When Calgary musician Lauren Ireland was a teenager, she couldn’t have imagined that she would one day work with the likes of Bobby McFerrin and Paul Brandt, release an album with her band Minerva, or perform at Carnegie Hall.
“I wasn’t the best singer by any means, but when I started high school I joined choir and then I really got into it,” says Ireland. “I started taking my lessons more seriously and decided that I wanted to do a music degree.”
In 2005, Ireland graduated from the University of Calgary with a bachelor degree in secondary music education. Ireland says university taught her a lot about what kind of music she liked and what she didn’t like, but she left feeling somewhat broken and not wanting to sing. However, she found she was a great leader and could motivate and mentor others.
“I feel like I learned a lot in my singing journey and I felt really good passing that on to other people,” says Ireland, “But also just building other people’s confidence, because I was so crushed from university. It felt really good to be a positive influence on other singers.”
Ireland started her music school Singsana in 2008. Singsana provides weekly one-on-one tutoring for students of all ages in vocals, piano and music theory. However Ireland says the programs teach more than that.
“Teaching singing isn’t just teaching students technique. It’s mentoring them through [music] recordings, making sure they understand the business side of things, teaching them how to market themselves, working on singing in harmony, singing in groups, maybe doing backup for other artists [and] figuring out what their brand is going to be,” says Ireland.
“You can’t just sing. You have to be able to do other things. You have to have a really clear vision. So I like to help people figure out what their vision is.”
Recently, Singsana has also started an adult vocal group program which Ireland says is proving to be increasingly popular. It provides a fun and creative outlet for people who enjoy singing and music but don’t want to take it too seriously.
“Singsana has a range of levels and seriousness,” says Ireland. “I am happy to accommodate whatever level of commitment people want to put into it.”
Ireland’s other company, The Show, opened for business in September 2016. The Show is a singing and dancing performance company that is designed for more advanced students. She says the company is curated for people who want to turn performing into a full-time career and Ireland is hoping to keep the company growing.
“I want to triple my intake by September 2017, and I want to be able to travel with them,” says Ireland. “I want to get to a point where we can have [grants] because we’re a not-for-profit.”
Ireland hopes to use those grants to cover operational costs so that she can redirect student fees to create high calibre and dynamic shows for her students. Along with travel and more performance opportunities, The Show also has its own video series which allows Ireland to explore directing music videos and arranging popular music for the group to perform.
However, with all this going on Ireland says her young son, Dom, dictates her entire day and says she’s been blessed with a very supportive husband who is understanding of her crazy schedule.
“It is difficult when he’s running around and I’m trying to send emails or come up with a creative idea,” says Ireland. “I’ve just come to terms with the fact that I can’t do it when he’s awake. So I stay up late a lot to do work whilst he’s sleeping and I also try to make time for myself to exercise and cook dinners.”
“But if I really need to get something done, late nights are my friend and lots of coffee!”
Despite her busy days, Ireland is managing to balance her passion for work with the joy of raising her young son and hopes to grow both of her companies for the benefit of her students.
“I [get] to be a part of someone’s favourite part of their week and that [is] really cool!”
Editor’s note: This story has been updated to include more information about Lauren Ireland’s professional background.
The editor responsible for this article is Mary Yohannes and can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org