This week’s guest is Associate Professor Irene Bartlett!

In the music industry, it is very difficult to sustain a long and enduring career, but our guest this week, Associate Professor Irene Bartlett has successfully navigated her music career and shares with us her secrets to longevity as a member of the voice community. Irene worked as a professional CCM singer for over 50 years and during that time transitioned into other roles such as a becoming voice teacher, a voice researcher, a contributing author and an international voice presenter. Currently, Irene is the Head of Pedagogy, Coordinator of Contemporary Voice & Voice Pedagogy Programs, the Head of Jazz Voice Studies and is proudly an associate professor, at Queensland Conservatorium, Griffith University in Queensland, Australia.

Irene is truly a trailblazer and a visionary and her knowledge and experience as led her to develop a unique and inclusive approach to teaching vocal pedagogy, which is not only based on voice science but also on her teaching philosophy that good singing is good singing. She continues to be an advocate for legitimising CCM from a pedagogical standpoint and opens up about her professional journey, her greatest accomplishments, how remaining relevant is key to sustainability and longevity, and the importance of family first and legacy. This is a brilliant not to be missed interview with my good friend, colleague, and mentor Associate Professor Irene Bartlett.

In this episode

01:16 – Introducing Associate Professor Irene Bartlett

05:36 — Irene’s Singing background

14:16 — Teaching at Queensland Conservatorium

19:31 — Classical Colleagues’

24:09 — Irene’s path to success

27:25 — Vocal Pedagogy Program

33:21 — What constitutes good singing?

40:48 — Is it detrimental to a CCM singer’s vocal health to be classically trained?

48:38 — Voice teaching’s greatest revolution

49:59 — Most common diagnosis in her studio

52:17 — Irene’s teaching philosophy

54:29 — Colleagues or institutions trying to silence her

1:05:29 — Finding balance between work and family

1:07:48 — Irene’s greatest accomplishment

1:12:00 — Greatest piece of advice the singing voice community


Dr Marisa Lee Naismith is excited to announce the release of her new book “Singing Contemporary Commercial Music Styles: A Pedagogical Framework” published by Compton Publications UK. Marisa offers this book as a starting point and as CCM markets continue to evolve, she encourages that we, as a voice community, continue to evolve, debate and communally add to this framework.



Visit the A Voice and Beyond Youtube channel to watch back the video replay of this guest interview or to see my welcome video.

Episode Transcription

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 specialized 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  01:16

In the music industry, it is very difficult to sustain a long and enduring career. But our guest this week, Associate Professor Irene Bartlett has successfully navigated her music career and shares with us her secrets to longevity as a member of the voice community. Irene worked as a professional CCM singer for over 50 years and during that time, transitioned into other roles such as becoming a voice teacher, a voice researcher, a contributing author and an international presenter. Currently, Irene is the head of pedagogy, coordinator of contemporary voice and voice pedagogy programs. The head of jazz voice studies, and is proudly an associate professor at Queensland Conservatorium Griffith University in Queensland, Australia. Irene is truly a trailblazer and a visionary. And her knowledge and experience has led her to develop a unique and inclusive approach to teaching vocal pedagogy, which is not only based on boys science, but also her teaching philosophy that good singing is good singing. She continues to be an advocate for legitimizing CCM from a pedagogical standpoint and opens up about her professional journey, her greatest accomplishments, how remaining relevant is key to sustainability and longevity, the importance of family first, and legacy. This is a brilliant not to be missed interview with my good friend, colleague and mentor, Associate Professor Irene Bartlett. So without further ado, let’s go to today’s episode.

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith  03:28

Welcome to the show, Associate Professor Irene Bartlett, who is my dear friend, a colleague, you’ve been my teacher, you are a mentor. You are my research supervisor. It is such a pleasure having you on the show. How are you?

Irene Bartlett  03:46

Yeah great and wonderful. Thanks Marisa. It’s good to be here.

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith  03:49

Yes, it actually feels a real privilege having you with we’ve got a lot of history. We’ve traveled together, we’ve laugh together, we’ve got up to mischief together over the years, we’ve had some fun times. But also, I’ve learned a lot from you. And you’ve had an amazing career as a member of the boys community, both as a professional performer, as a teacher, as an academic. You’re very highly respected internationally. And you’ve earned all that and today I would love to share your story and parts of what you do and how you’ve got there. Because it’s incredible to have someone who’s been able to sustain a career all those years and I mean for 21 You’ve done a lot. But I have to break this down. This is currently you you gave up performing two years ago, but you are currently a voice teacher, researcher presenter, head of pedagogy, coordinator of contemporary voice and voice pedagogy, head of jazz, boisterous, Are these and as I’ve called you, by your title before Associate Professor at Queensland, Conservatorium Griffith University. And can I tell you, I’m just exhausted?

Irene Bartlett  05:11

Thinking? That’s a bit exhausting.

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith  05:15

It is exhausting. But we’ve got to share your journey because in life, nothing is handed to us. Well, not to most of us, we have to work our way to wherever we’re at where we’re at in life. And I’ve certainly learned that from you. And so let’s start with Irene and your background. When did you start singing?

Irene Bartlett  05:39

While my dad would tell you that I was singing before I could speak. I was born in London and to extend family, very cockney family, huge extended family, everybody saying in my memory now I know everybody’s selling, don’t worried about singing. They just sang. So if there was more than three people in the room, someone was singing, basically. But yeah, so I started really, really young. My early memories of singing love my dad putting me up on a table and telling me to sing, you know, so not telling me because he always encouraged me. This was the thing I think I love music because I got a lot of love back from it from the family. That was wonderful. So yeah, professionally, I started when I was a southern England before I came to Australia. I was 16. My whole family emigrated here. They were, like, 30, all of us with all the children and everything might go and, and basically, yeah, I’d been I’d been working at Morris Berman School of Music, which was Helen Shapiro was the big Sarah at the time. And I had a similar low voice, similar voice, which is really unusual. When most of the singers, the girl singers, were singing up high like Silla net. Yeah. So basically, I was under their sort of auspices, and I was doing things but we can’t Australia. And I think we’ve been here maybe three or four months, and dad saw an ad in the paper for a new pop TV show, live TV show. And without me knowing without my mum knowing and she was really angry with him because he did it. But he put me in for an audition and took me dad always taught me and took me for the audition. And I got the right I got the part and I was the regular support act on on this TV show. So it was for chum. Oh, which changed his channel. Basically, ladies, yeah. So that’s how I started. And so I started really, I was blessed because I started a high level with really top musicians and I was like their kid sister. So I was on every second week, supporting, you know, people are turning O’Keefe, and Engelbert Humperdinck. And whoever was begging in Australia was coming through those shots. And from that I started the band at the time was the sounds of seven. And they were an amazing small big band if you like, but they started to give me a lot of work, because they loved the way it sounded. And they loved the fact that I had so much repertoire. And it was because I’ve grown up with so much music. Four brothers way, way older than me, my oldest brother is 17 years old. So I grew up with all those years of music from my dad, playing Bing Crosby, my mum like Caruso, and my brothers liked everything, mostly two of them were made into jazz. That’s how I got into jazz. So they were listening to lrm. Sarah and, and, you know, all the Miles Davis all the great jazz players. Yeah. And then another brother was listening to Johnny Ray and Elvis Presley. And you know, so it was like a Meyer was the Beatles. So I had this amazing repertoire. And that set me up for a very quick professional career because I had because I had all this repertoire. And the band could say, are in can you sing such as such? And, you know, so I learned right from beginning to sing what they asked me to do. And to basically, they put me in the key that they thought sounded best. And they arranged the music and it was like a reading. I know now a dream run working with these fantastic musician. Yes. And then from there, basically, and I did a lot of TV work with in Brisbane tonight. And when that when all those things were coming up—

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith  08:51

—when live TV was a thing.

