Darren Ronan was born into a musical family. His father was a country-western singer from Ocala who had a radio show and performed at fairs and supermarket openings. Darren played guitar from the age of 10, but started playing drums professionally by the age of 16 with his older brother.
Even as a child, Darren Ronan carried a lot of responsibility on his back.
“My parents divorced when I was young,” he says. “My mom worked two jobs, and I spent a lot of time taking care of my little brother.”
Darren went to school, worked part-time, as well as playing music and writing songs.
“I had this plan of graduate and move to California to try and make it in the music business.”
But Darren’s younger brother became ill with cancer. When his brother passed away, the time to move west had passed, as well. Darren continued to perform locally, and he began to work at a music store. Years later, married to professional photographer Laura Evans, and with a growing family, he thought about making the occupation a permanent one.
“Laura rented a nice little building in Avondale, a great neighborhood in Jacksonville. She was thinking of giving it up, so I said, ‘why don’t we fix it up and make a music school?’”
The Ronan School of Music is now four years old. A number of independent teachers instruct both children and adults in a wide range of instruments.
The vocation has changed in the 15 years that Darren has taught music. Teachers no longer use a standard book of exercises, or sheet music for Beatles or New Kids on the Block songs.
“Nowadays, kids just want to play,” he says. “You’ve got keep it fun. The ones that really want to play, they’ll do it.”
Things are going well in all parts of Darren Ronan’s life.
“We’re in a pretty good place with the store,” he says. “We just bought the building. I put out a CD of my songs a few years ago. But I’m not trying to ‘make it’ or be famous. I just want to make music I can feel good about.”
That music may well be Darren’s legacy.
“I was at a funeral with a friend. There was a huge collage of photos of the guy who passed away. I said to my friend, ‘man, there aren’t enough photos of me to do anything like that.’ And he said, ‘when you die, you won’t need photos − they’re going to play your music.
“And I thought, that’s not a bad way to be remembered! I just want to make enough good music before I go that they can put it on a tape loop and play it at my funeral.”