By Meredith Wagner | Arts & Life Editor
A passionate All-University Sing enthusiast to this day, Baylor alumnus Ryan Brinson’s former participation and perpetual love for the production has led him to a multilayered creative career, and ultimately right back to the stage where it all began.
Brinson, who is a former Sing Alliance member and former editor-in-chief of the Baylor Roundup yearbook, made his debut as a club night “judge” Thursday night for Sing. And rightfully so –– Brinson’s accomplishments both in Sing and in life are plentiful.
Brinson’s achievements can be summed to a single character trait which he seems to exercise and embody both in his career and his everyday endeavors. Positivity is the foundation upon which Brinson has established himself in life and in work, which brought him to the conclusion some months ago that he, unashamedly, really likes his hands.
Brinson moved to New York after graduating with a master’s degree in communications from Baylor in 2010.
“I do have a regular nine to five, which is just a necessity living in the city,” Brinson said. “I just moved here because it was my favorite place in the world.”
With the financial security from his marketing job at a law firm, Brinson said he is able to live and thrive in a community he deeply cares for, undertaking work in his free time that he, given his passion and enthusiasm for it, hardly considers work at all.
“I’m a writer by trade,” Brinson said. “I just wanted to be able to remember it all, so I started writing it down.”
Writing it all down turned into more than a hobby. Brinson recently self-published a book titled “I Really Like My Hands Today,” which is a compilation of essays he has composed over the years. The book shares its title with the final essay in the collection and captures the essence of his work – perhaps even the sweeping, overall theme of his life.
“When I was putting it all together, I realized everything I wrote was about finding the stuff about myself and my life worth celebrating,” Brinson said. “Through a really silly story about a pair of gloves, I somehow landed on that concept.”
Brinson said this concept ultimately derives from a sense of appreciation for the mundane.
“I just think the little stuff in life, a lot of times, matters a lot more than the big stuff,” Brinson said.
Brinson applies this attitude to another of his accomplishments, BLEEP magazine, for which he shines a spotlight on all things arts and life in New York City and beyond. When Brinson founded the online publication in 2011, he knew little of what it would become, except that he loved doing it.
“It’s never been a big money-maker. It’s never been any sort of status-maker. It just kind of naturally evolved,” Brinson said.
With a spirit and love for writing and design, BLEEP was born from the few hours Brinson had to himself after clocking out of work each evening. Similar to Sing, Brinson said the spirit of his magazine revolves not around concepts of achievement or attention, but learning from and connecting with those around him.
“If I’ve learned anything from the people that I’ve interviewed, it’s that you don’t do it for the applause,” Brinson said. “You don’t do it to get the trophy. If that’s the reason you’re doing it, it will become hollow. It’s about connecting with people, which is the same thing with Sing.”
More than anything, BLEEP is a tangible expression of the positivity Brinson tries embody in his everyday life.
“All sorts of magazines in general have a tabloid slant to them now, and I have no interest in any of that,” Brinson said.
When Brinson interviews creative thinkers and doers for his magazine, including individuals such as model, actor and musician James Maslow and NASA astronaut Wendy Lawrence, he said he thinks to himself, “How can I promote this person in a completely, 100%, obnoxiously positive light?”
In the end, if Brinson can help “see a new light through,” he said he will. This is not to say that Brinson distorts his interviewees’ stories in order to appeal to his readers, but rather captures the essence of being a creator in today’s world, highlighting the triumphs that derive from a succession of failures and recoveries.
“They’re talking about their hustle, their drive, their focus, the way that they’re able to zone out criticism and disappointment,” Brinson said. “That’s the part of it I love. I’ve interviewed people who are considered established – people with trophies on their shelves. I’ve interviewed people who are just getting started. There’s insight to be found in most everyone.”
To internalize this insight, Brinson said he asks himself, “What is it about them as an artist that relates to [myself] as a writer?”
Brinson said he intends to draw from these lessons learned Thursday as a club night “judge,” for which he hopes to combine his positive outlook and his past Sing experiences to be critical yet constructive, analytical yet understanding.
“I remember getting those sheets back from the [club night] judges. Some of those judges didn’t do so great at giving feedback,” Brinson said. “I know what they need to hear as a group, as opposed to giving random comments.”
Ultimately, Brinson said, “I am determined to be as obnoxiously optimistic as I am for the magazine when it comes to judging these groups.”
Brinson’s duties as a Club Night judge don’t carry weight when it comes to determining the overall winner of Sing. Rather, Club Night judges provide constructive feedback to the groups before they are truly examined by a different panel of judges Friday and Saturday night.
Brinson recalled his experiences on the same stage organizations performed on Thursday night.
“I was the first person who sang a word in our act. I remember stepping out there; that spotlight hit me. It was a rush of adrenaline that I had never really experienced,” Brinson said. “There were so many of those kinds of moments in the acts that followed. You just can’t steal those away.”
Transferring to Baylor from a small private school after completing three years of his undergraduate degree, Brinson said Sing makes Baylor truly special compared to other schools.
“[Students] don’t realize how one-of-a-kind it really is. I came from another school and I had this other experience to compare it with. It’s just not comparable,” Brinson said. “Other schools say they have a version of [Sing], but it is not anywhere close to the caliber of what Baylor produces and expects of their students.”
More than allowing Brinson to indulge in his creative tendencies and love for performing, Sing served as the binding force for his group of similarly talented and passionate friends.
“My best friends that I met specifically in Sing Alliance are my best friends today,” Brinson said. Through weddings and children and everything in between, Brinson said with confidence, “the biggest takeaway from my Sing experience, despite my Mario costume covered in sequins – as it should be – are those friendships.”
Brinson said the lessons he learned and the leadership experience he gained from Sing helped equip him for a successful creative career. His only hope now is that students currently participating in the tradition will grow in a similar direction and understand what truly matters through the process.
“It’s not if we placed. It’s not if we made it to Pigskin. It’s not if everything went right,” Brinson said. “It’s the people. It’s the friendships that have lasted the test of time. It’s the feeling of being on that stage, the stage that so many groups in years past have performed on.”
As emotions, tears and fury flood the Waco Hall stage in the coming weeks, Brinson calls to performers to additionally understand their ability to spread joy.
“You’re bringing people joy, and that emotion is just as viable and just as meaningful as any other,” Brinson said. “I hope the guys and gals performing this year can realize that.”
Between his nine to five marketing job, his self-started online magazine and his self-published book, Brinson recalled time and again that Sing has been a grounding force in his life – one he appreciates to this day, especially as he visits from New York to watch yet another year’s performances.
“It’s been a wild ride, and I feel lucky to have been on it.”