Five minutes with Eímear Noone, the first female conductor to perform at the Oscars
Eímear Noone is an award-winning Irish conductor who has composed extensively for film and videogames such as World of Warcraft. In 2020, she made history as the first female conductor to perform at the 92nd Academy Award ceremony. Here she shares a day in the life and what she’s currently working on.
Did you always want to be a conductor?
In college, I studied… music.
My most formative work experience was… oh my gosh, woah, there are so many. But I remember being a classical musician, performing with Gladys Knight and her band doing R&B Motown, with an orchestra. That really changed my sense of groove and how to match the classical world with everything and anything.
My first real job was… playing flute in orchestra pits for musicals when I was 14.
The most invaluable thing I learned early on in my career was… nobody really knows what I’m capable of – even I don’t really know what I’m capable of – but others certainly don’t have the right to tell me what I am or am not capable of.
A common misconception about what I do is… everyone thinks I’m the singer.
My main responsibility in work is to... create a safe environment where musicians feel they can be at their best, and the happiest day at work for a musician is when they feel they’re doing their best work.
Do you have a career mentor or someone you look up to seek advice from?
The person that I share everything with and ask for advice and bounce ideas off is my husband, Craig. But in terms of a mentor, it was hard. I had a mentor in life called Paddy Duffy, who was not in music, but who made me watch the movie Babette’s Feast and let me know that I wasn’t alone as an artist trying to create something new and unique.
The biggest risk I’ve taken in my career so far is… I suppose moving to Los Angeles in 2005, not knowing anybody and not being able to drive.
I wake at… 6am.
The first thing I do every morning is… read the news. It’s terrible, I know.
My morning routine is… it depends on what time my three-and-a-half-year-old wakes up at.
I can’t go to work without… without caffeine. Without my baton obviously, and my tablet, actually, because these days, I read scores off of a large tablet.
The first thing that I do at work is… look around me and try and take note of where I am. Because that changes. If I’m working in my home studio, that’s one thing but when I leave the studio to go and work with an orchestra, the first thing I tried to do is orient myself and my surroundings.
I rarely get through my working day without… caffeine.
The best part of my day is… when my kids come home from school and tell me what happened that day.
I usually end my day at… ah, there is no end to the day! It depends on what the deadline is, how close the deadline is, what Craig and I are working on. Am I working in our studio at home writing and scoring a movie or am I on the road working with an orchestra? There’s no rule for what time the day ends.
After a long work week, I distress by… well, on a Friday evening, myself and Craig in East Galway will have a nice bottle of Morgan Bay Cellar’s Chardonnay, and chill out. It’s boring, but it’s true.
The accomplishment I’m most proud of is… the lawsuit that I won in California in 2016 that protected pregnant women of the stage in any project that originates in the state of California. We changed case law in the state of California for pregnant women.
If you want to get into my line of work, my advice is to… let your freak flag fly! Allow yourself to be playful. Believe in that childlike wonder and awe the first time you heard a piece of music and couldn’t believe how incredible that was.
Where are you whilst you’re doing this interview?
I’m in Lucca, Italy, and I’m being spoiled rotten! I’m about to perform a concert that combines the work of Puccini – we’re in his hometown – and the score from The Witcher. It’s the 20th anniversary of the Polish company CD Projekt RED. We are at Lucca Comics & Games ’22. I’ve been friends with the composer Marcin Przyby?owicz for 10 years and it is a pleasure to perform his work with the National Youth Orchestra of Italy at Lucca, Puccini’s hometown, alongside some of Puccini’s most famous work awesome.
This article was originally published in November 2022.