The reason behind my 1-man a cappella quartet videos

I Might Be Starting To Get The Hang Of This Conducting Thing

Ryan Noakes  November 13, 2022 at 1:50 pm

Following the Cantabile Singers’ recent Remembrance Day concert, I realized I wasn’t feeling like I was just “pretending” to be the director of the choir anymore. Could my imposter syndrome be going away?

It’s no secret that I’m not a person overflowing with self confidence. I can excel at getting into my own head and letting my neurotic anxiety run wild. This has definitely been the case on a few occasions as I took on the role of music director of the Cantabile Singers of Kamloops in April of 2020.

At first it was all very easy; we couldn’t actually sing together due to the pandemic so we made virtual choir recordings. I just spent a few hours creating “click tracks” for each part and an accompanying conducting video with said click tracks, sent that off to the singers who recorded themselves for me to edit everything together. It was a lot of my time, I needed to learn a few things about video editing, but it wasn’t really pushing outside my comfort zone. Then we got to actually be in the same room as each other.

That first rehearsal, I had to stop maybe 2 measures into looking at the first song to just take a moment and point out the massive goose bumps I had. “Holy crap, I’m in a room full of people singing again!” It was a great moment. My hairs still stand on end when I think about it. But then my anxiety starting creeping up on me, and that dark little voice started whispering all the negative things. I’ve learned how to (somewhat) deal with my anxiety issues*, but they’ll never go away. Throughout the last year and a bit I’ve had some ups and downs, mostly ups, but had never really fully felt like I belonged on the “other” side of the conductor’s stand.

But on Friday night as I was chatting with audience members and trying to subtly suggest it’s time to go home so I can lock up and go celebrate a good concert, I realized I wasn’t feeling like a pretender. I’m not entirely sure when that happened, but it did. Which means I guess I have to stop joking about somehow finding myself on the wrong side of the conductor’s stand… Ah crap, this means I’m actually a conductor now! ;^)

I decided to take on the role of Music Director after outgoing director Chris Linton asked me to consider it while she was preparing to leave Kamloops for a new job because I knew the wonderful humans in the choir would make it a positive experience. And they have. So I am very thankful to them. Their patience and willingness to try new things (we were the only choir in town to do any virtual choir recordings at all, and we did 2 mini-concerts and 2 one-off videos) has been incredible, and has made everything worth it for me, each and every week.

I’m still very new to conducting and have a metric tonne to learn, but that’s how new things go. You start not knowing what’s up, and you learn and improve. I’m looking forward to the journey.

*Cognitive behavioural therapy was EXTREMELY helpful when I had a major depression episode many years ago – if you are having mental health struggles it might help you too. Whether it’s the tool for you, remember there’s help if you need it. I’m literally alive today because I said 3 words: “I need help.”

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Ryan Noakes

Ryan Noakes was born in 1979 in Kamloops, British Columbia, where he grew up thinking life was a musical with his parents constantly playing and singing along with records. An accomplished singer, he has been a member of numerous choirs and vocal ensembles and performed in several musical theatre productions. Ryan received his BMus in composition from the University of Victoria in 2008. At UVic he was a two-time recipient of the Murray Adaskin Prize in Music Composition. Ryan also helped to establish two new vocal ensembles at the university. After graduating from UVic, he was instrumental in the creation of the Vancouver Island Chamber Choir; as a founding member, manager, and composer-in-residence. In 2010 Ryan relocated to Vancouver and received his MMus in composition from the University of British Columbia in 2012. He has recently returned to his home town of Kamloops.

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