Irene Bartlett  08:54

And entertainment is everywhere. And so yeah, for so for moving on from there, it was basically just a, that became my career. And so I just never stopped actually performing until about two years ago, my keyboard player who I worked with for only 25 years, was getting older man. So he was in retirement basically. And I just thought, you know, I don’t want to be lugging gear at one o’clock in the morning anymore. Cuz it was a good thing. I’m a very proud exam. And I said whatever I was asked to sing. So if it was a country festival, back track and come a mother at a rodeo, I’d do country if it was a rock band, I’d be singing rock if it was you know what it was whatever it was, but the last 25 years in my career 25 to 30s was really focused on the good standard jazz and Great American Songbook stuff, mainly jazz concerts and that sort of thing. But I always have always kept my ear into the pot area because that’s what my students wanted to do. So I made sure that I kept up to date and I was singing of course all the classic did a lot of corporate work. So I was singing classic dance chants. So So that’s That’s why that’s gone academically, it’s sort of all slipped in along the way. So I started, I was invited to teach at a, at a big performance school. It was a John Young Talent school at the time here in Brisbane.

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith  10:11

There was one here as well

Irene Bartlett  10:14

But 80s, in the 80s. And it was massive. So I said, No, I don’t have any qualifications to be teaching this at all. And then I’ve got four children. And they said, We know you like kids. And we’ve, we know you can sing, we’ve, you’re getting so many reps from people we know. So why don’t you come and see how you like it. So I did Saturdays, and then that gradually, or very quickly, within six months I was doing every day of the week basically, teach a guy, and it was putting performance shows on because we’re referring, and then studying us into that. And then I got a call from someone at the conservatory to say there was a sudden New Jazz degree in better music, and they wanted a performer, a jazz performer who could also teach, so they wanted that blend of you know, so I put my hat in the ring for that. And here I am.

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith  10:59

Yes. So backing back a little bit. When you started teaching. What did you base your teaching on? Had you had any formal training yourself?

Irene Bartlett  11:09

No, I hadn’t had any formal training. The reason I hadn’t looked so hadn’t any before singing training. Yeah. And the reason I hadn’t was that, you know, the right from the beginning that this professional musicians I was working with, said don’t have because my dad and ask him if she needs to have singing lessons, because I’ve been doing some work in England, I told you, but it was contemporary. And I said, No, no, no, don’t don’t send it to a singing teacher. Because don’t change her voice. And she’s unique, you know, so don’t, don’t do that. So but I did go to a repeater, and ran through repertoire and just went through songs so that I understand you. My it was all written charts, of course, because I could go up to add a 20 piece band and down to a duo. So it was basically having arranged charts understanding, being able to tell the band how that works, know where the code is working with a sign basically repeats and all that stuff. Yeah, so the repertoire did that work with me. And I think that actually helped me because I’d go to him for like two hours on, like, a Wednesday, and it would be just keep repeating the same song over and over. So in Indian in my head that I didn’t ever have to think about it again. So it was drilling, you know, which we know now that drilling is so important for muscle memory. But ya know, I didn’t have any formal training at all. I didn’t even I didn’t even have a I’ve never had a singing lesson until I started to study voice. And then I started to seek out individual teachers at conferences and whatever it is that can I have a lesson, I just want to see what you see what this feels like.

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith  12:37

Yes, I love you talking about sitting with the Riveter. And that journey of the charts when we all used to turn up with charts and do a gig or we turn up and sing with the band and I call it lugging, you just lug you know, you just call out a song, you call that the key and you just start singing. And having that versatility. I think that’s what’s missing today with a lot of performers. Now, people can’t do that, that they can’t, I don’t think I feel like they don’t have the opportunity.

Irene Bartlett  13:11

That’s true, too. Because, you know, when when the ears that I’m talking about the 70s 80s 90s Basically, they will Brisbane was just alive with pigs, New South Wales, Northern New South Wales was alive with gigs, yes, you know, there were we would do a touring groups all over the country all over the country, you know, we just literally the agent would ring I’ve never picked up the phone last week, it was either music musicians, other band members who would offer you gigs or be the agents. So, but that’s because there was so much work, and the kids don’t have that opportunity anymore. So sort of, I feel for them. But the thing is, too, that we were thrown into in those areas usually worked with people who were older and more experienced, and probably better players. And you were, whereas these kids have basically mostly sitting in their peer groups, which is a lot to be said for that, by the way for, you know, discovering compositions and stuff. But it does limit their thinking, because when you’re with older, more professional people, they tend to push you into areas you don’t necessarily want to go on need to go. But it really affects your education over time.

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith  14:16

Yes, absolutely. So let’s talk about then you find yourself teaching at Queensland Conservatorium and you said you started to study boys, then what was that training? Like? Where did you go to?

Irene Bartlett  14:31

Okay, so I had actually started, what happened was, I started teaching these kids and after about a year, I thought, hang on, you know, it’s not me sending my kids had four kids, and it’d be like me to send them to the equivalent sports, some sort of sport, I would want to know that that person training them had experienced either experience on the job, you know, they were ex athletes themselves, or people who have done training and in fact, the older my kids got, the more I wanted the person to have had training to so they knew what they were asking my children to do. So I thought, you know, that’s I should be doing that with singing. I mean, you know, all right, I can sing. And the more I talk the realize I can’t, I’m not going to teach what I do. Because that doesn’t have an intuitive view that doesn’t work for every student who walks in the room. It only works people who’ve got a setup like mine, you know, vocal. So, yes, I started studying. Back in the beginning of the 90s, where I was sitting in I was lucky enough to be able to sit in on speech pathologists, I got friendly with a couple of speech pathologists, I sat in on their classes, classes on their sessions with remediation sessions, then I got to through them got friendly with a few and EMTs. And I got to sit in there, the anti clinics just like fly on the wall watching what’s going on, I’m became attached to a voice clinic in Brisbane, which now doesn’t exist, it was called The prison was clean. And basically, they called me in to be the, the vocal specialist, single specialist on the panel. Now, that’s if I call it that. We call it an ecology. Now, we’re doing that with no name, way back then. But it was it was just by association. And they knew that I knew singers and they were getting a lot more singers coming through the clinics, and where the ante would go, there’s no pathology. So over to the speech pathologist says, it’ll be voice function work. And then the speech pathologist will say, Hang on, but this is a singer. So I’ll work on the speech voice and then I’ll pass them on to Irene to figure this out in their singing voice. So this was learning again, like my music is learning on the job. But around that time, I just also, it was very earning small publications that came out around contemporary singing for the first time, I saw myself in publications, whereas before, it always been classical. So I started, my husband was that time university professor. And basically, he was doing sabbaticals overseas, so I’d go with him. But while he was doing his work, I’d go off and find the best people I thought I could note and have have sessions with them, you know, so I did work with Seth Riggs, I did work with Neil Sima. I didn’t work with Jeanette, the veteran, which some of her presentations, these are names, we all know, we doubt any of them. But I studied with all of them. So I then would read their work. And yeah, and then when I came back, came back to Australia, what I do was immediately put it into action. And that’s when I decided, Well, I’d better if I’m going to State University, I have to have I have to do the same work the students are doing, I have to have the degrees to back up the knowledge. So that’s when I started studying.

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith  17:24

Yes, add up all the teachers that you went and sat in on classes or you to took workshops, was the one that you thought, wow, this really resonates with me, or did you find that they’re all brilliant?

Irene Bartlett  17:38

No, I found that they will, I was able to get something from everybody. And right from the beginning, because of I guess, my, my own training background, which was eclectic, I wasn’t, I didn’t want to be taught tied to methods. But I wanted to find as much out as I could, in person, not just reading. So you know, and again, I was able to travel, which was great. So basically, by the way, I had a mom and dad who retired and looking after kids at home while I was—

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith  18:07

Yeah I was gonna say, What did you do with the children?

