Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 00:00
Hi it’s Marissa Lee here, and I’m so excited to be sharing today’s interview round episode with you. In these episodes, our brilliant lineup of guests will include health care practitioners, voice educators, and other professionals who will share their stories, knowledge and experiences within their specialised fields to empower you to live your best life. Whether you’re a member of the voice, community, or beyond your voice is your unique gift. It’s time now to share your gift with others develop a positive mindset and become the best and most authentic version of yourself to create greater impact. Ultimately, you can take charge, it’s time for you to live your best life. It’s time now for a voice and beyond. So without further ado, let’s go to today’s episode.
Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 01:15
This week on a voice and beyond, we welcome the multi talented Jess Baldwin who is a creativity and artist coach, contemporary voice specialist, indie, soul singer, songwriter, and producer, as well as the owner of true colours, voice and artist coaching. Jess has also created singing in popular music, which is a centralised space, where voice teachers and vocal coaches can learn from the great pioneers and experts in popular music, singing and pedagogy. Jess shares with us that she created this space to help other teachers expand their focus beyond vocal technique to a more complete picture of a popular music singers needs by regularly providing carefully curated articles that keep up with the rapidly changing world of popular music. In today’s show, Jess talks about her own personal and professional journey throughout academia, and how she transitioned from her formal classical voice training to performing writing and producing across popular music styles. Jess explains how she developed her own pedagogical approaches across the broad range of popular music styles. Why she refers to CCM as popular musics, the importance of student led learning and what it means to be authentic in performance. Part of our conversation was also about advocating for change in the field of CCM singing voice pedagogy in academia. There is so much more in this show, as Jess and I really dig deep into some very important topics. This is a brilliant and candid interview with Jess Baldwin, one you don’t want to miss. So, without further ado, let’s go to today’s episode
Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 03:41
Welcome to a voice and beyond. It’s Jess Baldwin, how are you?
Jess Baldwin 03:48
I’m great. How are you today?
Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 03:50
I’m really good. Thank you. And it’s such a pleasure having you here. Thank you so much for being on the show. And very excited to have you here because over the last couple of months, I’ve been having different conversations with different people from academia that are outside of the classical world. And we’ve been talking about the status quo of CCM vocal pedagogy, which you call popular musics and we’ll go into all of that. But I think it’s really important while we have this momentum that we keep it going and thank you I’m looking forward to your contribution to this conversation.
Jess Baldwin 04:36
Thank you for having me.
Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 04:38
You are a creativity and artists coach contemporary voice specialist, indie, soul singer, songwriter, producer and owner of the true colours, voice and artists coaching. You have also created a space singing in popular music where it’s a learning space for voice teachers and vocal coaching. But I want to start with what has led you to embark on this incredible journey that you’ve been on, like so many of us have been on. Because I know that throughout school you sang soul jazz, pop music theatre, alongside choral and classical. So you’re singing the lot. But what did you actually gravitate to yourself what music filled your soul.
Jess Baldwin 05:29
I truly enjoyed all of it growing up, I grew up in a very eclectic, listening family, and really enjoyed so much. My mom was the high school choir director where I grew up. And so I grew up in choir rehearsals and concerts, and she was doing lots of music with her students, everything from more traditional choral pieces to an annual musical to a pop concert in the spring. And, and that was just my mom, you know, my dad and my stepmom also listened to a wide range of music. So I really enjoyed a lot of music and enjoyed my choral experiences just as much as you know, singing, singing by myself in different genres. So it was legitimately a struggle. As I grew up, and came into adulthood to really figure out where, where I really wanted to go as an artist, you know, it took some time, I was not one of those people who was stripped of the opportunity to do things I wanted to do. You know, when I studied classical music, for instance, in college, I had lovely teachers and experiences where there was no shaming of other musics, it was just, that was the path that was available at that time. And I loved it. I loved my classical music training. My teachers were wonderful. colleagues were great. So you know, it wasn’t my story, even though it’s a common one. It wasn’t my story that I was robbed of the opportunity to do the music I loved and then found it later, I truly just had to go on a journey of doing a lot of different things and figuring out what I was drawn to more over time.
Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 07:14
So you had four more your formal lessons were in classical training. And I know that probably that was the only thing as you said, that was available to you. However, you say that right after grad school, you started your personal to street walk about after a teacher led you to the artists way. I’m reading this out, by the way, it was the first of a nonstop string of books about creativity, coaching, psychology, productivity, and healing, all of which found their way into your teaching, as well as your own artistry. So what is the Artist’s Way? And what was it that you discovered at that time? That was so empowering to you?
