This week’s guests are Kayla Saunders & Dominique Petit Frere.

In July, A Voice and Beyond embarked on a “Beyond” adventure on a cruise ship sailing around the Mediterranean, but it wasn’t all play for me, as I had the pleasure of doing something that I hadn’t done before and that was to interview two guests simultaneously, in an in-person situation. Kayla Saunders and Dominque Petite Frere were two of the production cast singers performing onboard the ship, Celebrity Beyond, and they sat down and shared their own personal experiences as singers working within the cruising industry, in a tell all interview. They explained the audition process, the grueling rehearsal schedule, their work demands and performance expectations. We also discussed Kayla and Dom’s regime for maintaining good vocal health, but most importantly, how they take care of their physical, mental and emotional health and well-being while living in a pressure cooker environment, onboard a ship. Other important topics we delved into were how the cruising industry can provide support for its performers, for example, having a vocology team on standby to support vocalists’ healthcare needs, but also how the industry can further promote and create policy around inclusivity, belonging, equity and diversity. This is an eye-opening interview and I felt very privileged sitting in the company of both Kayla and Dom as they spoke so candidly about their personal experiences in an industry that can continue to improve support for its performers.

In this episode

05:35 — Kayla’s Musical Influences

07:44 — Dom’s Formal Musical Education

14:11 — Transitioning to life onboard a Cruise Ship

23:10 — Appointing a Vocal Captain

26:52 — What Is a Black Track?

31:10 — Impact of Manipulating the Voice

40:58 — Celebrity Beyond

54:21 — Responsibilities of a Vocal Captain

57:43 — Vocal Warmup Exercises

1:01:04 — Taking Care of Their Physical, Mental, and Emotional Health on the Ship

1:07:17 — Typical Production Show’s Schedule

1:13:58 — Things the Company Can Do Better for Artists

1:19:57 — Is There a Gender Bias in Terms of Pay?

1:24:47 — Being Black in the Entertainment Industry in Terms of Inclusivity

1:33:30 — Advice for Other Performers Coming to the Ship

1:36:39 — Kayla & Dom’s Next Plans

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

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Episode Transcription

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith  00:05

It’s Marisa 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  01:12

In July, A Voice and Beyond embarked on a beyond adventure on a cruise ship around the Mediterranean. But it wasn’t all play for me as I had the pleasure of doing something that I hadn’t done before. And that was to interview two guests simultaneously in an in person situation. Kayla Saunders and Dominique Petit Frère were two of the production cast singers performing onboard celebrity beyond and they sat down and shared their own personal experiences as singers working within the cruising industry. In a tell all interview, they explained the audition process, the grueling rehearsal schedule, their work demands and performance expectations. We also discussed how Kayla and Dom both maintain good vocal health but most importantly, how they take care of their physical, mental and emotional health and well being while living on board a cruise ship in a pressure cooker environment. Other important topics we delved into were how the cruising industry can better support its performance. For example, having a bow ecology team on standby would be most beneficial in terms of healthcare for vocalists, but also how the cruising industry can do better at creating safe spaces around inclusivity, belonging, equity and diversity. This is an eye opening interview. And I felt really privileged sitting in the company of both Kayla and Dom as they spoke so candidly about their personal experiences in an industry that can do better to support its performance. So without further ado, let’s go to today’s episode.

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith  03:29

Welcome to A Voice and Beyond. We have Dom and Kayla. And they are two of Celebrity Beyond’s Production Cast Singers. And as many of you who have been following me on social media will know I’ve been on a beyond adventure. And I’ve been calling it A Voice and Beyond is going beyond. And we literally are we are in the dressing rooms backstage of the main theater. And I’d like to welcome to the show, Kayla and Dom. So welcome. 

Kayla Saunders  04:07

Hi. 

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith  04:08

And this is something we’ve never done before. We’ve never done a live interview where I mean, always the guests are still alive. But we’re in the same room. Usually my guests are overseas and we’re doing via zoom. So this is something completely different. So I’m very excited. So I want everybody before hold on to your life jackets because we have so much to share with you today as I’ve been following the pair of you around the ship for the last 10 nights and I’ve just been overwhelmed with the talent. Like you guys are both so incredible. So why don’t we start with introducing yourself especially you Dom because your name has like 500 words in it. It’s so douchey and a little bit about yourselves where you’re from, how many contracts you’ve done with the company or other cruise ship companies. So, let’s hear a little bit about both of you.

Kayla Saunders  05:18

Okay, I will go first. My name is Kayla Saunders. I am originally from Delaware in the United States. This is my third contract. I’ve only worked with Celebrity Cruise Lines before. 

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith  05:34

Okay, so what about your musical influences?

Kayla Saunders  05:38

Yeah, so I grew up doing musical theater. I went to Peace University and I studied Musical Theater and got a BFA in that Musical Theater. And since working for Celebrity, I have kind of expanded my horizons, got a stigma of pop music or rock music. So I do a little bit of everything.

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith  06:00

Usually do. I’ve seen you do a little bit of everything and do it all incredibly well. 

Kayla Saunders  06:07

Thank you. 

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith  06:08

Yes. So, Dom, introduce yourself please.