Irene Bartlett  18:12

Thre some food in the room. And always family, always family, which was very, and I wouldn’t go from one, you know, two or three weeks time. And a couple of times, we you know, an extra number of times we lived in the States, but then we’d move over as a family. Okay. And yeah, so basically, I found something in everybody’s teaching, I found something that I could use, it might be just a way of approaching something rather than something new. Yeah. And then right from the beginning, once I started to look at the science of voice, I decided, You know what this is, it’s muscle is masculine, you know, we so we can’t expect people, you don’t expect everybody to be a sprinter. You don’t expect everybody to be a long distance runner, you don’t expect everybody to be wonderful at tennis, or what you do is that they might be good at something in the sports area. So I felt this is the same with voice. We’ve got to train the muscles, and then allow the singing, to be whatever the singer wants it to be. So basically, yeah, so that’s why these days, of course, have a voice builder rather than a singing teacher. Because most of my students at university come in, we audition them for goodness sake. So they come in with talent, and they come in with a certain degree of vocal ability, but it’s my job to make take that voice and make it the most efficient, effective, reliable voice it can be so that they can take their style where they wanted to.

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith  19:31

Yes, absolutely. But I’d like to ask you though, so you found yourself working at at a Conservatorium. It would have been very unusual to have a ccm teacher working at a conservatory and at that time was around 1996. I think we’re started with-

Irene Bartlett  19:54


Dr Marisa Lee Naismith  19:55

Yeah. And I mean, at that time to that music would not have had A descriptor would have been called music outside of classical or non classical styles. How does your classical colleagues react to you being in that job?

Irene Bartlett  20:10

Okay, so the let me just clarify that the department at the time of the cold areas now that the department I went into was the jazz department. And it was because I was at that time, still doing rock, pop everything else, but I was also getting known as Jesse Stanley St. Jazz. And so basically, that made it a little bit easier because I there was an actual descriptor. It wasn’t just contemporary. It was jazz. Yeah. Okay. But already in the 90s. In the middle 90s, the jazz singers, were all moonlighting that I had no study with three. And that’s all there was a new brand new bachelor’s course, yet they were still doing moonlighting doing everything else, you know, it was just that was a year where you did a bit of everything. So I The curriculum was jazz. So the deal was that the we were in Whistler, in one corner of the Conservatorium, and the northeast corner.

Irene Bartlett  21:04

There’s the classical corridor with all the classical voice stuff on one side, and then there’s rehearsal rooms, if you think of a square, and then we’re in the corner, we’ve got three or 4553, large rooms and small rooms for jazz, right. And so really, it was like being and there’s nothing beyond us, because that’s like a concert hall. So it was really like being isolated, like you’re in a building with all this other music with all this orchestral music going downstairs and whatever. And classical voice upstairs and it was pretty much I have to say in us. And then, because jazz has that, I think it’d been the complicated end of contemporary Yes, it would sort of fit if you know what I mean. Okay, so because you do have to train your whole life to be adjusting I’m sorry, that’s at the jazz religion, you learn you have to learn every day of your life. Every time you stand on a band, but the stage with a band, you’re learning something new that you know, before that, it’s because everybody’s basically improvising. But the thing was, yeah, so it was sort of, except it had been a diploma course before that. So new building, everybody moved across this new building, we all had little sections. And being me, I’m gregarious and nice. Oh, hello, you know how you, it’d be like, hello.

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith  22:19

Still happens to some—

Irene Bartlett  22:21

Ang then I asked to, I asked to go to I remember asking to, if I could join into there was a classical voice meeting every week or a couple of weeks. And at the time, and I asked if I could attend, and it was like, politely, but I don’t think you’d be interested in this. So which was polite, but you know, that I didn’t, completely correct. But I was trying to make some connections, and it wasn’t. Anyway, so. So I thought, No, that’s okay. This is you know, I’m the newcomer here. I’m the new girl on the blog. No one knows me. I’m not famous. So they’re not going to know that. So basically, yeah, let’s just get on with it and do your best job. And fortunately, you know, the students who are coming to me and the course grew really fast. So all of a sudden, I was teaching my more than three students we had, every year got bigger and bigger. And so yeah, it was basically student output that really did it. And what finally clinched it, what really made the difference was Brendan, my husband is very, very smart. And he said to me, I was I was complaining about not sort of feeling part of what was going on, after about three years. And he said, you know, if you want to join the club, you better pay the dues. So I enrolled in a master’s degree and said that once I started getting their degrees, and it was like, Well, yeah, you’re working for this. So you are and then it was, you know, so now it’s, we’re very, very collegiate. But it wasn’t like that, originally.

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith  23:41

Yes, yes. And there is still a little bit of a stigma because I teach in the pop department. And sometimes my poor pop students, kaput, from the classical students who say to them, Oh, you guys actually do singing? Oh, and you can actually sing well, like, so they’re shocked and horrified that pop singers can actually make nice sounds. It’s really weird. But, I mean, you have been a trailblazer. And I’m sure some of that journey, as you’ve just described, hasn’t been easy. And you’ve had to work for where you are now. And I said at the start that you are the head of all these different departments. How did you end up there? How did you end up where you’re at right now?

Irene Bartlett  24:29

Okay, so I’ve actually been at the con now for 26 years, which, which amazes me, but I love it. I mean, it’s the best place to work, you know, it’s you walk in, and there’s music coming from every Yes, every every space, you know, and, and I love because I’ve always loved all music. So you know, sing, sing, visit music theater through. So basically, I love the sound of all that happening. And it was very much the jazz era because it was new. There’s a degree area. It was very welcoming and very like, what do you think we should do and very collegiate right from beginning. So my jazz colleagues have been absolutely amazing in terms because we will all work musicians this allow, literally everybody knows what it’s like to be a musician, you know, and earn a living as musicians. So that’s a great thing to demonstrate to our students. But also, it meant that we were used to working as jazz musicians, as contemporary musicians, rock musicians, we were used to working in bands where you had to collaborate, we had to get on with people, or you didn’t get the next gig, you know, didn’t matter how good you were, like, don’t get hurt. So, so I just found that whole experience really, really instilled very uplifting and exciting and something new always happening. But basically, it was Yeah. Had I get to the head of areas? That was a question that the thing was as grew like Topsy. So literally, because popular not pop music, the popular music that’s released called the time. So what we now call CCM or contempory. Commercial Music or if you call it any of the other terms, yes. Whatever, yes, yeah, yes, I don’t care rose by any other name. But it’s basically what the general public want to hear. You know, it’s what most people listening to. So all of a sudden, we get this massive influx. So now at the moment, I have 32 singers in the Jazz Pop at the jazz, sorry, but we’re Syria. That’s, that’s amazing that and that is amazing. And I don’t teach them all the way on my own. I do teach, and I’m at every workshop every week, and I teach the third years, currently in but I have a teaching team. So I’ve developed a teaching team where they get as many influences as they can, while they’re with us. And because that’s the old fashioned thing about, you know, really not having one teacher through your whole, whole your whole study program, because you’re going to become more and more like that teacher, but rather, let’s send you out to different teachers and get get you a real vision of what is possible with voice. So anyway, that’s that’s where that is, but yeah, it’s it’s at while the as it sort of grew, someone had to be in charge of that. So it was again, it was just serendipitous, I just, I guess it wasn’t serendipitous, because

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith  27:04

No, because you would have had to earn those—

Irene Bartlett  27:06

I worked hard to build, I wrote all the course outlines originally for when I got there, there were no course outlines, profiles. So I kept innovating those to match where we were going this type of student and everything. And so that was recognized. And so they asked me to sort of give me labels titles.

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith  27:25

Yes, and also the vocal pedagogy program that you’ve developed. There’s the postgraduate and masters and and you have doctoral students who, yes, and at the moment, from what I believe that that the majority of the SCCM that come about, because when I talk to colleagues over in the States, especially in higher education, settings, that music still not being legitimized, how I know that you’ve had a lot of influence over that. That’s incredible. Okay.

