challenges, including struggles with anxiety and depression. But he was able to turn to his WSU network for support as well as seek solace in music itself, even composing an original song entitled “Borderline” to work through his challenges.

“Finding the borderline between a healthy, honest critic of yourself and being too hard on yourself for every little failure was very important for my development,” he explained. “WSU has been the perfect place for me to develop my skills, but also grow and mature as a man at the same time.”

The financial support Howe received on his path to a degree was also pivotal to his success.

“Every scholarship I received while attending WSU made it easier to manage my personal finances while honoring my commitment as a full-time student,” he said. “I’m very grateful to the WSU Foundation, the WSU Music Department, and to Bill Koutsky for being benefactors for my education and personal growth and development. Words can’t fully express the gratitude I have towards every person that helped me financially during my time at WSU, and that includes my family and grandparents, Jack and Carole Bast.”

Howe will graduate with a major in Music Performance (Piano) and a minor in Jazz Studies (Piano). He plans to attend graduate school for music, as well as further his development with music recording and production. He will also continue performing live music with bands and doing Music Ministry work at churches.

“Ultimately, I look to fully use everything my professors and mentors at Winona have provided and taught me as I further my pursuit of a job that can both support me financially and also provide great joy in my life,” he said.

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