Dominique Allen Lopez Petit Frère  06:13

Hi. So my name is Dominique Allen Lopez Petit Frère. The Lopez is my mom’s side and her family comes from Spain. The Petit Frère side is my dad’s obviously, but it’s actually French for a little brother. And it’s fitting for me because I’m the youngest of five. So grew up singing with my brother just above me. We were taught by my sister Erika. And then after a while, my mom kind of got hooked on having a sing for all her friends. My brother was very shy, but I kind of got smart, and I started charging my mom. If you give me $5, so then I started. Businessman. But I started doing that. But I grew up singing in church in school. So I started working for celebrity in 2017. I’ve done seven contracts with them. Wow. Yeah, yes. So then they’re six on board. But, and one swing contract that was just in the rehearsal studio. But I went to school, I did a conservatory based program, where we studied everything from art and classical music to pop in musical theater. So, I got a well grounding education in vocal production.

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith  07:44

Yes, and when you went to study formal education, was that classical training?

Dominique Allen Lopez Petit Frère  07:54

So the way the program worked, we did, we focused on classical music, because it was like a choral program that tied like, musical theater and other genres together. But the main focus was classical. So they provided voice teachers, and there were like maybe seven or eight voice teachers to pick from that worked at the university, I chose to try my hand with a classical teacher. And we had like a mock voice lesson where he just got a feel for my voice. And so we sang together, he had me do some skills, and he, I’ll be honest, he tore my voice apart. He told me really, everything I was doing was wrong, that I had no foundation of proper singing, and just basically made me feel like I wasn’t good enough, even before I even started studying with him. Um, so I knew that wasn’t going to be a good fit. And I looked around at the other bios in the hallway of the other voice teachers. And I saw a woman who had played Effie White injuring girls everywhere. So I was obsessed with Dreamgirls at that time in my life. So I was like, this is the person that I want to teach me. And her name was vanetta Mixon fantastic vocalist. And she taught me Speech Level Singing. But the first day I sang with her, she was like, I don’t want to change your voice. I want to work with what you have great. And I want to help you create habits so that way you are always able to access any part of your voice when you need it, and you can expect it to be there. So that kind of just stuck with me. She didn’t flood my mind with technical terms. It was all about feeling it was very singing was an emotional thing for her. She said I should I would never sing the song the same way because I should run on how I feel. And so we learned about how it’s all connected the body the emotions, mental, physical, everything and so I couldn’t even tell you some Sometimes what I’m doing with my voice, but other people may hear it and know exactly the technical term. I just know what it feels like.

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith  10:07

Yes, I would call that coming from a promise sound approach. So coming from the intention to make that sound. So being emotionally connected, and then having a need to portray or to give the audience that feeling of what you’re feeling. And what about you, Kayla? Was your training classically based?

Kayla Saunders  10:36

No, so it was mostly musical theater. I mean, we would dabble in, like more legit musical theater sounds. But for the most part, it was pop bass usable theater. I had a voice teacher, as well pays who is very similar to what that sounds like Dom’s, Dom’s experience was, and it was a lot of like, if this is this, this is how they should feel. And this shouldn’t hurt. And you know, kind of like he said, like, everything’s connected to the body. And we would do a lot of like, grounding and stuff like that. But, but we did a lot of musical theater. And that was–

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith  11:19

Yes, yes. I teach students who, in a pop program who have come from a musical theater background, and I actually find them the hardest to teach in terms of like, taking away all their toys, you know, the over articulation, the really strong American accent, the this the vibrato, that kind of thing. Did you find that hard yourself when you started to study? 

Kayla Saunders  11:53

Yes, so, when I first got to school, they told me that my, my belt was really brassy and harsh and I needed to work on my butt. They told me that you need to work on my mix and kind of make it more of a smoother sound. So I worked on that a lot. My another big issue that I would have would be my vows. Because yes, yeah, there’s a kind of a Delaware accent that I had. Yeah, I don’t think I have it anymore.

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith  12:32

Like, what’s the Delaware accent sound like?

Kayla Saunders  12:36

Well, it’s kind of like Delaware, Philly. And I can’t do it, though. But people will say like, oh, go to a border like, go Yeah, border. But yeah, my big issue was by my vows, I had to work on that. And that kind of gave me a clear tone as well which helps.

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith  12:59

Yes, and because I’m a singing teacher, and I not only listen, but I also watch how you produce sound, and the shape of your mouth. And I don’t do it on purpose. It’s kind of like it’s just comes instinctively. It’s listening and watching and, and I see the shape of your vows. And you do have that really long, especially when you’re belting using a really well, you using the appropriate shape for a belt sound. So you would have had to learn that and get get rid of the Delaware. A belt and silver and I when hearing you sing the 80s rock show, you actually had a very raw belt, which was appropriate to style as well. And, and a musical theater belt would not have cut that and made that an authentic sound at all. Yeah, yeah. Okay, so let’s talk about your journey and how you’ve ended up on a ship. So what was your How did you transition to the role of being on a ship contract?