Irene Bartlett  28:06

Yeah, I think, again, Australia’s always a bit like that we’ve not so much these days, of course, Chris, international COVID site, international travel is much easier. With the internet, it’s much easier, but we sort of developed like we do with a lot of things Australia’s develop their own way of going about things. And when I started working at the Khan and Anika, NASA, that area started to grow and grow. There was no course at the time. So we were getting anyone who was interested in non classical music, okay. And that was the period of term and it is pejorative because it sort of has a sense of not as good as but anyway, so that we were getting those sort of audition A’s. Yeah, those applicants. My view is that if you learn to train as a jazz musician, in any instrument, because singers are jazz musicians, they just happen to be the jazz the vocal instrument in the band, they’re not the singer. Because they have to do whatever their students have to do. singers have to do whatever the instrumentalists are doing theory or or estimate, but basically, I just felt like it just was able to happen. So when I started teaching into pedagogy calls with a really wonderful teacher, Queen Elizabeth, okay. And adults had started the pedagogical Jen del predator started for classical singers. And it was very studio teacher based, you know, just and it was it was an elective course it wasn’t. And then it morphed into with a lot of other pedagogy courses at the time through Jim Carrey, they became more study based. Yeah, yeah. And so I started a Dell asked me to come in and do lectures, just one a trimester at the beginning, for one semester, sorry, for contemporary because it was all the rest was all classical. Everything was the studies class. And then what happened was, all of a sudden, we started to get more classic, more contemporary applicants and classical. So I ended they ended up being a team teacher with her so we were teaching everything together. And then Adele retired, and when she did, I had been thinking a lot lot about about the pedagogy program. So she gave me the nod that she was going to retire. So basically, I had basically to rewrite program as I thought it might sit because they were primarily contemporary singers now, but I didn’t want to throw out the baby with the bathwater, because I truly believe that good singing is good singing, I don’t care what song singing the song, um, I think of myself as a voice builder. So I’m doing a lot of work with crossover classical singers, classical singers who wanted to sing, primarily music theater. But anyway, yeah, so I just wrote more and more voice science into the program more and more academic study into the research. So that now you know, and you will, one of the earliest ones, who basically had the opportunity to do what’s called a research strand. So you could see beyond the Graduate Certificate beyond the Graduate Diploma or beyond the masters that say there’s there’s a career trajectory here if I want to do something in academia. So yes, so and when I was when I toured the States, I taught at London, big schools vision Members, back in 2013.

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith  31:02

When, when we traveled to Europe, and you traveled to Europe, and I joined you in the US.

Irene Bartlett  31:08

I did a tour of the world. And I had four invitations. When was that four years ago?

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith  31:15

Four years ago. 

Irene Bartlett  31:15

Four years ago? Oh my god. Yeah.

Irene Bartlett  31:19

Yeah, I was teaching at Sebelius taught when worked with some of the people in New York University and then went over to somewhere it was trennis at Princeton, and then went to Manhattan School with Joan Melton, and then went to Shenandoah. I did work in Shanghai. So it was up. Yeah, I was basically teaching at all these places, but obviously observing and seeing what they were doing. And that’s when I realized, I mean, I knew because I knew the literature. But I realized that we were doing something quite unique here, in that we were doing complete crossover. So our classical and our contemporary singers in in the pedagogy program, there is no difference now singers, and we in second trimester, now, we’ve arranged that they all do crossover. So the classical people have to do contemporary, and the contemporary people have to do classical. And then in third trimester, they can choose where they want to sit land with all of that. So it’s Yeah, I think this was possible because we were developing programs, I was really given my head to say, because it was the students going out were successful, and they were promoting things. So it was like, Oh, great, just keep doing what you’re doing. So the latest innovation is that the Graduate Certificate we’ve put online because of COVID. Because we have people flying in from all over the country, and that wasn’t possible anymore. So you know, there’s constant rethinking, innovating innovation. But I think the thinking comes first like, you know, how is this working? Keeping the student at the center? What are they getting out of this? Asking them? What are you getting out of this? How could we improve? And so you know, we’ve got a completely eclectic group at bat. They are primarily contemporary, but Dr. Morris teaches with me, because he’s a classical singer. And he’s also a speech pathologist, audiologist. And so he’s, he’s as far classical as I am contemporary. But we meet in the middle because we do believe good singers good singing. And we both have a lot of background. Mine is informed by his his formal in speech pathology. So our students get that we attract a range of students.

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith  33:21

Yes, yes, you certainly do. Because I’m actually getting in on those classes at the moment. I’ve come back, I did that program in 2008. And decided this year that it was time to feed my soul. And you know, I think as teachers, we need to be lifelong learners. And it was time for me to step back into the classroom. And, and I think the load boards. Absolutely. Okay. So you mentioned a couple of times. Now, good thing is good thing. And I know that your mantra as well as Ron’s mantra. So, if you were to write a book about good thinking is good thing. What do you believe constitutes good singing?

Irene Bartlett  34:06

So you’ve always got the singer who’s the natural singer, and is going to be in a room. That was me. I mean, you know, I had a successful career for 25 3 years before I started, poor 25 years, before I started looking at what was underpinning that, okay, so but the majority of singers and especially these days, because there’s so many more who actually want training that have come to us looking for assistance, you know, to develop their voice or develop this style, whatever it is. So my, I guess the underpinning of that good singers good thing is that all singers need to have access to the basic pillars of foundation, not just of singing but of making sound. And and those pillars are basically alignment, breath flow support, I separate those two out because we can have faults in either but then we put them back together as breath management, and then, you know, resonance and registration come But they come later. And then of course performance at the top. So we build the instrument to be able to get to this pinnacle, which is the actual performance. But if we, if we teach all of our singers regardless of style, in other words, style doesn’t impact until we’ve got the voice where it needs to be. Now there are differences between classical and contemporary is that right from the beginning, a classical singer, working with these basic principles, these basic pillars of of technique, have to learn very, they have to train for a long time to get their larynx into that lower setting, which is unnatural, this is not our speaking voice. So they have to layer that on top. So there’s a bit of style work going on there right from the beginning. Whereas with contemporary singers in any stock, interview commercial things where you want to pull them, when I’m talking about I teach everything, as I say, from the music theater, right the way through to jazz and pop rock, punk, you know, heavy metal, I don’t care what it is, I can work with those singers. But I teach them all from that base. And once we’ve got the muscle memory and the neurological connections in the brain that set up that muscle memory for the task, they the task at hand, the one they need to do, then I start working on style with Yes, so those basic elements, common to all singers.

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith  36:16

Now, you mentioned too that in your in the program, as it is now and I didn’t occur in the program. While I was studying that singers do crossover work. Why do you feel that that’s beneficial for the boys teacher slash singer?

Irene Bartlett  36:33

Because it is a pedagogy program. It’s not a performance program. We have our performance, postgraduates, and we have our pedagogy, postgraduates, and with pedagogy, we get some students who come across from the bachelor of music or whatever that might be, but there’s a there’s a few the majority. So I have 34 people currently enrolled in and seven of those are graduate certificates. The rest are masters at different levels, because through programs cross, but basically, a lot of them are, are very experienced teachers who are coming into, they feel like they’re a bit stuck, that maybe they don’t know enough understand enough about the actual anatomy, physiology of the voice, but to work with students without doing any harm, so to speak, you know, that with me, and I just don’t want to be a star teacher they want to be they want to teach voice. So yeah, so we basically, I guess we’re responding to the cohort as they present. And that’s, you know, it’s growing and growing. It’s massive, number wise, but we get them in from people come to say they want to do classical, contemporary, what we say is okay, in first trimester, you will specialize you will do most of your all your lessons, you want talks, they all get one to one lessons, which is again, the world very unusual. So they get their lectures are all together, everybody in the same room, discussing what voice is, no one cares if what style of singing you do, you are a part of that cohort, and you have your opinion is just as valid as the person sitting next to you. Okay, but then when they go off to do the one to one lessons, they go to either classical or contemporary, this first trimester, second trimester, my view was, if you’re going to sit in a in a group with people and get an understanding, a true understanding where they’re coming from, then what better way then to take yourself out of your comfort zone and have to do what they do. And so that was the that was my thinking behind doing that. So that’s what actually happens. They it’s sheduled, their schedule, they’re not there’s no, they’re told, right from the beginning, if you do a Masters, you’re going to do crossover in second trimester. In the third trimester, you can choose to sit in whichever camp you want. So I’ve actually got a fully opera, male Tanner, who’s only ever studied classical music, doing full contemporary in their third trimester, because he’s teaching and a lot of the students who are coming to him want to do at least music theater, if not some other form of contemporary music. So yeah, so it’s just interesting that it’s worked beautifully. And it’s one of those things you know, you put I’ve put in place, and Ron was excellent in supporting me in that because he’s, he’s fully classical. So he could speak to the classical department in their terms and say, Look, you know, so what we’re trying to do is not create people who can sing and have a career in classical music, if they’re rock stars, or not take rock singers and classical musicians trying to make the rock singers, what we’re doing is giving them the experience as teachers in what those musics can bring to each other. So, you know, in contemporary is we know our girls these days, they are even speaking down here. So basically, there’s their thorough 10 or their actual speech quality, low singing seems to dominate and they have trouble getting into the top and they don’t even want to go there unless it’s their belting the hell out of it here. So and the same with the classical singers who of course, are taught to male and female taught to bring that CT dominance down the cricothyroid dominant so the lengthen a muscle down into into their singing. So what we’re doing is giving the opportunity to feel what it’s like to have to do the opposite. So it’s teachers The learning the, the the actual benefits of taking a contemporary single all the way up in their range, whatever that might be into the stratosphere, they may even want to sing there, but they have access to it. And in having access to top and with the classical singers inherent to the bottom, what we end up with is much smoother and supported transitions, which is what we’re all really interested in. And you can call that whatever you like, I hate mix, I’m sorry, because so do what it’s what we what we have, um, we’re using it now, if you have any prosody in your voice, and in music and your voice, you’re actually using a mix and mix is a balance of muscle. So all it is for me is it’s that transitional those transitional points wherever they might be. And they’re different, slightly different each thing is where we do the work. So but we can’t do that if we haven’t got the top and the bottom working.

