HRA, Ryan grad found musical vocation early

Mary McWilliams

Nick Haynes, a graduate of Holy Rosary Academy and Father Ryan High School, discovered his passion for music at an early age, and has enjoyed a successful career as a professional session musician and music teacher.

Nick Haynes had his first trumpet lesson when he was a student at Holy Rosary Academy. From that moment on, he knew music would be his calling.

Today at 29, he maintains a busy schedule as an independent trumpeter working as a session musician, writing charts, and teaching master classes at local schools, including his alma mater, Father Ryan High School, where he graduated in 2009.

His mother, Mary Haynes, who teaches math and technology at Holy Rosary Academy, recalled her son’s response after his first trumpet lesson. “He said, ‘I never want a desk job,’” 

“We told him to practice,” she said of she and her husband, Dan, parishioners at St. Stephen Catholic Community. “He was the most focused 10-year old you’ve ever seen.”

“I was horribly unfocused in school,” Nick Haynes said. “But when I’m interested in something, it’s 110 percent. With the trumpet, I was all in.”

His interest in music started at a young age. He appreciated his father’s vast record collection, which encompassed many musical genres, and his mother says that music was always a part of him, even before he played the trumpet. 

Haynes remembers seeing the trumpet at the home of his uncle, long-time Nashville session musician Mike Haynes, and talking to him about it. He recalls hanging out with his uncle at Christmas, later playing with him.

“I always looked up to him,” Haynes said. “He’s the most recorded trumpet playing session musician around here.”

Haynes admits he wasn’t a serious trumpet student when he attended Holy Rosary, never practicing. He’d just “play.”

But when he moved on to Father Ryan, in part because of its music program, Haynes buckled down. “I knew I needed something serious,” he said. 

His mother agrees. “It’s just a part of his soul,” she said. “It’s God-given. By the time he was 14, we knew he was a good enough player and that he’d do it professionally. It’s the only thing he wanted to do.”

At Ryan, he had the opportunity to study under Joe Jones, a trumpeter known for his work at Opryland and other venues. 

Looking back, Haynes now sees how circumstances fell into place for him to indulge the intensity he had for the trumpet, not only with instruction at Father Ryan, but also with his fellow band members.

“I’ve always lived by ‘everything happens for a reason,’” Haynes said, speaking of his years at Father Ryan and the friendly competition among his peers. “They were the most phenomenal years of musicianship during those years. There was a lot of musical talent. I just thought every school was like that.”

He also thought every school provided their students with the security and basic needs that he received during his Catholic school years. He looks back on his time in Holy Rosary and Father Ryan and realizes now that the environment removed many of the distractions that students in other schools have.

“I’ve worked at some of the richest schools and some of the poorest schools,” Haynes said. “I didn’t realize it at the time, but the Catholic school system promotes learning and has higher expectations.” 

Even though Haynes was hired to share his musical expertise, in some schools turned that skill turns out to be secondary.

“I’ve been more of a counselor than a trumpet teacher,” he said. In Catholic school, he recalled, a drive for success is instilled at a young age. “In other schools, there is no fear of failure. It’s like ‘whatever.’”

His Catholic school years also helped prepare him with the discipline needed to pursue a music career. 

“I definitely started growing in the Church,” Haynes said.

His first professional job at age 21 was with the wildly popular Christian band, Mercy Me. He toured with them throughout 45 states and played concerts before 20,000-30,000 people.

“I loved working with Mercy Me,” Haynes said. “They were super nice guys.”

Haynes said in order to get jobs in Nashville’s music scene, you have to learn to “hang,” which means showing up, learning from the older musicians, and being not only being good at what you do, but easy to be around and reliable. 

Despite the reputation of the music business veering musicians off the straight and narrow path, Haynes said, if you do that, you won’t last, particularly with the business becoming more competitive.  

As a result, he has no trouble finding work, and frequently reunites on different jobs with about 15-20 fellow students from his days majoring in trumpet at Middle Tennessee State University. As much as he loves session work because each gig is different, he keeps his workload diverse.

“The older I get, the more I realize it was just luck,” he said about his success, referring to the multitude of talent in Nashville now, and more that continues to come to the area.

Haynes’ mother would spin it a different way, knowing that God is taking care of her children. She reminds her daughter Liz of that too. While both her children were in the band and theater in school, they each chose different aspects of the arts.  

Mary Haynes always saw Father Ryan as an arts school. Her daughter, Liz, a 2013 graduate of Father Ryan, has also chosen a non-traditional professional path, especially for a woman. The carpenter and welder is completing her Master in Fine Arts in technical theater at the University of Nevada Las Vegas and is working on her thesis in environmental sustainability in theater. 

A Catholic school education has always been a natural choice for Mary Haynes and part of her family’s heritage.

“My grandfather was at the groundbreaking of Holy Rosary,” she said. He sent his youngest son to Holy Rosary and all four of her uncles attended Father Ryan High School. She and her mother went to St. Bernard Academy, making it a continuous thread that she and her husband passed on to their children.