Kayla Saunders  14:20

I’ll go first.. So I just graduated college. And I was auditioning in New York and I, my main goal was to get money so that I can move to New York. And I would love I was like I’m going to do a tour or a cruise ship or something. So I auditioned for celebrity and after doing a bunch of other auditions for other cruise lines and stuff like that, and then I booked it and the rest was history and travel of course as well. Because yeah, especially when you don’t have time To apartment or house, it’s the perfect–

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith  15:02

Well, husband and children. Yeah, and all the rest of it. But also to with celebrity, what some of the listeners may not know is that you actually don’t have any onboard duties other than performing at night time. Sure you do drill you do master, but you don’t have to call being go or do an aerobics class or do childminding or whatever it is, because some of the other cruise line companies, you actually have to do other onboard duties as well. So it is a great time that you can go and visit port sick. If it’s a ashore day, you can go on shore and visit all these amazing cities. And what about you, Dom?

Dominique Allen Lopez Petit Frère  15:52

I was working in Japan.

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith  15:54

Oh, hello!

Dominique Allen Lopez Petit Frère  15:57

And I had met a young lady named talk to me, so when I went back the following year to do a self produced show called Kiss Me Quick. Almost you. Okay. Passion dash? Yeah, just a real quick. Now that I gone back after spending over a year performing there to do a solo show that I self produced. And I met this young lady named talk to Nisa, in the theme park, and she was incredible vocalist. And I wanted to sing with her. And so she hopped on stage with me and did a duet in my show. And I enjoyed working with her so much, because she just had so much passion. And so I kind of kept in touch with her. And then she ended up working for Celebrity Cruises. And she messaged me, and she was like, hey, they’re looking for male singers. Let’s see if we can get you on my ship. And we can do a cast together. So I submitted my material to the casting director at the time. And she sent me back some stuff to say, and I sent it to her. And I didn’t hear anything back. And I was like, Okay, maybe no, but, you know, my impatience was leaving that feeling. So I woke up the next day after sending that material. And I had checked my views on YouTube. And like, they had already watched it. Yeah. So I woke up the next morning with an offer. Wow. So it was a fast process. And then I knew I’d be leaving in about three months, and they canceled that contract and asked me to come in 10 days.

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith  17:37

That happens. 

Dominique Allen Lopez Petit Frère  17:38

Kind of jumped quick to, you know, start and our starts, our rehearsal date was the same starting point. So I was under the impression that I booked the same ship as her. But we were just rehearsing at the same time. So she ended up doing the Sunday Solstice. Yes. And I ended up doing somebody infinity that I wouldn’t, you know, train that for the world. It’s led me here. And it’s, it’s taught me so much. I’m so happy that she convinced me because I went on a cruise when I was 18 on Disney. And they’re so strict. They they have to work in the library. Yes, they have other duties, as you mentioned. And that turned me off to working on cruise ships. And I auditioned for other cruise ships before celebrity I auditioned for the region book after midnight. But I didn’t want to do it because I didn’t want to deal with the extra duties and the strictness because I thought every cruise line was the same. But Tati she convinced me that slavery was different. Yes. And so as long as I could show up and sing and do what I truly love that I was willing to do it. And that’s what’s been so nice about working here.

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith  18:51

Yes. And so, okay, you landed in Miami, because that’s where the rehearsal process usually begins other than if we’re in COVID times and I know that that is a different process, because you rehearse on the ship during that time, but in a normal situation, you go to Miami, and what is the rehearsal process like, during that time?

Dominique Allen Lopez Petit Frère  19:18

It was a rude awakening. For me my first contract I don’t know if you felt this way. But I was so used to doing like, musical theater, other gigs where you have like about a month or so to learn one show. Here, you rehearse six days a week, 9am to 6pm. And you spend about about eight days on each show, and depending on the vessel that you’re on, you could have four production shows and three theme nights, it varies. So I felt like everything was very fast pace, and I wasn’t used to that style of rehearsing. So we would learn the music in three days or so and then start staging and Then by day seven, you were preparing your office read where they invite all the casting directors and, and people that work in the head office down to watch the final product before it goes to the vessel. So it is stressful. But it’s also hard because you’re with people that you love to do what they do, you’re all young, the same age, it’s like being back in college because you’re in a dorm style living facility. So, you know, drinking and partying comes into the mix. And so you know, you have to find that balance because you work very hard all week. And then Saturday night is the time to go out and have a good time. And you have to kind of rest and recuperate on the Sunday because Monday you start back up again. So it’s it’s a crazy fast process. But once you get like your second or third contract, and it’s like a piece of cake. You figure out your momentum and your rhythm.

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith  21:01

Yes. How was it for UK when you arrived and did your first contract and in that rehearsal process? 

Kayla Saunders  21:09

Yeah, I was so nervous to start. I remember showing up and I think my flight was maybe like a Saturday and then we had Sunday off and then we’re starting on Monday. I didn’t leave my room. I don’t know. So yeah, I flew in on Saturday. I was like, I just, I’m so nervous. I can’t leave my room. And then I would hear in like the hallway like people would be partying and having fun or whatever, like, Oh, I’m just gonna go to bed. And then the next day, I think I went to like, I don’t I was so nervous, because I was like, I’m not gonna make any friends. I don’t know anyone. I didn’t know anyone who worked for the company. But, yeah–

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith  21:51

You were like the new kid on the floor. 

Kayla Saunders  21:53

Yeah, yes. 

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith  21:54

How old were you then?