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith  40:48

Yes, some balanced registers. Do you believe then that it is detrimental to a ccm singers vocal health to be classically trained?

Irene Bartlett  41:01

Oh, iif it’s only classically trained, Yes. In fact, I’ve you know, I’ve done a lot of remediation work out, we used to do single work cover here, which is a government funded thing for specialists voice users, where they come with damage or so you don’t train a golfer, professional golfer in baseball, you don’t train professional baseball player in tennis, you train them for the job they’re going to do. Again, it’s all muscle, and it’s all using their basketball skills. But this income coordination skills, but this is very different. So in singing, it’s the same this is muscular, and we’re training the muscles to be most effective for the style. However, we have to make those muscle engagements really flexible. So if you just training classical, like we used to know what I mean, I wrote a paper many years ago for a conference at the Rock the reflective conservatoire in Guildhall London, and it was coming off my master’s degree actually at the time, but it was basically, you know, tailored practice for contemporary singers. And it was there were only two contemporary people presenting at that conference, it was huge. Okay, because we were university, academics basically. And, yeah, it was like I was one and I just said, you can’t, you’ve got to tailor it for the job. So, and I did this whole analogy about Yes, making dresses and whatever. But basically it was you don’t you don’t make a suit by cutting out a dress pattern. And it’s the same thing with singing. So that’s, that’s a great analogy. So basically, don’t you train for what you need to train. So don’t if we if we do what happens with classical training, as we know. And that’s why this whole ancient hip chest thing came in the mother hated terms, because you’re just creating a problem his chest, his head was the voice in the middle. And you know, the driver, the the resonator, and you’re causing all this tension, because you’re trying to get above and below it. So basically, let’s train our singers for what they need to do. If you try to train a class, a contemporary singer to sing with a lowered larynx, a wide pharynx and a lot of breath flow. They’re gonna kill their voice if they’re trying to build. And so we know that actually can cause and, you know, lots of my colleagues, my really, you know, valued colleagues, Jeanette, and vettery, and lots of people like Julianne Kazan, London, they’re all talking about this as well, you know, so, on the contrary, on the converse, you don’t train a classical singer who wants a career in opera, you don’t train them in, in speech quality conversational voice production, you train them for what they need to do. My view is, as teachers, we need to experience both, so that we know what it feels like if we get a classically trained singer walking into our contemporary studio. We know what they’re bringing with them. We know what their training is, we know what we’re, how we’ve got, we’re not redoing this. They’re not throwing out the baby with the bathwater. They’re resetting, they’ve just got to reset, and vice versa. Yeah, because I’ve had really fantastic classical contemporary singers have said, I reckon you should go and have, you know, at least a semester of classical lessons just to see if this is because your voice wants to go there. Let’s let’s have a go, you know, you can always come back. And they’re always grateful for that to have the opportunity, you know, yeah, so, yeah, so I think no, one size does not fit all, I don’t care which part of the camp you’re coming from, you train the voice, the way you train a sportsman for the goal. And most of us want to, we’re never going to be you know, elite athletes, we’re not all going to run at the Olympics. But we do want to play sport. So it’s the same as saying you train people eclectically if they’re never going to go for the pinnacle of a particular style.

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith  44:30

So that to me is very much a student focused approach to teaching. And so therefore, how do you feel about methodology?

Irene Bartlett  44:41

So I’ve got colleagues, valued colleagues, who have methods out there, my view is that a method is too fixed. A method means that there’s step one, step two, step three, you know, we all know the very famous method with the recipe book and that’s the whole thing, you know, you’ve got to have certain ingredients got to put them together in a certain way. for everybody, that’s what I don’t like about methods. So models are fantastic, because models offer you someone’s vision on how you can put all these basic pillars that I was talking about together to create something. But a model allows the doer, the freedom to rearrange those elements to suit the student.

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith  45:21

Yes. And sometimes you have to, I mean, things change, not only from month to month, they change from week to week, the change in a lesson, they change in a lesson, absolutely. And you have to be able to pull out whatever tool needs to be pulled out for that particular job. And sometimes that one tool you think is going to work doesn’t work. So you have to try something else. And keep trying until something actually helps the student and I agree 100%, about methods, that’s, you’re teaching every student the same way. And it’s generally one person’s opinion. And usually, they charge a lot of money for it, too.

Irene Bartlett  46:03

Yeah, so it’s just for me, it’s fraught with Chinese whispers too, because the person who developed that method usually is incredibly good. And they know what they were looking for. And they’ve had, they’re basing it on their experience with years of teaching. And then as somebody buys that method, and they may be an absolute beginner, who knows nothing, that not none of that background of the methodologists. And so they start to work that rigidly without the understanding what sat underneath to, to bring that. So that’s my worry with methods that you get, it gets weakened and diluted and, and becomes very regimented, because the person who buys the method thinks I’ve paid for that, I’m going to do it like that, because it’s all and I’m going to be contentious here. I also think,

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith  46:47

That’s fine, I love that on my show.

Irene Bartlett  46:49

I just think it’s a bit lazy, I think if you, if you buy them in the person who buys them at the view by the method, and you just stick to that, then you’re abrogating your responsibility to be a thinker outside of somebody else’s thinking, you’re actually you’re delivering a product. And that’s okay. If you say, if you advertise you’re delivering this product, that’s fine for me. But your student has to know that you are delivering the product, that you’re not actually delivering something especially designed for them.

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith  47:16

So you almost have to go into the teaching studio with a disclaimer, so to speak,

Irene Bartlett  47:23

At least have it out there that this is someone’s method. And of course, we know now, again, I’m not mentioned as but, you know, really pioneering methods. And they were methods that have been, you know, people have studied them and been associates and all the rest of it, and then all of a sudden decided on, you know, they want to start their own business. And they they literally are pinching without, you know, without making it obvious what they’ve learned from that method, and they create their method. So we end up with these methods or methods or methods, that and a lot of it I see on the internet, I go, Oh, I remember looking at that 30 years ago, but it’s being sold as a new approach.

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith  48:00

And it’s been watered down and all I can say is too many.

Irene Bartlett  48:05

Exactly. And it’s not it’s not anemia. Yeah. In academia, you the protocol is that you cite someone. So you know, whenever I, if I use something, I’ve heard veterans say if I use something, I’ve heard Millie Saunders say something new. As soon as said, I always say, the first time I heard this was here, and it was by my colleague, this person, but you don’t have to do that in private industry. So the person who’s buying the product at the end, doesn’t know the history behind it. Yeah. So I just think that’s a that’s why methods for me just their marketing tool.