Jess Baldwin 08:02
Sure. The artists way is sort of the Bible of the creative world. If anyone has read one book about creativity, that’s the one they’ve read. It’s been around for 30 years now. And yeah, it’s you’re hard pressed to find anybody in a creativity coaching realm. It’s very popular among writers, visual artists, you know, she wrote it, she read it for anyone in any medium. And it’s a 12 week self guided course, basically, where each week you tackle a different thing that may be blocking your creativity. So could be money could be different kinds of emotions could be people could be right. So there’s lots of different things that you walk through. Throughout it, you’re doing something called Morning pages, which is where you just do three pages of stream of consciousness writing in the morning, that is now a very common practice among many creative people, thanks in large part to that book. So it’s, it is so common, it’s in that round things like morning pages. Now, many people don’t even know where that came from. Originally, that term. Now, journaling has been around for a very long time. So let’s not pretend Julia Cameron invented journaling, yes, but when it’s called Morning pages, it’s because Julia’s particular were talking about it became really popular and prominent. So for me, what was different about that what that book presented to me was a very different way of thinking about how I wanted to exist as a creative person. Where, you know, I was the oldest kid in my family, we oldest kids like to do things right and get our gold stars. And I also had had some stuff that made it really difficult for me to feel like it was okay to do something that didn’t please the adults around me. So I was very focused on pleasing authority figures when it came to my artists journey for a very long time. And so doing things right and getting the straight A’s and, and doing the thing that that the adults said was the right way, or the best way to do things was was very high on my priority list when it came to what I did as a singer and as an artist, in the artists way really was something that was opening me up to releasing that way of making my creative choices. And that was probably the biggest at that time, revelation that I was having, although it would unfold more and more over time. Also, I had never written any music ever. That’s quite common for people who come through traditional music education systems, we’re not given spaces to write music. When we’re in choir or band, it’s usually not a part of the classical music major, you don’t do unless you’re a composition focus, specifically. So I hadn’t written anything. And as I read the book, I was like, Oh, God, I’m supposed to write music, I think, and I was terrified was really scary. And the fact that it was scary, told me how much work I had to do in terms of what, what, you know, why in the world, is that such a scary prospect? Okay, we got some work to do. And ever since then, you know, it was a continuous gradual journey of figuring out why it was scary to express myself, why it was scary to do things that may not be on the checklist of approved things by the authority figures around me. And you know, so So artists wave felt like a very crux moment for me when I read it, and really started to work through it and take it seriously. I’ve done it several times since then, every time there’s another layer of things that I gleaned from it and get from it, it’s a great resource.
Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 12:07
It sounds to me that, that artists way helped you step into your own authenticity, step into self, and helped you discover your own voice up until then you were living in a world where either something was wrong or right. But it wasn’t you who was making the decision as to what was wrong or right. Other people around you were leading those decisions, and you found a way to truly express yourself without judgement from others. Is that what kind of happened?
Jess Baldwin 12:44
Yeah, it took a hot minute, but that was the beginning of that process. Yes.
Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 12:49
That would have been really empowering. And really healing for you. Yeah,
Jess Baldwin 12:57
Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 12:58
So until that moment, you probably didn’t even know this was going on? Well, that was your life.
Jess Baldwin 13:04
Yeah, I did not know. And it was because, you know, in part, because I was really excelling. I got all the straight A’s, I got all the awards in the music department, you know, I get not all the awards. But you know, I was a highly awarded student. So all of these external markers, saying that I was doing right, were present. And then when it was time to step out into the world, and be my own artist person, figure out what the next steps were after college after I had checked off the academia boxes. Then I thought, well, I, I, those markers for success are no longer the markers for success. It’s no longer grades. It’s no longer an award from a department. It’s no longer right now. It’s how am I connecting with other human beings that want to come hear me saying, How am I and that that I didn’t, you know, I was an expressive performer who, who did well in performing, and yet, I was primarily doing music chosen for me by other people in choir, I was singing music chosen by the choir director. And they were trying, they were doing their best to choose that music from a place of who is Jessica? And what are her preferences? And how can I choose music that will will feature her and they totally did that. And yet, I wasn’t necessarily a part of that process very much. So I had to learn for myself. What do I want to sing? Why do I want to sing it? Who am I? How am I connecting to people? And that part had not been developed. I had been so focused on technically achieving these pieces that I had been given in whatever settings where I was doing music, while also Yes, acting or expressing in ways that were authentic. and powerful for the people who were witnessing me in that moment. But it still wasn’t as connected to me as a human being, making my own choices about what I wanted my performances to look like I had been I kind of blinders on throughout that process, you know,
Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 15:16
yes. And when you started to step into your own, and started to speak up or voice up as a singer, or as a human, did you meet resistance from some of those authority figures? Because it sounds like the teaching was very master apprentice like, and for you, then, because I know, when we start to grow and evolve, a lot of the people around us tend to become fearful of that change. Did you find that at all? Or were people embracing the New Year? Did that encourage you to step out gave you the strength to step out even further?
Jess Baldwin 16:00
Yeah, I don’t think now. I mean, I was only ever encouraged. You know, I think the people that I was scared of upsetting, generally wanted me to step into this and be more self expressive. It wasn’t that they were actively, you know, actively suppressing something, it was just that that wasn’t the template that they had been given. That wasn’t the template they were using with me. So I think there was there was this, and I think, in many ways, continues to be this attitude in academia that, that that academia is going to give the students the technical tools and like the history and things like that, and then they’re going to figure themselves out after they leave. And that I mean, that’s what I was doing. So I don’t think there was this like, oh, how dare she, you know, my teachers knew I was always a little on the edge of like loving, weird things or
Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 16:58
touches. When you say weird things.
Jess Baldwin 17:02
Well, like I loved the the atonal, 20th century stuff. Like I couldn’t get enough of it, where as many of my colleagues were like, This is gross. But it’s happening in this music.
Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 17:15
I don’t even know what it is. But I’m gonna look it up a tonal.