Kayla Saunders  21:56

I was 21. Yeah, then actually, my birthday was maybe the third day of rehearsals. It’s been really weird, because I’ve had three, three contracts. And then my birthday always lands on like the first day of rehearsal, or like the third, the first week of rehearsal.

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith  22:17

So you almost haven’t had a birthday? You’re still 21? 

Kayla Saunders  22:26

Yeah, yeah. But I was gonna say, it’s, since then, I kind of gotten a swing of things and made friends. And I’m still friends with people from my first contract. Three years later, but I’m getting this–

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith  22:41

So when you go into rehearsal, do they appoint a vocal captain, who then chooses your tracks? So maybe just explain the track situation? Because in musical theater, you have, you know, in terms of the man’s you have the tan on the baritone and whoever else and, and then females, you have the Alto and the soprano. So how do you then define who is singing what part who chooses those roles?

Kayla Saunders  23:16

So when we auditioned, we had we were given based off of whatever song we sang for the audition, they would give us a specific track Id like, for instance, I sang big belty songs. So they gave me songs that I felt there was a couple shifts that have a little bit of legit music as well. So yeah, so if they think you’re right for that track, they’ll have you seen the packet for that for the for the audition. But so they already kind of knew my voice style. And then the next part, I guess, define what track I was in was based off of, I would say, looks well, this one way down.

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith  24:03

Okay. So when you say, look, what are we talking about in terms of looks like we’re talking about height, or what what are we talking about?

Kayla Saunders  24:15

So, we sing a lot of pop music? And I guess you’d–yeah. 

Dominique Allen Lopez Petit Frère  24:26

I’ll just, I’ll be a little more framed. And this is my experience, in my opinion, and it doesn’t reflect Celebrity Cruises. Their values are what they leave with, but this is my experience in right in the seven contracts that I’ve done. It varies. Sometimes there’s a vocal Captain that’s already decided before you even get there because people discuss their contract dealings with the casting director. Yeah, some people will only do it if their vocal captain or you know, so forth, but you for me, I’ve had it where I’ve gone to a contract with a vocal captain already decided or have been asked to be the vocal captain. So But in regards to tracking, as Kayla said, it does sometimes depend on voicing. But for especially, I would say in general, they don’t really count soprano, alto, tenor bass, it’s kind of more so like, in terms of pop range felt like what do you have, and the females and males sit in a similar range area. And a lot of times it sits at the extremes of your voice. So when I’m singing low, I am singing up my lowest, when I’m singing high and singing at my highest. There’s no middle ground. But I will say for the men, they tend to only really hire tennis because that’s what they write the shows for. 

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith  25:53

And most pop songs at the moment are sung in a tenor range, and really, there aren’t a lot of natural tenors.

Dominique Allen Lopez Petit Frère  26:03

That’s very true. I saw a little Husky because we, you know, just got to the end. But my experience in regards to getting cast in a specific truck has varied. I’ve worked and experienced, they like to call it the black track tends to be a truck that is more soulful, or more voiceless, it’s the bigger vocal track of the two, it may not be as featured as the other track. But it’s, it’s tend to be the track that is the one that’s going to come out into the 11th hour song and shut it down. So I–

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith  26:49

Can I just stop you from my words. They call it the black track. Is that Is that how it’s known around the professional circles here on the ship? Or is it?

Dominique Allen Lopez Petit Frère  27:02

In terms of the people that cast it, they don’t call it the black track. But we have worked with, you know, other performers or other musical directors that they’ve hired that they will refer to the m two track or the F two track as the black track. And that’s kind of been something we’ve had a conversation with the company about it. That’s something that they’re steering away from, because they weren’t aware that that’s what it was being called. But at the same time, I believe this. This is a thing that goes beyond celebrity it. It’s the cruise industry, it’s the entertainment industry, it’s Broadway, it’s West Ed, yes, a lot of times these roles are designed for a person of color, because of where the roots of the music stemmed from. And so although that can be a great thing, you run into the problem, sometimes were some myself, I identify with some of the tracking that would not traditionally be the black track. So vocally, some of the shows that suit me better, are the M1 tracks, and I’ve only done M1 twice at celebrity. And I mean, I I’ll be honest, I’m the only black male singer that’s done and one on the edge class. So I did it on edge, the first edge question and I’ve done it here, I’m beyond. And I’m gonna I’m gonna circle back to what I was saying about the issue of the way they do tracking. I think as a society, we’ve gotten into the habit of creating shows, with this magic formula. Of course, we want to check legal checkboxes and make sure that we have diversity and all those things that we as artists stand for. But at the same time, we kind of pigeon holed people into being a specific thing. So now because we expect there to be a big moment from a black female singer or a black male singer or person of color, we’ve now locked ourselves into this that only a black person can play this track, right as because it becomes that we then also lock the other tracks into being, you know, a track for someone Caucasian or another race. And I think that’s troubling because a lot of times you’ll find that the black track is sometimes in a storyline show the evil track or and it’s just because the music lends itself to that. Yes. So they decide to choose like a more soulful song or a more. For example, they would choose something that would be done by prints or or Jimi Hendrix because it’s got that real rough go it to it. And they will put that to an evil character to be a contrast to someone singing like Ellie Goulding. And then they end up keeping that track as a person of color. Yeah. Which is something we should steer away from, because I’ve met many female singers and male singers who do not possess that even though they are black. And they would be more suited to do the auctioneer role, where it’s requires a legit soprano or something like that. So it’s been tough in that sense. But at the same time, I think we’re moving in the right direction, because I’m, you know, doing doing it now. And I hope that in the future, they continue to see that it doesn’t really matter what race you are, we need to focus on the voice type. If you’re right vocally for it, then you’re right. 