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith  48:38

Yes. So what do you think has been the greatest revolution in terms of voice teaching? Would you say that? For science?

Irene Bartlett  48:47

Yeah, absolutely. That, you know, for years, singing teachers were very resistant to Voice Science, because it was all about the artistry, and the and the art of singing. And don’t get me wrong, that’s still incredibly important. If you’re going to be successful. That’s what the audience wants to see. But the what’s Voice Science has done is made it very transparent for us, as teachers to be able to diagnose and faults in someone’s voice or problems, issues, whether you want to call them and to be able to attend to those in a structured way. So to go, Look, you know, they’re getting divorced all the time, or they’re getting fatigued like it gigs thing has come to me all the time about that. And they go, Well, let’s look at what you’re doing. So let me here’s show me a video of yourself on the gig. Now let’s sing something. Let me hear what you do in you know, in this situation, and then I’m looking for not the symptoms, not the hoarseness, not the fatigue. Yeah, not the, I’m looking for, oh, hang on, you know, what is underneath what’s underpinning all of this? So this will go these foundational pillars, you can basically go, gosh, if you look at them sideways, they look like this, the heads out here, well, let’s go there first. And let’s not really fix a problem that well, where do we go next? You know, so that’s the way I look at it, yeah.

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith  49:59

Yes. And is there one common fault that seems to be coming in more and more into your teaching studio? Like, what would you? When I say fault? What are you are diagnosing more than ever?

Irene Bartlett  50:14

Alignment? Because of phones and whatever? Yeah, it’s getting more students. Yeah, where they, instead of back here, you know, so that’s, I’m finding, I have to deal a lot with alignment. And often I do it in a way that student doesn’t know I’m doing it. I’m not saying, you know, we do not want to be saying to people sit up straight, straighten your neck and all that stuff, because all they can do is fix our muscles. But we have to somehow rectify that and make them aware. And then once they’re aware, then you explain what you’re doing. But then the other thing is, of course, tension. And it’s because I’m told that CCM says now contemporary singers, pop singers, whatever you want to call popular music singers that they’re singing out of. They’re just a general. So they all want to, you know, all the girls want to sound like Jennifer Hudson Beyonce, Alisha? Yes, yes, yes. They all want to sound big and looming.

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith  51:03

Yeah, but even so, some of the lightest singers that you have, they’re like Ariana Grande. Some of these singers sound like whistling kettles, too. And they want to set up. They’re like these singers.

Irene Bartlett  51:17

And these see that young young people, especially young, young kids, I call them kids. Sorry, because I’m old enough to call kids. But the younger students are coming in with a fixed idea of how they want to sound. They don’t know what their own voice sounds like. Yeah. Because they’ve been mimicking so much that they think that is their voice. And so what happens is, we end up with all this tension in the voice, because they’re manipulating muscles. Yeah, to create a particular sound that some of the boys, you know, I had a tenant, I had a baritone walk into my room who wants to was happy to be a baritone. And I went, Oh, my goodness, thank you. No, that’s, that makes me feel so good. Because all boys think they’re tenants and they’re not. And but this, they’ve got access to those notes. So they’re singing up there, but on extreme tension. So and we’re not talking about tension on that body tension, tension from the feet up, basically. But you know, jaw tension, Tang, root tension, extrinsic muscle tension in the neck, there’s all this tension going on. It’s because they’re forcing their voice, either to where it’s not suited at all, or it’s just not ready to be.

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith  52:17

Yeah, that is a huge problem. So what’s your teaching philosophy?

Irene Bartlett  52:22

My teaching philosophy is good singers good singing. So my teaching philosophy is, in a nutshell, my teaching philosophy is to look at the student that comes in saying, Sorry, not the student, look at the singer who comes into the room, listen to them sing, don’t start immediately jumping to exercises and things that you don’t know, have any relevance to that singer. So let’s listen to the singer sing that way, in the moment, you know, what their singing voice is, like, at that moment, you’re going to teach them know what it’s gonna be like, in an hour’s time, or what it was like three hours before, or what it was like before they do the gig on the weekend, and then went out and party, you know, so let’s, let’s look at what we’re dealing with right now. And then work our program instantly into what’s How can you send that student out of the room with one thing that they can do better than when they walked in? And, and I really mean one thing, because yes, in the listeners, our brains don’t really want, we want consistency, you want them to go away and be able to practice that one thing. So I guess it’s, it’s very medical, in terms of I mean, I’m very, as you know, I’m very science based. Yes. So he is just freed our thinking totally, and informed, informed thinking, but do no harm. That’s a medical thing, like, and you can we’re seeing us when we’re dealing with, with singers, we’re dealing with their psyche, we’re dealing with who they think they are, we’re dealing with who they want to be. And so actually getting someone to hear their own voice, who’s always been mimicking someone else. That’s a that’s a very intense experience for that student. But then going, You know what, so let’s work on it. Can you not sound like that? Of course, you didn’t sound like these other people. I was cover similar to yours. Of course, I want to for many, many years. Of course, I want to sound like the public wants me to sound like that singer. Yeah, with the hand, I do that that’s best for my vocal health and is best for my longevity in the industry. So yeah, it’s a matter of and they appreciate that students get it really fast that you’re actually looking to do the best for them. So I guess the philosophy is, do no harm good singers, good singing, build the basics, then you’re the singer.

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith  54:29

So you’ve been a trailblazer. As I said earlier, I think you’ve been kind of ahead of your time, especially internationally some of the work that you’ve done. Has there ever been times that your colleagues or institutions have tried to silence you?

Irene Bartlett  54:47

No, look, I have to say this thing at the cost of the cons been very forward looking at the executive, the people who are running the shop, but I have to say, for all teachers, it’s your money. Should on your output. So it’s what how you students, not just sound but how they talk about you. It’s so I’ve, they’ve always I just tell you the anecdote so I was actually early very early in my career at the Conservatorium, probably second or third year, I had a postgraduate This is when I was just doing a couple of lectures in pedagogy. And I had this postgraduate singer who was, I’d been giving her a few lessons away from classical because she was a woman in her 50s, she had had an orchestral singing career, like she was a, she was a classical singer in the true sense. But she was started teaching, she wanted to teach music theater. So basically, we worked on a program where she did a couple of beautiful areas, then she did a sort of French art song or something, and, and then she did a music theater legit. So that was all fine, because I was sitting on a panel with the head of classical voice at the time. So that was all fine. Even when she got to the legit, the classical person was very happy with that sound, because we’re still quite classical. Yeah. And then then I had to get her into a one to get her into her lower register speaking register. I actually, I got her to sing them. Mama from Chicago, oh, my gosh, to mama took a ride out. And it was a way of making sure that she could stay in a speech versus to get in to relocate. So she’s saying that and, and the classical person who’s sitting next week, when Oh, oh, is that damaging? And I go, No, no, she’s, this isn’t the sound she’s making. It’s fine. But her final song was I will survive.

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith  56:32

No. I will survive by this song.

Irene Bartlett  56:40

And the classical, really amazing classical teacher had a wonderful career as a singer herself, but also as a teacher was head of classical theory, turned to me and she said, Oh, I don’t don’t understand what she’s doing. detachably sounds quite healthy. Finally, that. So basically, that was my entree, not impressing people like that with a healthy singer. That’s all. They thought that if she sang in low rich, that conversational as a classical singer, she would have a bust of war. So by the end, she will be able to speak Yeah. And I always say that, too. When I’m giving lectures to classical audiences of teachers, I always say, Look, you know, I’ve yet to have to pick a larynx up the floor and shove it back into someone’s throat. No one’s ever. So it really doesn’t hurt you. But you know, again, in degree, if someone’s fully classically trained, you do this slowly, you build their reach to speed with with the highlights, position, everything so.

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith  57:38

And it’s hard work because I actually had a PhD student that came to me who was classically trained, and was having CCM lessons. And even after the 10 weeks, it was still hard work.

