Ryan Nolin thought a degree in music would inspire his music career, but after completing his studies, he credits his travel and collaborations as the main drivers of his work as a full-time accompanist.

Nolin is a born-and-raised Calgarian and has provided regular musical accompaniment to local dance and music programs for the past four years. He developed a passion for collaborating with different musicians and exploring his musical possibilities.

But university did not provide enough opportunities for him. He explored other opportunities outside of classes that presented him with more diverse challenges.  

Nolin has been involved with Calgary’s music scene since childhood. His mother was an early influence on the piano and he attended group and private lessons with the Royal Conservatory of Music.

“It was all of the festivals, all of the showcases and all the performance opportunities for young musicians,” Nolan says of what pushed him to continue with music.

He developed a passion for working with other musicians and artists, crediting music as a conversational activity. After graduating high school, he left Calgary to explore his interest in collaborating with musicians and artists around the world.

In New Zealand, he joined a rock band — despite enjoying his time as a band member, he would leave to converse with other musicians. He wanted to continue building a diverse musical resume in other countries.  

Nolin returned in 2006 to attend the University of Calgary.

“The talent he has is very suiting for a good accompanist. He can keep up with the conductor with relative ease, and is focused while also being a good colleague to work with.”-Malcolm Edwards

“I went in wanting to further my interest in collaboratively working with other art forms,” he says. His first two years were focused on studying piano.

However, Nolin would discover that the university’s style of teaching music at the time, followed a classical influence.

Although he claims that the overall experience during university was a positive one, he said the classical style he learned at university didn’t provide many opportunities in the vibrant musical culture of theatre or dance.

“It wasn’t giving me what I wanted.”

He graduated in 2011 with a degree in vocal performance and left Calgary again to pursue other musical opportunities.

Nolin returned in September 2013, currently providing accompaniment on a more frequent basis. Nolin’s diverse resume of clients includes high school music program directors for choir and musical theatre.

Gavin Logan, an English and musical theatre teacher at Notre Dame High School, has employed Nolin’s services for multiple shows, including the debut of the first amateur production in North America of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s The Boys in the Photograph.

He credits having a good working relationship with Nolin because they got along well and were able to joke around every now and then. Logan’s students enjoyed having Nolin as their accompanist too because of his quirky attitude and talents on the piano.

Notre Dame High School is familiar to Nolin as he was the accompanist for the choir program previously. He has worked alongside Malcolm Edwards, a former professor of music education at the University of Calgary, to bring the best out of the choir.

“The talent he has is very suiting for a good accompanist,” Edwards says. “He can keep up with the conductor with relative ease, and is focused while, also being a good colleague to work with.”

Both Edwards and Logan share mutual views with Nolin regarding the limitations and expectations of university, as both men believe that it is a beneficial experience but to certain students, it may not truly provide what they are seeking.

Logan attended the University of Saskatchewan for biology because he excelled at it, but he would end up switching his major to English as he enjoyed learning more about it. He does not regret changing his focus and wants others to not go into anything unless they love it.

For 31 years before retiring, Edwards enjoyed teaching because his students were focused on teaching music.

Edwards believes that a higher education after high school is always a good thing and encourages students to continue learning, but only if they choose to be there.

As he suggests, “It would be a waste of time and money if a student was doing something they didn’t enjoy.”

Nolin honed his talents and passion for music by collaborating with other artists and musicians around his hometown and around the world. He encourages other musicians to work together and collaborate.

“They’re going to bring their own [musical] conversation [and] that’s something special.”


Editor: Kate Paton | cpaton@cjournal.ca 

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