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith  30:53

Yes, yes. So that means then that just because you are black, you do the black track. But it doesn’t necessarily mean that that is what your voice suits. And in terms of range in terms of tambor in terms of work, stylistically? How does that then impact in terms of vocal help? Because if you’re having to manipulate your voice, or singular style or a range that is not comfortable for you, does that not cause vocal problems?

Dominique Allen Lopez Petit Frère  31:36

I’ll give a short answer. And then I’ll pass it to Kayla, because she can provide a different insight to this, but for me, it didn’t vocally fatigue me in any way. And I think that’s linked to my training and my background. But at the same time, I think it, it was a blessing in disguise. It helped me learn how to master different genres. Because there are times even though it may lend itself to being just that style. There are other times in different shows where I’m required to do something else. That’s completely different. And, for example, on my first contract, the musical director chose me to sing a song called Allegoria, which is in Italian and in Spanish. Yeah. And it’s because she looked at my last name, it was like, Oh, you seem like someone that may be able to speak another language. And I was like, Well, you’re right, I do speak fluent Spanish. So she got lucky because my counterpart was from the UK. So she got lucky, even though they should be able to teach the material it was just a fast pace situation. And she didn’t have to go through much of the pronunciation with me. But I count it as a blessing because it didn’t help me. And now I’m able to pull from all those different things from those experiences. And I can take any song and really shape it the way I want it and make it me from that.

Kayla Saunders  33:08

Yeah, my experience is similar to Dom’s. I definitely grew a lot having to be, I guess, quote, unquote, forced to sing that specific style. Yeah, but going on vocal health. An interesting thing that happened though, I had to leave the contract early. I was signing off medically. And the other girl had to come in and seeing both my track and her track. Really, they didn’t–

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith  33:38

Oh, should I say that this is a sick track? Yeah, yes. Okay, so just quickly explain the sick track. 

Kayla Saunders  33:47

So we make what they called sick tracks on board in case a singer is sick loses their voice but they aren’t able to be there physically and to physically perform. So what they’ll do if you’re sick they’ll put on your sick track and then you lip sync boil life. Doesn’t happen too often though, especially with our group here on Beyond.

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith  34:13

Yes. And I don’t think I’ve ever heard anyone using a sick track I’ve done sick six cruises. And I don’t think I’ve ever heard a cast use a sick track. Although there was a situation where a singer left broke the contract and left and someone had to step into that role because the single left abrupt virtually yes abruptly is that the word to use and so they had no no one else to to do the tracks so they one of the dancers had to step in and seeing just a mime the sick track but yes. 

Kayla Saunders  34:54

Yeah, that’s that happens a lot as well or even within today’s day and age, you know, someone got forbade gets COVID or quarantine, and we’ll have dancers up in a sec check as well.

Dominique Allen Lopez Petit Frère  35:07

We tend to, we tend to go with someone who feels comfortable. So we tend to work with a lot of dancers that have empty training. And they, they can hold a note they can sing in tune, it’s just that that’s not their, their main discipline. So they, whoever feels the most comfortable. I mean, I had a similar experience and singer left abruptly and our dance captain stepped in. And I enjoyed it so much. But the thing is, is that she can actually sing. She may not like her tone, but I’m actually saying yes. And so during the soundcheck, we turned on her microphone and we let her sing the top part of the show and don’t stop believing and she was belting it out on a tune, she gave me goosebumps.

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith  35:54

That’s amazing. Please don’t tell me she was better than the singer.

Kayla Saunders  35:58

I mean, she she was great, I would have felt that’s the contract that I did as vocal captain. And if I would have had more time with her, I would have felt comfortable with her singing live, because I really did believe in her. Yes. So I definitely think that that’s a possibility. But these six shocks for me, I pride myself in not using them. I think, as a singer, you should always be able to maneuver around what you don’t have. If you feel like something’s not going to work, you know, you got to it’s life, you got to figure out what what you can do. And not everybody has that improv down yet, but this is the perfect place to learn how to do it. Because if you mess it up in the seven o’clock show, you got the nine o’clock show to get it down. And because this is such a long contract, it’s not going to follow you for the rest of your guests that leave that crews aren’t going to be on next cruise, they might be back to back, but then they might not remember and it’s just a good way to perfect your craft.

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith  36:55

Yes, absolutely. So, Kayla, you were telling us that you left for medical reasons. Was that because you have been vocal issues?

Kayla Saunders  37:05

No. It’s a crazy story, actually. So the story is, I was doing a new build. I was doing apex. And it was the last day of our install process. It was a final dress rehearsal for one of the shows. Yes. And I was wearing a big poufy dress. And I walked past the what they called lifts in the back, and it was up and my dress got caught and I turned broke my foot the day before opening night.