Irene Bartlett  57:52

Of course it is. And it was still hard to say we’re not, we’re not trying to make them perform as in different in these different amazing genres. What we’re doing is saying, here’s an experience of now you know, what a contemporary singers trying to do. Because, you know, contemporary singers have to Alex has to be completely free. If we’re going to be healthy. To move wherever we need to, we’re going to use every onset in a in a single fall by phrase that’s very different to what a classical singer has to do, where they can set up the larynx in its movable, of course, but set up in a reasonably lower position, they hit for just the vocal tract, all that. And then, of course, the difficulty for them is they’ve got to maintain that and they’ve got to be able to sing, you know, to really long phrases and beauty of the sound is measured by the music, what does music determine? So they’re very different than art saying one’s better than the other? I’m just saying, yes, lovely for ages. And for singers to understand that, hey, this, this contemporary thing is actually, my classical singer said to me, I didn’t realize how difficult this would be. But I just thought it was just repertoire, you say yes. And the contemporary singers say the same about classical they’re made to sing, the women are all singing in the empty mechanism to they’re all singing with vibrato, and you know, on onset and things like that. So it’s like, yeah, it’s difficult for both ends.

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith  59:06

Yes. And also, as someone who had classical training for the first time in their lives was made last year, as someone else’s PhD, I was actually a participant in their doctoral research. And I had these classical lessons. I was nearly passing out from the amount of air intake, I was going, oh my gosh, how do you guys do this? I thought I was gonna burst like I was a balloon that was gonna go pop from all the air. It was. It was crazy. I was exhausted after the lesson.

Irene Bartlett  59:40

And you get a classical, you get a classical singer. And you tell them that they actually they don’t need all that and you can’t take all that area and let you take it. You’re now going to sing in a conversational phrasing way. They find that incredibly difficult and then all of a sudden, they’re singing flat or singing sharp and they go, oh, you know, it’s because they’ve turned their support off because they think lower its flow means lower support. No, no, no, no, no, we won’t get into that.

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith  1:00:05

No, we won’t. And that’s, and that’s fine. But, you know, a big amount of respect to our classical colleagues, you know? Absolutely. So you’ve had a massive Korea, like long Korea, and I, you know, credit to you, because it’s a difficult industry that we’re in. And if you want to sustain a career in this industry, you have to be a hustler. And there, you know, you do have to hustle.

Irene Bartlett  1:00:35

Because these days you do you absolutely. And you also got to be completely flexible. And you’ve got to be constantly learning, you got to keep up with all the latest stars, you can’t be a specialist in contemporary music. Unless you’re famous, that’s different. But if you’re if you’re working gig singer, like I was all my life, and especially doing corporate work, where you’re basically told what you what they want, you’ve got to be able to keep up to date. So I’ve got to be able to sing Alicia Keys, I’ve got to be able to sing, and Ariana Grande and things like that. I mean, it’s so not mean. But I’ve got I’ve got to have that repertoire. Because some of them say they want that. Yeah, so you’ve got to keep up to date the whole time.

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith  1:01:13

I call that remaining relevant. That’s sort of my polite way of calling what you’ve just described. So all that all those years that you were working hard, that you’re working your way up through the ranks, there must have been times where you thought oh my gosh, like this is exhausting, who’s been your biggest advocate, and who has helped picked you up in those times when you thought, oh, my gosh, this is just too much.

Irene Bartlett  1:01:43

It’s interesting. I’ve never wanted to throw in the towel, because it’s not my personality, the harder it’s the morning determined to go there. So it’s been many people over time, my husband is obviously the most consistent and constant in my life.

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith  1:01:55

Yes, go Brandon.

Irene Bartlett  1:01:56

Yeah, because he, you know, he was the one who said, aren’t you? Talented? You’re intelligent, just if you just stick to your guns, basically. Yeah, so he’s been the constant there. But it’s been musicians I’ve worked with who just believed in me and gone, you know, you can You can sing higher, you can sing you do this, in this case, oh, yeah, they’re gonna cost you can do it with your voice agents who have said to me, we want you to go on, you want your support act for some major country singer, and you’ve got to go on this tour, you know, with them. And I go, but I’m not a country singer. Or you can say anything, just just learn the repertoire. And lover of Charles always already my head anyway. But it’s been nice. It’s not been known to people as much as people who have in the industry who have said to me are and you can do that, you know, or, look, just just go away and make it work, you know, and that sort of, I was brought up in a family that said that to my mother, I said, just take your chin out and keep going. You know, she said, If you don’t know how to do it, now, you’ll you’ll learn by the end of the day. So just keep going. You know? So I grew up with that. And I think that academically I’ve had some fantastic mentors, who, because I came to study so late, really like you did. But you know, I’d had a family, I had a working career. I was going from I was going into work and teaching for like nine till five, I was packing up my gear, it was in the back of my car in the morning before I left, going straight to a gig, getting dressed and getting the gear up and then getting home at one o’clock in the morning and then getting up and doing it all again. And then you know, but also have to look after the family. And you know, I’m a good cook, and it was like mums doesn’t ever take away. And so you just have to be organized to realize that I’m not an organized person. I don’t write everything down, but I’m organized in here and I can prioritize. So yes, yes. So I’ve not I’ve had all these people who have supported that, you know, let’s say my dad was the first I should mentioned my dad. I mean, he he just told me I was the best singer. I’ve never been born. And it gives me It saves me just just singing Nico. Have you heard this song? Why don’t you sing this one? And you know, and he comes with my gigs for the first 25 years of my career. He was there carrying my music bag.

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith  1:04:05

So you didn’t have a mommy-ger, you had a daddy-ger?

Irene Bartlett  1:04:09

Oh yeah, no, my mom didn’t want anything to do with it. She just thought it was all she said, my dad, you’re pushing her, you know, let her do this. Let her do what she wants to do. And I’m going but actually, I liked this. She supported me she’d come to gigs. She was proud of me, but But it was my dad who sort of kept saying, you know, why don’t you bring that agent or why don’t you look I’ve seen this show I reckon you should try out for that. And when when he died, we found his ball with clippings of me and singing taverns and hotels and and RSL clubs and but he kept everything like they will all major to him. He didn’t care, you know so.

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith  1:04:49

what fascinates me about that is that he wasn’t involved in the music industry, but well what a great understanding he had of it. There was a Did it play? Yes.

Irene Bartlett  1:05:01

And he was really cool. He’s saying, of course always. And I think it’s one of the reasons I’ve got a sink, I’m actually controlled Oh, if you’re going to class be in a classical sense, classical teachers have told me that, basically, I think it’s because I grew up with my dad singing in my ear. And a lot of male singers, my brothers will list all males, but and they all saying everybody’s saying that it was listening to male singers as well, a lot. Yeah. And women in those days could have lower voices, too. So it’s interesting,

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith  1:05:29

What I find fascinating with you, and what I think you know, that’s, that’s just so beautiful, is when I’ve seen you present and you introduce yourself, you say, first and foremost, I am a wife, a mother, a grandmother, before you start telling people anything else about you. And I know you have a really hectic schedule, but I also know how important family is to you. How do you find that balance? And what advice would you give to other women who are trying to juggle everything?

Irene Bartlett  1:06:10

It’s not easy. Let me say that. Okay. But it’s quality time. It’s about quality. It’s about loving your kids, I think it’s just letting them knowing that and, you know, my kids can be proud of what I’ve achieved in my life, they see their mum as being someone who does stuff, you know, and gets it down. But it was like, you know, early in the piece, I mean, if, when they were little, I did not apologize for taking my kids with me. So I was on stage I was six months pregnant with all of them. And, and basically back within six, seven weeks afterwards, so I just mum or mother in law, my sister in law, someone would come with me, and I’d be feeding them in the change room in between sets. And I never made no apologies for that. So that was unusual in those days. But I went no, you know, this is, this is what I want to do for me is the singing part. That was for me, that’s my career. But my family, I can’t I’m not going to leave them alone either. So it was like, just bring them with you. And that’s why I said I had the reputation was having family members. And it was so I never did the six times overall thing because my family with me or my kids.

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith  1:07:13

So you had the Partridge Family for most?

