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Ryan Press

As a kid growing up in the Mount Airy section of Philadelphia, Ryan Press ’01 idolized recording artists such as Mary J. Blige, LL Cool J, and Jay-Z. Now 42 years old and living in Los Angeles, he finds himself sitting down with many of his childhood heroes to give them guidance on their careers.

Press has become a mover and shaker in the music industry and was recently named president of A&R for the U.S. at Warner Chappell Music. A&R stands for “artists and repertoire;” it is the division of a music publishing company or record label that is responsible for talent-scouting and the artistic and commercial development of a songwriter, producer or recording artist. 

Although Press attended Jefferson on a basketball scholarship, when the time came to decide whether he wanted to pursue a career in professional sports, he decided to use his marketing degree to build a career in the music industry.

His best friend, Chad Wes, was an up-and- comer on the Philadelphia hip-hop scene. Press became his manager, and together they “started making things happen.”

They scored a production deal with Roc-A- Fella Records, which was Jay-Z’s company at the time, and started producing for the local Philly acts signed to the company. After working his way up the ladder, in 2009, a senior director of A&R position opened up at Warner Chappell Music. Press was ready.

He started working with an array of acclaimed artists, songwriters, and producers, including Rihanna, DJ Khaled, Wiz Khalifa, Meek Mill and Lil Wayne, among others. 

Now, as president of A&R for the U.S., he looks back on a career of “hard work and hustle”— something he says a lot of young people seeking to follow in his footsteps need to understand comes with the territory.

“On my journey, I’ve done it all. I’ve managed,” says Press. “I’ve been someone’s assistant, I’ve driven people around. No job was too big or too small for me. The phrase I live by is: Your ego is not your amigo.”

Still, Press says he sometimes has to pinch himself to believe he is really in the orbit of some of his hip-hop and R&B idols.

“At the end of the day,” he says, “I’m living the dream.”