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith  37:42

Oh, my goodness. So you’ve done all that rehearsal and broke your foot? No good timing.

Kayla Saunders  37:52

Greatest movements. But yeah, so we had to quickly come up with a contingency plan because I couldn’t do the show. I was in a cast and I have to be signed off. So we had the other singer come in and sing my solos.

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith  38:09

Was that Jen? 

Kayla Saunders  38:10

Yes. Yes. 

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith  38:11

Jen is one of the other singers in this production cast who is also amazing.

Kayla Saunders  38:17

Yes, she’s incredible. So yeah, it was a it was a show where I could we could easily kind of divvy up what I did. So she sang most of what I sang. And then the duet that I sang became a solo and like little things like that. But they ended up not finding a replacement for me or they couldn’t come up. I think it was maybe like, two months or a month.

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith  38:43

That’s a long time.

Kayla Saunders  38:44

Yeah, at least a month. And then when the replacement came they had to teach her the shows because no one’s ever listened to shows it was a new build. So they have a teacher in the show. So took over a while. So Jen was still covering for me. And in doing that she I don’t think she’ll be saying this. But um, but yeah, she had a big vocal injury. And she was under a lot of stress and she had to be medically signed off.

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith  39:11

So what did she have nodules? Or was it something else did she have? Hemorrhage?

Kayla Saunders  39:18

So she went to the “specialists”.

Kayla Saunders  39:22

We were in we were in Greece, so there wasn’t that many opportunities or yeah, good places to go. And she got scoped I believe that yes. They told her that she had nodules. But then she was like, Oh my gosh, I have to go I have to take care of this. And then she went home, went to see a specialist and they were like, You want anything? You’re fine. Just have a breast and try not to be super stressed. And it should you should be fine.

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith  39:55

Because Jen did share the story with me and she said that she was super stressed and she was not coping with the workload with you to being away because you were very close friends and didn’t feel supported not having you there. And you know, it serves as a reminder that as singers, our whole body is the instrument, whatever’s going on, physically, mentally, and emotionally is going to impact how we sing. And if you’re stressed, I mean, everything’s, you’re going to have so much tension, you’re not going to be able to breathe properly, because it’s high, shallow breathing, there’s so many issues surrounding that, and then to go out night after night, and to the wall, like that is not going to be an easy thing. And did she then return to the ship? 

Kayla Saunders  40:46

No. So at that point, I think there was only maybe a month left of the contract. So she went home and she recovered. And then she came back for Beyond.

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith  40:57

Because this is a brand new build. It’s a brand new ship. It is state of the art world class, amazing ship, with billions and billions and billions of dollars. And when you have a new ship, it’s all brand new shows as well. So you guys actually have had a very long rehearsal process, and also installing the show. So when did you start this particular contract?

Kayla Saunders  41:28

We started rehearsals for Beyond in November. And then we were in rehearsals from November to about February. And then we flew to France seen as air, and we, the ship wasn’t ready for us to live on it just yet. So they put us up in a hotel. And we stayed in hotel for a month, give or take. And then finally after that month, we joined the ship.

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith  41:57

Right. Another question, because these times are so unpredictable. And dare I use the COVID word, but I will have any of you had COVID since you’ve been on the ship? 

Kayla Saunders  42:13

I actually didn’t have COVID. I have had COVID around Christmas time. I had it. Because we were in rehearsals we get about a week, Christmas break. And I have big plans to go home with my boyfriend and then have a great Christmas there and then tested positive for COVID.

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith  42:37

That was your Christmas present? Because my daughter, my daughter is one of the dancers in the production casts with with both of you. And she had COVID she woke to the news Christmas Eve that she had tested positive as well. But I know for many singers–Dom you didn’t have COVID?

Dominique Allen Lopez Petit Frère  43:04

So the entire class, I was one of the lucky for that did not catch it. But I I attest that to having the original strain back in 2020. So I don’t know if I built up an immunity along with my vaccination to getting it but I got really lucky. So I did get to go home yes and see my family but because for me and your daughter, especially we came off of a contract the return to service contract. So we haven’t been home for now really over a year. Or last year, April last year is when we started rehearsals for edge and I finished November 14 That contract and then got off the ship in Miami and was shuttled to the hotel and started rehearsals for beyond November 15. Saying so, it’s been a long process of continually taking care of your health mentally and physically. And emotionally honestly, there’s a lot of ups and downs to the process of creating a new build. It’s stressful. Yes. And that can you know play tricks on your your mind. And then that all transcends down to your voice and, and how you’re able to do your job. Even for a dancer as well physically, like it’s exhausting. And if you don’t have the proper tools to take care of yourself, then it makes it even harder. 

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith  44:32

Yes. So just back and back. I have so many questions here based on what both of you had responded. When you had COVID, how was the journey back into singing because like I had COVID and for the first month after having COVID I couldn’t sing a whole verse of a song without a coughing fit. And I think it took me months to fully recover in terms of range, even vocal stamina, being able to breathe.

Kayla Saunders  45:10

So, I actually got long COVID from my COVID in December, and so my symptoms were basically asthma, and I had to get an inhaler. And I could only sleep on my stomach. Yeah, it was, it was really bad. But during all of that I was we were in rehearsals, and we were doing stagedoor, which is the musical theater show.

