Sing For Your Life Summary & Study Guide

Daniel Bergner
This Study Guide consists of approximately 38 pages of chapter summaries, quotes, character analysis, themes, and more - everything you need to sharpen your knowledge of Sing For Your Life.
This section contains 826 words
(approx. 3 pages at 400 words per page)
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Sing For Your Life Summary & Study Guide Description

Sing For Your Life Summary & Study Guide includes comprehensive information and analysis to help you understand the book. This study guide contains the following sections:

This detailed literature summary also contains Quotes and a Free Quiz on Sing For Your Life by Daniel Bergner.

The following version of this book was used to create the guide: Bergner, Daniel. Sing for Your Life. Lee Boudreaux Books / Little, Brown, and Company, 2016.

The biography Sing for Your Life narrates the experiences of Ryan Speedo Green. He was an African American who grew up in a poor neighborhood in Virginia. During his childhood, his parents divorced, and his father, Cecil, moved to California.

He was very angry as a kid and was sent to a special classroom for the district's elementary kids who were too violent for regular classrooms. The teacher, Mrs. Hughes, taught this classroom using creative, hands-on lessons to inspire her students. Ryan felt very well cared for and wrote her notes and poetry. He thanked her for helping him learn to control himself and become successful. She inspired her kids with Dr. Martin Luther King’s dream that people would be judged not by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character. She wanted her kids to believe that they could improve their lives and build a positive future for themselves.

During middle school, Ryan was very angry. His mom (Valerie) and her boyfriend often fought. Valerie also physically and verbally abused Ryan. Eventually, Ryan got so angry toward her that he threatened her life. Then she called the police on him, and he was sent to a center. Ryan hated his time at that facility. Often, he was sent to an isolation room for punishment. He felt that he could not control his behavior and broke many rules. However, Ryan felt that one staff member, Priscilla Jenkins, understood him. Also, a staff member gave him a radio, and he enjoyed singing alone in his room.

Upon release from the center, Ryan yearned to change his life. At first, he did not know how he could do that. He had no idea how to escape his anger. But then he remembered the lessons he had learned from Mrs. Hughes’ class. He considered what she had taught him about Dr. Martin Luther King’s dream about the “content of their character.”

Ryan joined Latin club because academically-focused students were in it. He also made friends with a quiet boy named Jared. He often invited himself over to Jared’s home. Jared’s parents were very caring toward Ryan, and Ryan became like part of their family. When Ryan took choir class for an easy grade, his teacher urged all her kids to audition for a selective opera program at the Governor’s School for the Arts. Mr. Hughes, who knew Ryan, had recently become the principal at the Governor’s School. He told the judges that Mrs. Hughes used to be Ryan's teacher. He encouraged them to give Ryan a chance. Although the judges did not think that Ryan was an extraordinary singer, they accepted him into the program due to Mr. Hughes' prodding.

During Ryan’s first year of the Governor’s School, he almost failed out. But then a teacher, Mr. Brown, gave Ryan free after-school lessons twice a week. He even drove Ryan home after each lesson. He also gave Ryan snack money and clothes. From Mr. Brown’s one-on-one help, Ryan’s singing drastically improved. The Hughes sponsored him to go on a class field trip to the Met, and Ryan was amazed to see that singing could transcend language barriers. He told Mr. Brown that he would sing at the Met.

Meanwhile, Valerie and her other son, Ryan’s older brother, Adrian, got into a fight. Then Adrian went to a foster home rampant with drug trafficking. Valerie refused to take him back. Eventually, Cecil took Adrian to live with him. Ryan noticed that even though Cecil had traveled nearby to pick up Adrian, he had not tried to visit him.

Following the Governor's School, Ryan attended the Hartford Conservatory. He did well. Then he attended a graduate school in Florida. Afterward, he participated in the Lindemann Program, an advanced opera program at the Met. Ryan performed extraordinarily well throughout this program with his high-quality voice and broad range.

Ryan visited the center with an aim to give back and influence some kids. With his gregarious personality, he tried to connect with the kids. There was a particular angry boy who reminded him of himself as a kid. Ryan tried to connect with his father, Cecil, and invited him to a concert. Then they started to regularly chat on the phone. Eventually, Cecil had a heart attack and passed away.

Later, Ryan accepted a role with the Vienna State Opera, one of the most prestigious opera companies in the world. Ryan and a woman named Irene fell in love. They could connect on a deep level since they both suffered the absence of a father in their childhood. He planned to propose to her. Ryan was very successful singing with the Vienna State Opera. Many lauded his tremendous voice.

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