Jess Baldwin 17:20
Yeah, okay, stuff, there was like harmonically weird, or maybe had poetry that was a little out there strange or whatever, you know, I loved that stuff, I, and they knew that about me, and were often giving me opportunities to, to do that, you know, notice, again, noticing and me and giving me avenues for that. And we were all of us functioning in a bubble. This is how this is the music we study. This is typically how students music is assigned. This is how, you know, we focus primarily on these things during their study. And when I got out of that academic bubble, then it was like, oh, man, that’s like, that was helpful. And it was a very tiny piece of what I really needed as an artist I needed. Also, you know, which I’ve figured out for myself, and I would love it if we could do more of it in academia, of course, you know, some more, okay, let’s help these people figure out like, why are they doing music? Why is it important to them? What formats do they really want to be performing in? Can we let them pick their music? Why do we Why does it always have to be in in this particular template, or it just, I’m hoping there can be a little more flexibility. In our academic music spaces are the purpose of young people developing a stronger sense of self feeling, like they have channels for self expression. And then all of those things, feeding into some of the more practical aspects of being an artist, like branding and marketing, our projects and being able to think up and vision and plan and execute creative projects that are aligned with who we are and what we want to be doing in the world and our personal style and what we have to say and how we want to say it. Those questions are so important and foundational to everything else that happens. But most people when they’re stepping into academic spaces, a lot of those questions have already been answered for them and they don’t even realise that those questions have been answered for them in terms of the format and how they’re gonna, how they’re gonna sing it and what they’re gonna saying and the branding and marketing is already taken care of by the department. You know, I mean, longer things are just done already. And so they don’t get as much experience in developing those skills for themselves in that space. And it’s a gap. You know, it was a gap for me to get laid off. The people I work with who came through academic spaces and are figuring it out now,
Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 20:05
it sounds like to me Your journey has really impacted the way you think about everything. So a lot of what you’re expressing is very much your own experience and the experiences of those around you. You had quite an extensive performance Korea, you won competitions, you appeared on TV. So you’ve had a successful career, you’ve also been doing a lot of songwriting. How much does all of that also impact your teaching or giving you a different insight into what the teaching world should look like?
Jess Baldwin 20:43
I don’t know that I can ever separate my teaching and my performing, I mean, I, they they have continuously influenced each other my entire life. I mean, teaching has been because my mother was a teacher teaching has been a continuous non stop part of performing for me. And my master’s degree was in performance and pedagogy because I’m wanted to continue studying both couldn’t imagine not doing one or the other. So every step, I’ll do something in my artists life, realises what I learned, bring it into my teaching space. And then I go back into my teaching space, and I’m learning and observing what other people are experiencing and what their needs are. And then I’ve let that influence my performing and my own choices. So I don’t think I can say that one has informed the other more. They’ve just they’ve grown alongside each other, like, like twins, you know, like sisters. Yeah, and really influenced each other.
Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 21:51
Yes. Something you brought up earlier, though, when you were talking about stepping into your own, and realising you are performing and singing based on what you thought everyone else expected of you. And then you found your own boys, and you stepped into your own authenticity. I know when I’m teaching, my performance career definitely impacts that side of my, my teaching is that I want my singers to tell their own stories when they’re performing. And I’m looking for authenticity. And that’s a really subjective thing. So the question I have for you just going into that, I’d be very interested to hear what you think authenticity is, and how can we tell when someone is being authentic as a singer.
Jess Baldwin 22:45
So authenticity, in my opinion, is the artist sharing an integrated version of themselves. That feels like they are being honest with both themselves and the audience, but also in ways that are safe for them. And when I say integrated, what I mean is that, that they don’t feel like they have to be 10 Different people in 10 different spaces. And, you know, for different reasons, because of what different people in their lives need or expect from them, in terms of who they want them to be. As we get more integrated, we get less afraid to show more of our self, to everyone sort of feel like we have to put on certain costumes and masks in certain places in order to be accepted or to be loved. So as an artist, I think authenticity is about integration. And then also, when I talk about being able to share in a way that feels safe for that person. As an artist, authenticity doesn’t mean that you are obligated to share things about yourself that you are not ready to share. That’s not what that means. And as artists, we should always have control over what we are sharing why we are sharing it. And if there’s something that you feel something like this, sometimes this is true this like this pole, like an artist goes, Man, I really feel like I have this thing that I want to say or that I want to share about a life experience I had or a feeling I had and it’s also scary that we do work with a therapist, and in ourselves to figure out what that is that’s particularly scary in terms of what we’re sharing, so that we can work toward sharing that if that’s truly what we want to do. And when we have this sort of back and forth for inner fights about, I want to do this to feel authentic. And that’s really scary to do to feel authentic, finding a balance that still sits right with you, in terms of being the integrated self, you want to be in letting that come through. Now, having said all that, I think there’s totally a place for people to be a character, if they want to, as an artist, that they can take on an archetype of some sort. And then that can also be a really great experience for them. And for the people who are listening, let’s say, in their lives, they don’t get much opportunity to be really loud and boisterous and bold, you know, and maybe they’re not ready to fully integrate those parts of themselves into the rest of their lives. But they know that they can do that on a stage. And so they take on this bold, loud, boisterous version of themselves as an artist, and it’s a part that needs a place and the stages where they allow that part of themselves to exist. And to me, that’s also authentic, that saying, this is a part of me, and I need to let it show up, I want to share it, and this is where I can share it. And so I’m going to, I wouldn’t consider that a super integrated version of that artists, they’re not showing all of themselves, you know, the, you know, as many parts of themselves maybe in that moment, but that’s okay, too. I think authentic, is a wide, a wide range of things. But then we’re sharing what we want to share that it feels like a part of us truly, and and that it is, it’s what we really need to be sharing about ourselves in that moment with those people. And I think the final piece of it, that it’s not from a place of fear, when we’re sharing that, that it’s from a place of celebrating that part of ourselves and having pride in that part of ourselves. And being ready to show that to other people, not out of a I’m afraid no one will like me, unless that part may that steps, in my opinion out of authenticity, more. So again, there’ll be deep digging self work. What are what parts of yourself, are you afraid to share? And what parts of you do? Do you need to share more and celebrate more in your artistry, and I think in those spaces is where we find more authenticity for ourselves.
Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 27:40
That is so powerful jest. So much of what you said, truly resonates with me. And probably the words I picked up on the most is the word honest. It’s being honest. However, as a singer, and as a storyteller, knowing that you have choices, you can decide how much of you you want to share. And which part of you are you most comfortable being you as you or whether you go into a character. So it’s knowing that you have choices. Also to when we talk about authenticity, now we’re going to lead the discussion into popular music. Another thing that we have to factor into not only do we have to be authentic to self, but we also have to be authentic to style.
Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 28:43
Yes, so it’s really important then to know when we sing a particular style, the parameters of that style in order to be able to sing that authentically. And then as a teacher, we have to know what that is too, don’t we? Or not? What do you think?
Jess Baldwin 29:03
I think this question is only something that comes up for people who didn’t already exist in the style. Mm hmm. So office so any artist is going to make a combination of choices about their style, where whatever genre culture they want to identify with the most the one they want to make sure is like a label that shows up on the most of the time. They want markers on their voice in their production style in their songwriting in their beat making whatever they’re doing. They want enough markers in what they’re doing, that people from that particular genre culture recognise them as belonging to it. Yes, and then they also have to have enough unfamiliar markers to glean interest to make people go who that’s different. Oh, that’s new. I haven’t heard anybody do that before. Where did that come from? And this balance of the two is what artists always have to find. It’s a continual. It’s a continual creation. So genre. Authenticity, when it becomes a question is typically only for, for people who are stepping into a genre that they have not spent enough time in.
Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 30:38
Yes. And there’s a lot of those teachers. Yes.
Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 30:45
Sorry, I had to throw that in there. I love that. I love that. I’ve never thought of it that way. Obviously, yes, what you’re saying is generally when students come to us, and they sing in a particular style, if that’s what what’s in their bodies, and what they’ve been listening to, they’re not going to have any problems being authentic. But when you have that student that arrives, that has had a lot of music, theatre training, or a lot of classical training, sometimes we have to steer them towards what those styles are. All those those style choices that they need to make, but then allow them to express themselves in that style. And it comes back to that authenticity to self. Alright, so you’ve been teaching popular music styles for a while now? How did you formulate your teaching approaches to this music? Because your own training was in classical? So where did you pick up your teaching approaches from?
Jess Baldwin 31:48
Well, my son, I mean, my approach has certainly have been heavily influenced by my mom, and observing her, observing her colleagues learning what I learned in the space, but she was teaching, she was also quite good at allowing her students to teach her or to show her how the music they were asking to sing, needed to be sung. I didn’t quite realise how forward thinking that was. It’s all I knew. So I
Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 32:21
know, she was breaking down the master apprentice model without realising she truly was pioneering.
Jess Baldwin 32:29
She was, and certainly academic spaces that I was in, where, you know, Master apprentice model was the was the model, because that’s been the model for a long time. And then spaces where I was learning. So after college, I was in a couple bands. One was a fusion and funk band. One was like a dance band. One was jazz in the jazz stuff. I started because I wanted to learn jazz. And I was like, I’m not going back to school. I want to sing this music. Can I find some jazz musicians who will just patiently be present with me? Yeah, because I could sing the style. Pretty. I had grown up singing a lot of jazz. So it was on my voice, but I didn’t know the language. You know, there was so much about being a jazz musician. I didn’t know. Yeah, I got a culture of speaking jazz, so to speak, right? Yeah. So I had learning that was happening in that space. From those jazz musicians sort of teaching me and showing me and learning by doing the funk fusion band, we were doing a lot of like learning by listening learning by teaching each other learning by picking up, you know, what we wanted to pick up bringing our own style to things. And when I read Lucy Greene’s book for the first time about how popular musicians learn, which I highly recommend, that came out in the 80s, I think, Oh, really?
Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 34:12
Okay. Oh, actually, yes, I’ve cited her I cited her work in my PhD research. My thesis.
Jess Baldwin 34:24
Yeah. So Lisa Green has written multiple things. But how popular musicians learn was a study she did just observing popular musicians and how they learned stuff. And I wonder why thought back to like, Yeah, that’s exactly what we did in the funk fusion. We’re listening. We’re learning we’re imitating there wasn’t someone in the room who was the teacher. Right? So all of that fed into how I started becoming more purposeful around teaching popular musics, because certainly in the early part of my teaching career My teaching looked a lot more like what I experienced in music, education and academic music spaces. And then over time, there was a lot more like students bringing in stuff they wanted to learn. And then we learned together like I was, I started forcing myself to learn piano by ear. I had been a strong sight reader my whole life and leans so heavily on that, that I was like, This is not how most people learn this music, I’ve got to learn how to learn by ear. So they would bring it in. And I would make myself learn the piano parts by ear, that was part of it, right. And so like letting the student witness me learning alongside them, as we were learning this song together, instead of me having to know it beforehand, all the time. That was a shift that started happening more in response to the popular music learning that I had experienced and was learning about as well. And I just witnessed myself letting go grid little by little have more and more of the, that the student is there for me to feed them things. And instead that we’re sort of faux learning a lot more. And yes, do they want me to tell them things? They don’t know? Yes, that’s totally some of what they’re paying me for. But they are more often than not paying me to guide them through a self exploration process, and guide them through the process of them building their own toolkit, so that they can learn on their own and discover their voice on their own and discover their style on their own. And often, I’m just the person asking the helpful question in the right moment. Or asking them what they want to do next. And when they get lost, or so it was a lot less about me leading the way. And me sort of walking beside them. And then over time, walking behind them, and saying, you know, being present when they needed me, but letting them get away a whole lot more. Yes. And, you know, popular music’s most popular music’s learning does not have a teacher present.
Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 37:10
So true. So true. That was my learning. Yes. And I had a whole career, I had a whole career. Without that teacher, it was basically listening to that music. And I love that you said, basically throwing the sheet music out and learning by ear, because that’s how I’ve learned. There’s so much that a sheet of music does not tell you when it comes to this music, it’s not going to give you the nuances, the style, the vocal effects, the style effects, it’s not going to give you any of that, or the freedom to move around the way that you want to. Because if you’re going to sing it as per the notation on the paper, you’re going to sound ridiculous.
Jess Baldwin 37:57
Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 37:59
Yes. And with your own learning, though, did you have any one that has inspired your teaching? Have you been to a particular seminar or engaged in training yourself some sort of like formal training that has really opened your eyes to the possibilities of training in this music?
Jess Baldwin 38:21
Oh, gosh, I mean, so many people, that my colleagues, you know, Gina vettery, was my first foray into teaching music, but I learned from the rest of the faculty that was there as well, you know, I mean, yes. And I mean, I went there in 2009 and went every summer after that. And then once Jeanne, separated off when did her livingtree Institute, I continued to do some Shenandoah stuff. They brought me on as faculty and that like every summer I am learning from my fellow faculty members. Yeah, so many new things all the time. Yes, cat. Reiner is a good friend and colleague of mine, and she is one of the pioneers and really powerful teachers in the higher popular music education realm. I mean, there’s just so many people.
Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 39:19
I’m glad to acknowledge Janie because she has really paved the way for all of us to come through. And I know that when she first started introducing this idea of CCM or introducing this music as being legitimate, it really caused a ruckus in the singing voice community and she had to break down a lot of barriers and I think that it’s really important we acknowledge her work. You call this music? Popular musics. Do you feel that the term CCM is outdated now or it’s irrelevant.
Jess Baldwin 40:04
So when he initially created that term general battery, she was referring to the umbrella of music that was everything not classical. So this the term CCM was meant to when she first started using it include populating musics, jazz, musical theatre, you know that it was all of that what’s interesting is over time, how the term became something that indicated not musical theatre and not jazz. So it was, I mean, it was interesting how that just happened over time, I don’t really know the, you know, the ins and outs of how that happened, in terms of its usage. Meanwhile, outside of the voice, teacher community, because Jeannie created that term, primarily for the voice, teacher community, because we have to using nonclassical. And that was offensive. Yes to people, you know, being called non classical, you know, by what, and, and, you know, a wonderful gesture, outside of voice teacher realm, popular music has been used for a very long time to describe the music that is not jazz, not musical theatre, you know, a lot of jazz at the beginning, I think would have fallen under that umbrella. But there have been academic popular music studies programmes. For decades, there has been the popular music education realm for decades, that uses the term popular music. And then, you know, when you get outside of academia and education, the average person isn’t going to use that term at all, because they’re probably just going to talk about whatever music they want to be talking about.
Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 41:48
Jess Baldwin 41:50
So the community, the community, where our term is being used is determined, you know, as with all vocabulary, and terminology to community determines the vocabulary. So I don’t know, if it’s outdated. I mean, it’s, it’s used, if it’s helpful to people, that’s great. What I think voice teachers need to be aware of is that when they are talking about what they do, let’s say on their website, or social media, or something, the average parent or client who’s going to come to them for a lesson has no idea what that term means.
Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 42:32
Yes, no, no. Do music industry professionals, such as music producers, record labels, agents, management’s right 100%. In
Jess Baldwin 42:44
that world, if they hear the word CCM, the closest thing that we get would be Christian contemporary music. Yes. Right. That’s what that term would mean. So I, I think it just depends, I think you just have to know who you’re talking to and how you’re using the term. The term has already changed meanings since Genie coined it, you know, from everything that wasn’t classical music to now. Popular music, not jazz, not musical theatre, so good. I don’t know. We’ll see how it changes over time. Well, at
Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 43:12
the Conservatorium where I teach it, I teach within a popular music programme, because there’s not just voicemail majors, there’s also guitarists, drummers. There’s a number of instrumentalists as well. And the term CCM doesn’t mean anything. There is a jazz department where people study jazz boys, there is a music theatre department where people study music, theatre, and we have a classical department. So that breakdown that you’ve offered actually encompasses everything. The only thing probably where the lines get a little bit blurred, I feel is if someone wants to train in death metal, and then that’s not really popular or commercial, by radio standards, necessarily. And there’s a lot of that music that’s been written not necessarily for commercial use. But, but I think Popular Music is a language. It’s a term that we all use outside of academia. And it’s it’s a word that everyone or a term that everyone knows and it’s, I think it’s a good term popular music. I mean, it’s, and it is
Jess Baldwin 44:33
popular, it’s not even, it’s not necessarily meant to mean popular. It’s meant to mean oven by people and by the regular people. Yes, you know,
Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 44:43
and, but you know what, there’s no shame in saying it’s popular anyway. It’s 99% of total music consumption globally, is all those styles, so there’s no shame we can actually own that and be proud
Jess Baldwin 45:00
Right. Yeah. And I think you know, there will never be a single term that makes everyone happy in terms of, and I mean, then the fact that we’re even trying to put everything that’s not classical musical theatre or jazz under one word is incredibly problematic already. You know, I think, I mean, this is a much larger issue but but academia more and more now is I’m quite sure going to start trying to find ways to have popular music majors in their programmes in order to draw students in. And the idea that a student can learn all the popular music in one department, from one faculty, you know, is ludicrous. Like that’s not ever possible. And even if a department can do their best to provide the widest array of faculty experience as possible, and the equipment and things like that, they still can’t provide a death metal audience for all the death metal focus students, they can’t provide an EDM audience for all the EDM focus students, right. And that’s such a huge part is like the venue and the audience in terms of how that student is going to learn what it’s like to perform. And yes, that the which is why Popular Music Learning will always happen most effectively in the genre culture where it is created in developed, not an academic setting. Yeah. Okay.
Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 46:38
Okay. No, I love that. But also, we have to acknowledge and this is what we’ve been talking about on in a number of these episodes. I had Matt and Jackie Edwards, not so long ago, I had Caleb James, my boss, from Queensland Conservatorium, why do you believe there is such resistance to change in academia?
Jess Baldwin 47:07
Whoa, well, change in academia is very hard. First of all, from a practical standpoint, it is a behemoth organisation, with so many intertwined. Departments, policies, financial paths, backs, degrees, and how degrees work and how you earn one, how the credits have to work. I mean, the way academic programmes were created, I mean, they haven’t changed a tonne, really, like the structure itself has not changed a tonne since the whole thing started. And because it’s such a difficult thing to change, the change has been happening in whatever way it can, in this very rigid structure. So I, you know, it is to fully admit like that, that structure, I don’t envy anyone trying to change that structure for the benefit of students, because there are so many intertwine parts and other people that are affected by any change that happens in the amount of time that it takes to get things done. So there’s a there’s a school in Columbus, Ohio, where I lived for a while, called group view. And the guy who developed that programme did it because he went to multiple institutions presented a degree layout, specifically for developing skills within you know, it might be called like a music industry major. It’s kind of a combination of some music entrepreneurships and music technology, production video, blah, blah, blah, all that kind of stuff. So trying to get that in an academic institution. And the one that said, Yeah, okay, I said, Come back in a year, two years. And we’ll be ready to actually talk about this, because I have two years of things that I have to make sure I get done before we can even consider this back with right and then he came back with the, to talk about it. And he was like, Okay, it’s been two years. So now these things need to happen, because this is what’s changed in the industry in the past two years. And the guy was like, I’m so sorry, we can only look at what you gave me two years ago, because that’s what’s been not right. So this is how academia works. And I think that’s why it’s so difficult. It’s so difficult. There are so many people involved in so many pieces that go into all of these decisions. They’re just big behemoth organisations, so He gave up and started his own school well outside of an academic institution, because like now I can bring in whoever I want, I can change the curriculum on a dime based on whatever changes have happened on the industry. And, you know, so I, I don’t I know that’s part of the resistance, you know, it’s just how hard it is to get things to change and that structure?
Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 50:20
Yes. It’s interesting, because when I teach, I know refer back to the Conservatorium in this popular music programme. Our students actually do songwriting production. They work in ensembles, they, they collaborate, they produce music, release music, and have individual lessons for their own instrument. So it’s very progressive. And my boss who I interviewed, and he was the last two episodes, I think, he talked about, I love how he framed it. He said, it takes controlled chaos, to create change, you have to be constantly monitoring, and within a controlled environment, experimenting with what works and what doesn’t work, and having the freedom within that institution to allow that to happen. His background was as a music producer, songwriter, all of that, touring, performing internationally before he went into a supervisory role as a content creator, or a course creator within academia. So perhaps we need more of these visionary types of people or people from the music industry, themselves, that itself to come forward and start creating these programmes. But we have to have these institutions that allow that to happen, and to not have the fear of change, because essentially, they don’t change. As Matt Edward Said, enrollments are down by 33%. In music programmes in academia, and they’re going to continue dropping, and teachers going to be out of work if we don’t start to make change. But then the hot thing is, all right, we start making change. And let’s just look at our own industry as the singing voice teaching industry. If we want a job in academia, we have to have a doctorate, too, take up a job. But if there are only four institutions, out of over 100, that offer a master’s or doctorate level in CCM vocal pedagogy. Where are those teachers going to come from? It’s like, what do you put first? That’s always been my argument. It’s or my point is, where are these teachers going to come from? If there’s over 30,000? Teachers who have websites? In the I’m talking about the US? So it’s really it’s a hard one, isn’t it?
Jess Baldwin 53:26
It’s a mess. I mean, it’s pretty much a snake eating its own tail, because it’s, you know, because it hasn’t figured out how to open up the requirements to bring in the people who have, yes, more than enough experience in their field to be helpful. Yes, you know, to students, but they’re, you know, there’s no doctorate.
Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 53:48
I know. I don’t know, I
Jess Baldwin 53:50
don’t know, they’re gonna have to, they’re gonna have to be open somehow. I mean, here’s the thing. From what I can see, popular music does not need academia. No, it does, academia, and needs popular music. And so if academia wants popular music, to be a part of what it does, it has to open itself to the world of popular music and on many levels, including bringing people in who don’t have academic degrees.
Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 54:18
I had a fully fledged career before I went into academia. And it wasn’t until I went into academia, I read that I learned that there was a hierarchy of music. And I thought, this is the most ridiculous thing I’ve ever come across in my life. There were students there there were classical boy students in their first year of studies, frowning upon me. And I thought, guys, you haven’t even started your career journey as yet. I’ve had a fully fledged career. Being on TV I’ve recorded I’ve, I’ve done everything, and you’re looking down on me. And you’re possibly ain’t never going to earn a cent from this music that you’re studying. And you’re so self righteous. So I think academia needs to wake up and go, okay. You know, in the real world, no one cares. You’re the only people that care.
Jess Baldwin 55:16
It’s me. Yeah. Cuz I mean, every, every music is valid. It’s a very unfortunate mindset that many people encounter like you did. I’m so sorry, that happened to you, you know, where people believe that there’s that there’s a music hierarchy. That’s not real life.
Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 55:34
It’s not real life. It’s not real life. It’s academic life. And when you step outside of that bubble, man, you’re gonna be shocked. And you’re not going to like what you’re going to find. But we’ve gone down a whole rabbit, Warren here, I wasn’t intending on going so deeply in this, but I get very carried away here. It’s close to my heart. I want to talk about you. And you’ve created a space called singing in popular music, where there’s blogs and you allow for teachers to to discuss their ideas and their opinions and offer their their suggestions for learning. What inspired you to create that space?
Jess Baldwin 56:20
Yeah, well, it was because the Data Institute, which, you know, again, I’ve been every summer since 2009, the bulk of what was happening was in musical theatre, and then jazz and popular music, I’d say we’re about equally didn’t get touched on quite as much. I think that has changed over time, or the ratios are a little different now. But for a while, felt more musical theatre heavy. And some of the voice teachers that ain’t on I thought, Man, this is one of the very few places in an academic setting. That’s an important caveat, where voice teachers come to learn about how not classical music stuff looks, you know, and if we are, I mean, again, it’s it’s nine days, you can only do so much in nine days, right? Absolutely. Absolutely. So, yeah, just me noticing, like man, I, I, the people who came from popular music, wanting a little more popular music. And, and that was more my realm, too. I’m not a musical theatre person. I just felt this, like, you know, we can only do so much in nine days. This is this is a need and a desire. What if I created something that helped people connect to the teachers who have already been talking about this for a long time, like Mark Baxter and Elizabeth Howard. I mean, those two alone, like they’ve been talking about popular music and teaching popular music to people for a long time, and were not recognised. They were not names that were known. And I thought that doesn’t make any sense. They’ll help me find ways to bring in people who have been doing this for a while. Let me also, you know, to help the academic voice teachers who were coming, thinking that there’s not people doing this, let them know, yes, there have been people doing this. Let me let you know who they are. And then the pioneers in the in that realm in general, and the people who were just doing more in the now. And let me ask him, How would you feel about writing something for boys teachers, you know, one or two times a year on this blog, I’d love to feature you and direct people your way so that they can see all the great work that you’ve been doing for a long time. And that’s how it started. So it exists primarily as a blog that features voice teachers who are primarily working in popular music genres, and share their expertise via blogs or live streams. And I started a Facebook group where teachers can come and ask questions or share resources as well, related to that. So that’s how it started. As far as I could tell, it’s still in need. Yes. So we’re still going.
Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 59:13
Who were the teachers that you attract to the website? Usually? Are they classical voice teachers as well? That? Yes, readers?
Jess Baldwin 59:24
Yes. I have no idea. Oh, okay. All I see is numbers. So I think yeah, in terms of like our readership, all I see is numbers. But you know, in the in the Facebook group, it’s Smash. There are, you know, there’s some survey questions they answer when they join the group and some of them are like beginners and have not done much around popular music. Some people have done a lot and they’re just wanting some more camaraderie and I think it runs the gamut. Mm hmm.
Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 59:52
And one of the things that you say is you would like to help voice teachers expand their focus beyond vocal Tech. Need to a more complete picture of popular music singers needs? What do you believe are those needs?
Jess Baldwin 1:00:08
Oh, gosh, well, some of those needs. Yeah, I mean, some of the basic skills that are commonly needed are things like knowing how to use a microphone, knowing how to run a basic sound system, writing songs, learning how to use a DAW, a digital audio workstation like logic or Pro Tools, being able to do some least basic recording and producing stuff having a sense of their own style, not just vocally, but also like visually, and what What music do they want to be doing? And what what visually? Do they want to weave into that? What’s their story? Who are they as a person, how they want that to show up in their music, you know, entrepreneurship questions, being able to be something we can we can answer as well, for students, helping them figure out where the venues are around town that are really added to what they have in connections that are helpful to them for those venues. Yeah, there’s a credit there’s a lot. Yeah, there’s
Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 1:01:14
a lot. There is a lot. It’s very intricate, and very involved what we do. As popular music people, we don’t just turn up in a pretty ballgown and start singing, there’s a lot to consider. sing one song and go home. That’s like four hours later. It’s learning how and doing that five nights a week or seven nights a week. At one time, I was doing 11 gigs a week. But I did that for three months. You know, and learning to hustle. It’s a lot. Man, one thing you endorsed the student led learning. And I’d like to your take on methodologies.
Jess Baldwin 1:01:59
You know, a methodology in and of itself is meant to be a directive. It is the person saying this is how I do this. And the reason you’re here is because you want to learn how I do this. So the whole reason we’re doing with the whole reason the the agreed upon contract is I will spend this time telling you how I do this. So I think I don’t know how I don’t know that people are always aware that that’s what’s happening. But not all places, I guess, are meant to be student led places. I think in some cases, students come in and said, No, I don’t want to lead at this moment. I want you to show me and tell me exactly what you do. And then I’m gonna do it. That allergies, you know, we can go okay, yep, that’s what you do. And then the student takes that and uses it the way that they need or want to use it for themselves. I don’t know if I’m fully getting to what you’re getting.
Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 1:03:03
No, that’s all good. It’s all good. Yeah, I was referring to some of the methodologies that are out there where they promise the holy grail of singing, charge, market load of money for what they teach, but don’t necessarily deliver what.
Jess Baldwin 1:03:26
No, no, what you mean,
Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 1:03:27
say that? Yeah. And the website is usually full of smoke and mirrors. Yes. Okay. Heavily. Yes. Social media.