Kayla Saunders  45:41

Yeah. And that shows a particularly very hefty show for me for my track. And it was so difficult. I, I honest, I don’t find them. I don’t know how I got through it. I had to practice a lot and really figure out where I was taking my breaths. And I don’t know, I don’t know how I got there.

Dominique Allen Lopez Petit Frère  46:05

I remember you, she would come home. Because I was asleep originally for this contract. Yes. So I got to watch a lot and observe along with learning the material. But I remember you had like three inhalers. But I would watch her do this big number, massive number, sound incredible. walk offstage, have a coughing fit, and then need her inhaler. And she would sit with her arms up above her head to, you know, open up her lungs of everything. Yeah. And so it was amazing to see her be able to sing like that and get through it. But then also, it was really hard to watch her struggle, because it was like, This is not easy to for anyone in general, let alone you know, singing through what she was dealing with vocally. And, you know, after COVID. So it’s quite amazing to watch. But I think he was still on your inhaler, when we did all the presentations and everything. And you’d never know. It never affected her vocally. Or I mean, I don’t even think your your lung capacity diminished, she was able to hold notes for their value. Yeah, it might not have felt right. 

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith  47:20

Yes. Well, the shows are a big thing, despite what track that they are all a really big thing in terms of range in terms of agility. And like the Bible marathons, I would call them, every single soul just about is like that. And how do you feel that you’re fully recovered now?

Kayla Saunders  47:48

Yes, I think now I’m fine. I can finally say through how many months? Five, five months, we’ll say I can now sleep at a position.

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith  48:02

Did you feel supported by the company during that time? 

Kayla Saunders  48:08

Yeah, I, I think the issue was, there was the pressure that you had to be good. And you had to make sure that you can see me into the track because we run a tight schedule, you know, I have to find these these shows. And we had to do these presentations and all of this so, within, within what they could do, I guess.

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith  48:33

And with other issues that you may have, whether it be a medical issue, something’s affecting you physically, or you’re ill. And then even something psychological, gee, do you feel that you can speak to someone within the company and articulate exactly what you’re feeling and you feel supported?

Kayla Saunders  49:01

Yeah, so they’re, especially when we’re in Miami, it’s a lot easier and faster to go to your get your medical situated. There’s a form that you can fill out you can talk to your install directors, and then they can direct you to the right, doctors if you need.

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith  49:23

Do you feel supported Dom?

Dominique Allen Lopez Petit Frère  49:25

No. And I’ll say that because I think as singers we all know, the minute you feel something different, you know, either you’re gonna get sick, or something’s not right. It’s really weird because I don’t feel like non non singing folk or Muggles. Would would feel the same. I don’t think they understand we’re so in tune with what’s going on. Uh, you know, in the local clothes or, you know, so thin yes, that it’s amazing that you can feel that but I don’t think they understand that as a corporation. again. So if I want to see an e and t, it’s a longer process. I gotta go to another doctor, I gotta go get referred, I got it. And they don’t take it seriously. When people are like, oh, like, I something’s not right. I’ve been told in the past, not me personally, but it’s been said in the past to another singer in my cast that maybe they should seek a vocal teacher. Because they were having some issues vocally. But it’s not really provided, like, there’s no what we, you know, the dancers, they have an on site physical therapists, but there is no one that is, you know, in the voice, yes, you know, side of it that–

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith  50:44

Yes, like, a vocal coach or a singing teacher, or we call it the vocology team, where you have the EMT, the speech language pathologist. So you have the whole team that work with you. So this is not provided by the company? 

Dominique Allen Lopez Petit Frère  51:03

No, they almost expect you to come in with all of that training to avoid those kinds of things. But then it’s hard to get to an end, but you need it. It’s easier, like she said, in Miami, but on board, it’s even worse, when you’re on board. They just don’t understand it. I was before the pandemic. I was on board, another ship and one of the female singers had struck through and we sang duets face to face. And I was like, why am I only doing this, we’re still doing the show. She’s still singing live, amazingly. But then I felt something in my throat and I was like, I’m going to get strep throat, looked at my tonsils had the little white specks and I went down to medical to try and get it. I come from my mother and my sister, both nurses, my sister’s a registered nurse. So I told my sister and she was like, you just need a shot of penicillin. And it’ll you know, go down. And I was told that penicillin is too expensive to be used for someone who may or may not have strep throat. So, yeah, which is not true, because insulin is actually very cheap. And it took me fighting, literally arguing with the medical staff to get what I needed. So that way, because, again, I don’t ever want to use my sick track. And if I can avoid it, it’s very early on. I haven’t it hasn’t developed to the point where I have soreness or saying, but I didn’t want to let it progress. And I had to fight for it. I got it. I was sore. But in where I got the shot, not vocally. Yeah–

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith  52:49

So you couldn’t sit for a month?

Dominique Allen Lopez Petit Frère  52:52

Well, you know, I don’t know if this is true or not. Maybe it’s just my imagination. But the nurse that administer the shot, I don’t think she was as gentle as she could be. I put up a fight for.

