Kwamé Ryan was born in Canada and grew up on the Caribbean island of Trinidad, where he received his early musical education. At the age of fourteen he was enrolled in boarding school in England, where he studied conducting, piano, voice, violin and double bass, before moving on to study musicology at Gonville and Caius College at Cambridge University. In 1991 he began his conducting studies with the composer and conductor Peter Eötvös, many of whose works he has premiered.

He held the position of General Music Director of Freiburg Opera between 1999 and 2003, and that of Musical and Artistic Director of the National Orchestra of Bordeaux Aquitaine between 2007 and 2013.  As a guest conductor, he has in Germany conducted the Radio Orchestras of Baden-Baden and Freiburg, Stuttgart, and Bavaria, the Deutsche Kammerphilharmonie, Konzerthausorchester Berlin, Staatsoper Saarbrücken and Staatsoper Stuttgart.

In France, he has worked at the Opera de la Bastille, Opera de Lyon, and the Orchestre Philharmonique de Radio France, and in the USA, the Symphony Orchestras of Baltimore, Dallas, Detroit, Indianapolis, Atlanta, Houston, New Jersey, the WPO, New York, and the Grant Park Festival, Chicago.  In the U.K., English National Opera, Scottish Chamber Orchestra, and Royal Scottish Symphony, and the London Philharmonia. He is a regular guest of the Seoul Philharmonic Orchestra and has recently worked with the KwaZulu Natal Philharmonic and the Johannesburg Philharmonic Orchestras as well as the National Youth Orchestra of Great Britain at London’s South Bank Centre.

While continuing to conduct worldwide as a freelancer, Ryan has dedicated himself to educational and community development work as Director of Trinidad and Tobago's recently founded Academy for the Performing Arts (NAPA) at the University of Trinidad and Tobago. In this capacity, he was named a 2017 Laureate of the prestigious Sabga Caribbean Award for Excellence in the field of Arts and Letters.