Musical Memoir Produced at UM Airs on National, Montana PBS Stations

Tim Ryan on stage

Dec. 3, 2018

The musical memoir created by Nashville artist Tim Ryan and recorded at the University of Montana’s Dennison Theater in June 2017 is now playing on PBS stations nationwide. It will air at 7 p.m. on Tuesday, Dec. 4 on Montana PBS stations.

The live show, “Play Me Montana,” was Ryan’s magnum opus, a symphonic tribute to his life growing up on the Flathead Indian Reservation and playing music with his grandfather Vic Cordier. The recorded version is a 39-minute show called “My Grandpa’s Fiddle” that UM students, faculty, and staff helped bring to life.

It features over 25 musical guests from the Flathead Indian Reservation, the Missoula Symphony Orchestra, three-time Grammy winning artist Lari White, and many more musical guests. Montana PBS stations will feature a full-length 60-minute version of the show.

Ryan has recorded for CBS, RCA and Warner Brother Records and has written hit songs for artists such as George Strait, Randy Travis, Trisha Yearwood, and others. He studied adaptive physical therapy at UM before following his dreams of musical stardom in Nashville with his wife, Peggy, a UM finance graduate, in 1987.

“This show is the highlight of my career,” Ryan said. “I think everybody deep down would like to tell their own story. It gives you a sense of freedom and accomplishment, and I’m fortunate to be able to do it.”

Ryan estimates that the show — which has aired in cities including L.A., Seattle, Denver, New York City, and Minneapolis — has had upwards of 100 million viewers on PBS. When deciding where to record the live show, he wanted “the look and the smell and textures of Montana.” The University of Montana was the obvious choice.

“It was important for Peggy and I to reach back to the school,” Ryan said of UM. “There is so much talent and the students are wonderful. We thought this is hopefully a way to get a few of them on board and so they can say ‘I worked on a pretty neat project.’”

Planning the show at UM, he met people like College of Business Professor Mike Morelli, director of the Entertainment Management Program. Morelli, he said, helped manage event details so he could focus on the music. He also met UM students, who Ryan said “worked tirelessly” to make the event happen.

One of those students was Sadie Framness, a senior from Whitefish who served as the event’s stage manager along with two assistant stage managers from the UMEM program. For Framness, a fine arts major who intends to stage manage musicals in New York City after graduation, working on “Play Me Montana” was an opportunity she couldn’t pass up.

“There were at least 100 performers within that show and the biggest cast I’ve had previously is a cast of 32,” she said. “Especially working with Tim Ryan and people who do this professionally and then including filming for PBS... I feel very blessed and special to have been chosen to work on this.”

Ryan, whose full name is Tim Ryan Rouillier, plans to take the show on tour nationally and internationally beginning in fall 2019.

“Performing it live in Montana and using people from all over the state was such a brilliant idea,” Framness said. “Tim will have this piece of work for the rest of his life, and so will everyone involved.”

Photo: Tim Ryan sings with Lari White during the "Play Me Montana" live show in 2017.