Jess Baldwin 1:03:38
Right. Right. So I so my mind was in, like teaching methodologies. So you’re talking about singing methodologies? Yeah, yes. So what I wish is that the people who put those methodologies together would be more honest in their marketing about the fact that they can’t guarantee anything, right? Like the claims are not you can’t claim that stuff, especially if you can’t be there to really see how each of those things is having an effect on the person’s voice and to, to be able to give feedback. You know, I think some people can get benefits from those self guided methodologies and may find certain things helpful about it. I mean, they wouldn’t keep selling if that wasn’t true. But what’s frustrating is when they are promising things and then I’ve seen some unfortunate situations where the student has been shamed for not getting the results and been told that it’s because they did it wrong or because it was their problem and, and that that’s a pretty toxic, it’s pretty toxic situation in my Absolutely,
Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 1:04:49
absolutely. And I think one thing that you have definitely been advocating for is this student led learning. How can we in A boy studio, be sure that that is what we’re doing. What are some examples of ways that we can be sure that our teaching approaches are student led?
Jess Baldwin 1:05:12
Yeah, I recently did a blog, you can find it on Jess baldwin.medium.com. But it’s called positive influence versus psychological manipulation in the voice studio. So I know this might seem a little like not about student led learning. But manipulation is when we’re trying to get someone to change their behaviour. That’s the very broad definition of manipulation. And when we are, when we’re doing student led learning, our goal is to get our agenda out of the way as much as possible. And manipulation happens when our agenda is getting tangled in what we’re trying to help the student do
Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 1:05:59
100% in positive
Jess Baldwin 1:06:02
influence, in the way that Dana Morningstar was the author that I was citing that I read that term, and from when she was using that term, it was in opposition to manipulation. So we teachers definitely are there to be a positive influence. We’re trying to help the student find their own solutions for things and come to decisions based on their needs and their agenda as much as possible without hours getting tangled in it. So some examples, let’s say, you know, we’re talking about a singer who’s scared to do a performance for instance, right. So if we are focusing our intent on the singer, and making sure that the benefit is primarily all about the singer, we’re more likely to be in a student led place as opposed to a manipulation place or not student led place. So for instance, if we just help them, our intent is to help them reach their goals, for instance, or our intent is to help them feel more fulfilled, or our intent is to help them build their self esteem, as opposed to our intent in that moment, being about a swaging our own discomfort if the singer is afraid, right. That’s not a student led action. That’s an action about our feelings and functioning primarily from that place. We’re trying to get the singer to do the performance, right? They’re scared. And we’re trying to get them to do the performance, because it’ll make us look good. Oh, I had a thought of this, or that we need to be the one who’s right. In that moment. That’s not a student led moment. That’s, I’m I’m having insecurity about being wrong. And I need to be right instead, that’s not a student led moment. Or I want them to do something because I’m trying to avoid criticism from other teachers. That’s not a student led moment. Was there just a few examples, the blog has a lot more on there.
Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 1:08:08
That is so cool. I’m going to go and have a read of that, because I’m doing some research into student led learning with a couple of other colleagues at the moment. So yeah, definitely go and have a look at that one. That sounds so interesting. So you’re on quite a journey here. You’re quite a pioneer. Jess, I love the work that you’re doing.
Jess Baldwin 1:08:29
Now, thank you so much.
Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 1:08:30
What do you think your legacy will be? Or what do you want your legacy to be within the singing voice community?
Jess Baldwin 1:08:38
I want my legacy to be that far fewer students have to go through the experience of their creative agency being robbed by someone else’s ego or agenda.
Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 1:08:49
Sorry, my jaw just dropped for those people that are not watching the video, but listening to this. That was so powerful. Oh, my gosh, love it, love it. What advice do you have for the singing voice community, for the teaching community, specifically,
Jess Baldwin 1:09:14
teaching community, my advice would be to do as much self work, self healing work as you can to allow the student led learning that I know you want to do but that sometimes is a struggle. Because of stuff that happened to you. When you were younger, probably. That has put some protective behaviours in place that make it really hard for you to do that. So therapy, self work, learning about how we can heal from things that have happened to us. Oh, makes us better teachers, because I know you all want to be we’re all trying our best to do that, and to not pass on the the traumatic things that happen to us in in voice lessons and creative spaces in our families. So that, in my opinion is the foundation of everything else you do in a voice studio, from technique to repertoire to technology and songwriting. That’s the foundation of all of it.
Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 1:10:34
Hallelujah. No, I’m hearing you, I’m hearing you. That’s been the biggest game changer. For me personally, as a teacher, that work I
Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 1:10:46
do on myself has truly impacted the way that I teach. And it also when you feel good about yourself, and you are kind to yourself, and you practice self care, and you have good self worth, that is so powerful within a teaching studio, because I tell you what, what you are doing is truly creating a space for your students to come in and to learn and to grow and to thrive and feel safe and vulnerable. So what you’ve just said, I think is one of the most important pieces of advice I’ve ever heard on this show. So thank you for sharing it. And
Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 1:11:41
it is truly something that for those teachers who have not considered that, or don’t invest in themselves, have a look at that. We’re gonna wind it up there. And thank you again, and best wishes to you, Jess, sending you to Australia.
Jess Baldwin 1:12:02
The love from North Carolina. Bye. Bye.
Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 1:12:10
Thank you so much for listening to this episode of a voice and beyond. I hope you enjoyed it as now is an important time for you to invest in your own self care, personal growth and education. Use every day as an opportunity to learn and to grow so you can show up feeling empowered and ready to live your best life. If you know someone who will also be inspired by this episode, please be sure to copy and paste the link and share it with them. Or share it on social media and use the hashtag a voice and beyond. I promise you I am committed to bringing you more inspiration and conversations just like this one every week. And if you’d like to help me, please rate and review this podcast and cheer me on by clicking the subscribe button on Apple podcast right now. I would also love to know what it is that you most enjoyed about this episode and what was your biggest takeaway? Please take care and I look forward to your company next time on the next episode of a voice and beyond.