Irene Bartlett  1:07:17

But you know, bring coloring books, bring something and throw them under the table and give them something to play with. But so they were quite involved. And you know, so Brennan always came to gigs and supported me to not he carried the bag sometimes as well. But he was busy creating his career. So he wasn’t always there to do it. But there was always family. And yet and they were part of what I was doing. So they had they had equity in Atlanta. So they were they were proud of me. And they love to come out to my gigs. And they love to see me on TV. And they tell all their mates come watch. And you know, so it was I couldn’t rent a car out. Yeah, I always had rented.

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith  1:07:48

Yeah, you had your own fan club. I love that. Yeah. What do you believe is your greatest accomplishment?

Irene Bartlett  1:07:56

My family, my kids.

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith  1:07:57

I’m knew you—I knew you were going to say that. Because that’s for life.

Irene Bartlett  1:08:02

Yes, that’s what as you get older, you realize, that’s what you invest, you’ve got to invest time in and lo, it’s not something that you can’t just have them and let them look after themselves. It’s, they’ve got to know you’re there for them. And yeah, and just keep them involved in Don’t, don’t shut them out from your blog, tell them what you’re doing, and let them come and see you. And so basically that and then my students, to be honest with you, then the next level is down is, you know, because I still, you know, I get contacted people I talk 30 years ago, wanting me to see how I am or what they’re telling what they’re doing. That’s why I’m not on Facebook, by the way, because husband would do that would be a full time job for me, ya know, so students are really important for me too. And then, of course, there’s an ego and you can’t be a performer or a researcher without it without some sort of ego because you’ve got to have an intention. So I love the fact that I’m able to in fact, I was just I said to someone the other day, I just love thinking, I love that I love the process of thinking in the best ways to do research. Yes, I just love to know what’s going on. And—

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith  1:09:06

I think you’re, you’re just naturally curious, and you have a hunger for information. And I’ve kind of described myself, I have to know everything about everybody and everything as well. And I love that, you know, I do I enjoy learning as well. So from a professional standpoint, what would you like to be your legacy? Because you’ve achieved so much and you given so—

Irene Bartlett  1:09:34

I’m gonna say workwise let’s get away from you know, a family thing is that’s always the big fear but workwise that made a difference that actually you have different it’s not important like world health or stopping famine or which are most important things that in my own little niche that I’ve flown the flag. And you know, that was my major driver I wanted when I was writing my degrees I wanted people to understand What a working professional has to do and what’s expected of them. And basically, that they’re really important. So contemporary singer is the equal to every classical singer out there, that we work just as hard, maybe in a different way. But we work vocally, we’ve got to work hard. Career wise, we’ve got to work hard is the same thing. You know, this is this good. Sydney is good singing thing again. Yeah, basically, it’s actually I wanted, I wanted us to stop saying nonclassical and Jeanette, fix that, thank goodness. And then other people have followed on, but I wanted contemporary singing, to be recognized as an art form. And I think, in this certainly in my, in my sphere of influence, that’s the case now.

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith  1:10:41

Yes. And you’ve encouraged me to do the same. You’ve encouraged me to be an advocate for those music styles too. And honestly, like having you, I don’t want to get emotional. But having you in my life has been life changing. Truly. Because, like you are someone that believed in me, and I wouldn’t be here now. I wouldn’t have a book, I wouldn’t have a degree. I wouldn’t have a PhD. I wouldn’t have a podcast. It all started with you, Irene. And there’s no denying that because it was someone who believed in me.

Irene Bartlett  1:11:20

So can you see you’re saying what I said, when you said her the most influential people, it’s people who believe in you. It’s powerful. You see the quality in you, it’s PBSC potential in you? And she thought that and encourage it. Yeah. Yeah. So thank you. So that’s lovely.

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith  1:11:35

No, well that’s the truth. I’m not saying that. And I’ve said that to you. And you’re always so humble. When I say it. And I’ve heard other people tell you that as well. So you have had a big influence over people’s lives. And that filters through into our personal lives to because it’s changed me as a person. I don’t want to Yes. Okay. So what is the greatest piece of advice? We’re almost done here, Irene, I promise you, you’ve been really generous with your time, what is the greatest piece of advice you would like to offer? Our singing voice community?

Irene Bartlett  1:12:14

Be open to everything, but particularly be open to the knowledge that’s out there now that you know, you’re not on your own anymore. When when I first started to research, I couldn’t find anything about contemporary singing. I literally mean that I had to go. I was that the first Belt Conference ever to be held. And that was in New York in 2000, at the New Yorker Hotel, and there were 500 Odd teachers, and I think there were basically 95% classically, of course, they were those days. But you know, just basically, I had to find that and I had to put the money out, no one sponsored me I had to do all my own, but basically go and on my own, which was the first overseas trip I’d ever done on my own, yeah, scary. And you got to find something you really believe in and just pursue it. And that might mean you’ve got to put yourself right out there. Also be brave, because, you know, the first time I was asked to do a conference presentation, I was terrified. Because it was the beginning, though, I knew I was going to be talking to a whole lot of classical people. And I thought, you know, who am I to stand up here and tell people with a 700 year lineage, of history of music, making what I do, but I did and and basically, that was the first breakthrough. Because I started to get all these invitations from New Zealand and other places in the world to go and talk. Because I just spoke, you know, and speak your own truth, basically. And we do that we think about in politics, and we think about it in health and things. But we can do that in music, waste. And if you’re genuine and you’re honest and you are prepared to share, please be a sharer. Anyone that is you numbers. Anyone who comes into my my studios open, anyone can observe what I’m doing. I don’t care where you are in the world. I want to come over and observe if you want, I have no nothing that no nothing that’s mine in singing, it’s yours. Because I’ve been an eclectic, learner, eclectic collector of, of teaching tools, whatever. So if I know who those people are always telling you who they are. But otherwise, it’s something I’ve adapted. You’re welcome to it. I have there are no secrets. I noticed that. Sorry. But there is no secret to singing. Yeah, there’s no, yeah, it’s a human capacity. We all have the capacity. Everybody in the world who is human can sing. It’s just that people judge, unfortunately. Yeah. So that’s, I guess that’s the next thing. Do not be a judge.

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith  1:14:37

Yes. I do have to share one little quick story though. And when you were talking about the first time you presented well, my first time presenting was with you, Irene, in Florence, at people talk and I’ll never forget it. I was talking about CCM was based on my research and in the front row was Jeanette libretro. Me. And then there’s Julianne Kay’s Kim charm, was there a whole bunch of pedagogues Lisa Popeil? And, and you said to me, come on, you can do it. And I was hoping you’d forget that I was going to present with you the whole time. And then that morning, like literally two hours before the presentation, you said, Okay, we’re gonna write the presentation now. Oh my gosh, like, talk about Welcome to the presenting world. From then on, it was a piece of cake. So you literally threw me in the deep end, and it was either sink or swim. And I tell you what, I’ve never swum any harder. And I’ve only been like getting my hair wet. It was like, and we’ve had many fun times ever since then. But you introduce me to presenting? And then you continue to ask me to go to conferences with you. And I’ll share this with you now. And I would always say yes. And I never had the money to go. But you always allowed plenty of time. And I’d say yes. And then I figure out how I was going to save the money. So people Yeah, absolutely. Be brave, go into it. Don’t let anything hold you back from doing it. Because there’s always a way to get there. And there’s always a way to do it if you really want to. So, Hi, Ron, I’m going to wrap this up. Now. It has been such a joy having you on the show. I appreciate all the time you’ve given you’ve been really generous, because we’re gone for quite a while and and you’ve shared so much of you and your story and you continue sharing all your knowledge. You continue learning and then passing that on to all of us who have fortunate to be a part of your life and a part of your studio. So thank you so much.

Irene Bartlett  1:16:54

You’re welcome Marisa as always, yes. Thank you for listening.

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith  1:16:57

Okay, and we’re going to share links too to the program at Queensland Conservatorium, so people want to learn more they can that’ll be in the show notes. So thank you, Irene, have a great rest of your day.

Irene Bartlett  1:17:11

Thank you

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith  1:17:17


Dr Marisa Lee Naismith  1:17:17

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 #AVoiceAndBeyond. I promise you I am committed to bringing you more inspiration and conversations just like this one every week. And if you would 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.

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