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When Springfield College junior Ben Ryan was in fifth grade, he was given a solo for the upcoming chorus concert. Excited for the opportunity, Ryan rehearsed his lyrics over and over again, looking to perfect the solo and receive a standing ovation. After countless days of preparation, it was time for the big night.
The lights shined brightly in the Orenda Elementary School auditorium, as the chorus took the stage. The auditorium was filled with Ryan’s classmates who were all looking forward to see the singing talent on display.
Ryan stood on stage feeling ready and confident about his solo. But there were still some floating butterflies. Then, it was time. The spotlight was on Ryan, and it was time to impress the crowd.
However, midway through his performance which started off strong, Ryan’s voice cracked. Although it may have seemed like a minor mistake to everyone else, Ryan felt defeated and embarrassed. He felt like a failure.
However, more than 10 years removed from the nightmare of a night, Ryan has released his first originally written, produced, recorded, and edited song. He was able to bounce back. Ryan released his song “Stranded” on SoundCloud on April 7, and feedback from the Springfield College community has been extraordinary. Ryan tweeted out a link to the song on Twitter and received responses like “You’re going to be famous,” and “This is fire.” As of Wednesday at 10:30 p.m. “Stranded” had 944 views on SoundCloud.
“All the feedback has been pretty positive,” Ryan explained. “A bunch of people have been coming up to me telling me how talented I am. It’s nice to know that people like what I am doing.”
Although Ryan enjoys getting positive feedback, he doesn’t make music for an audience.
“I write my songs and I sing for me,” he said. “It’s a really good way of expressing myself.”
After saving up money for a while, Ryan was able to purchase all the necessary equipment to professionally record his own music. He bought a new microphone, a keyboard, production software, an audio interface, and more. He was ready to start making original pieces.
“I like to write music about my feelings and the feeling of being intimate,” Ryan said. “I feel like the purpose of a song is to have a meaning. I try to make it as genuine as possible, and when it came to this song, I was going through some stuff with a girl, and I wanted to share my emotion. If people who listen are feeling the same way, they can listen in a kind of reflective way.”
After the voice crack, Ryan needed to take some time off from singing. He was too embarrassed and too ashamed to open up his vocal chords again. He quit. Still interested in music, Ryan picked up the viola, clarinet and piano. He played those instruments sporadically for five years, but eventually got tired of the clarinet and viola. They weren’t his passion.
“I got sick of playing the viola, and I was ready to try something else,” Ryan said.
Nostalgic for belting out lyrics, Ryan regained the confidence to join the chorus again in 10th grade. He was back, and he was ready to shine.
When Ryan arrived at Springfield College, he kept his voice to himself until sophomore year when he decided to join the a capella group and the jazz band. As a sophomore, Ryan posted a video of him singing “Georgia on my Mind” on Facebook, and people were shocked at his ability.
“Everyone just kept telling me that they had no idea I could sing,” Ryan said.
With his confidence on the rise, Ryan decided to try out for The Voice.
“It was a random Saturday night, and I was like ‘hey what do I have to lose? This will be fun. You don’t know what you can do unless you try it.’”
In mid-February, he and three of his friends packed up the car and put the wheels up to Philadelphia. On the day of the audition, Ryan felt prepared, but it was a day full of waiting. With around 5,000 other contestants, there was a lot of sitting around. But when Ryan’s number was finally called, he was ready to put on a show. He sang Stevie Wonder’s “Superstition” for the judge, and although Ryan did not get accepted onto the show, he still felt auditioning was a valuable experience.
“It sucked waiting in line for so long just to be turned down,” Ryan said. “But overall the experience motivated me to work harder and get better as a vocalist.”
After the audition, Ryan felt more comfortable sharing his work. At the beginning of his junior year, he started to post cover songs to social media, all culminating to the release of his first single, “Stranded.”
After the release of his first song, Ryan plans to continue making his own music down the road.
“Although I don’t have anything else in the works right now, I’ll be going back to the drawing board soon,” Ryan said. “I’m always making beats and playing around with my software, so once I hear a sound I like, I’ll work with it and start writing.”
Ryan is also the lead vocalist for the jazz band. The group has a concert on Tuesday April, 18, when he will look to impress the audience without any voice cracks. The band will be performing “Just the Two of Us” by Bill Withers and more.
You can listen to Ben’s single here: https://soundcloud.com/benjaminryan/stranded