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith  53:03

No, whose–

Dominique Allen Lopez Petit Frère  53:10

I was able to get it. But those things are very lacking on board, even physically, like, you know, because as singers were required to dance as well, yes. And they love if you are comfortable moving, they’re gonna make you dance more. And so I dislocated my knee on board. My first contract, I was doing ironically, moves like chunker. I was doing all the choreography that the male dancers were doing while singing, and my knee decided that it wanted to go a different way and–

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith  53:42

They didn’t want to move like check on.

Dominique Allen Lopez Petit Frère  53:46

And I never saw that for the entire time with that contract. I never saw a physical therapist because we’re moving around so much. And the medical team wasn’t really on it. So I don’t honestly don’t believe that I quite fully healed from that. And then the following contractor dislocated my same knee again. But because I was in Miami, I saw physical therapist.

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith  54:08

Yes. So it’s like accessibility that’s an issue?

Dominique Allen Lopez Petit Frère  54:12

Yeah. It’s hard when you’re moving around a lot, but it’s doable. It’s just, it needs to be stressed that it’s important.

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith  54:21

So both of you have been vocal captains. You’re the current vocal captain, Kayla, and Dom, you were on your previous contract. And what kind of responsibilities come with that?

Dominique Allen Lopez Petit Frère  54:37

We’re required to maintain the integrity of the show. I respect Kayla so much as a singer in general, but working with her as a vocal captain, I’ve enjoyed because I’ve had some vocal captains that are very strict, and they don’t want you to deviate from anything. They don’t want you to, like experiment or anything even in the tech runs They don’t want to hear anything different. They expect it to sound the same. And this is gonna sound horrible, but I’m going to be honest, I’ve worked with vocal captains that I necessarily didn’t feel were right for the position or good enough to be vocal Captain not talent wise but—

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith  55:17

Experience and knowledge?

Dominique Allen Lopez Petit Frère  55:18

On the manager side of it. And so it was really hard to take notes from someone that I felt like, wasn’t up to par with what I expected. For me as vocal captain, I was a little more liberal. I wanted people to experiment I wanted people to find their voice. I shared a lot of duets with a another very talented singer. And I would tell her, if you see me roll my neck at you, before we go on to this duet. That means we’re going to have a vocal, little, you know, play playdate and figure out some new stuff. And honestly, just seeing the growth not only in myself, but in her from allowing that was tremendous because I had worked with vocal confidence that would freak out if you deviated from something. So working with Kayla, she kind of, you know, rein me in sometimes when I went too far, but I never I always did stuff in the tech run. So she would come and be like, maybe not that one.

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith  56:17

Maybe not, Dom. She did that one keep that one for home.

Dominique Allen Lopez Petit Frère  56:22

For a model but she did a lot, and also, a lot of times when she said maybe not that one, I knew it was too much.

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith  56:29

But I’ve seen at times within the shows when someone has had a little bit of a play with their boys, not just you, Dom I’ve seen even with, you know, others in the show has had a little bit of a go, but and how you all look at each other, you know, in a way. It’s like, wow, that was so cool. To work with Jin. And I’ve seen you do it with each other that every now and again, you will have an experiment and out of all come this magnificent sound. And you’re like, wow, you know?

Kayla Saunders  57:08

Well, you came on the last cruise we’re doing so yeah, we were just trying to have fun. Like, you know, it was.

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith  57:17

It’s been great. It’s been such a pleasure hearing what you’re all capable of. I’m so glad that I didn’t hate the restraint versions of the songs because it’s given me an absolute such total respect for each and every one of you that what you’re what you’re all vocally capable of is brilliant. So no congratulations. And now vocal captain to you have to warm up the the top the vocalist, so what kinds of things do you do in terms of vocal warmup?

Kayla Saunders  57:56

So what we’ll do for a schedule is we’ll go and we’ll do our notes first. And then we do a physical warm up, I like to tell the dance captain, we’ll do 15 minutes, and then 15 minutes and football warm up so that our bodies are all nice and warm. And we also have some singer dancers as well. So it gives them the opportunity to kind of be in both places. And yeah, so then what I like to do for my warmup start out with some really easy like humming lead trills and then move into some stuff to work the soft palate and then some belty stuff. And then we’ll end with the cooldowns kind of the general general way that I do it, but—

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith  58:44

What about you Dom, do you have a favorite thing that you like to do on a warm up?

Dominique Allen Lopez Petit Frère  58:50

So I’ve done Kayla’s warm ups but I tend to do my own warm up. Why not? Surprise? Well, chives. But the reason is, so I do a warm up that’s very specific to the training that I had I do Speech Level Singing. Yes. So all of my warmups are about stretching the chords. So it’s honestly the same scale over and over, but it’s on different vowels, and then I’ll funnel that vowel as I get higher. So around A or B flat is where I start to funnel the bow and I warm up every show to an F sharp five, even though in the shows I know use it but it’s nice to be fully open. But yeah, so it’ll go from like, Nah, as a nut to new as in foot like so nanana knew what I need to funnel but then you end up opening that valve back up towards the end of the note. And it sounds like the normal I work. So I use that as a way to create a habit. So that way goes with me on stage. But it’s only 10 minutes. But that is the only part vocally that I do, I tend to go to the gym before every performance to get a nice physical warm up. Before I even start to voting, I go and get a physical warm up, because I believe it’s really about singing is very physical. So I want to be warm physically, before I even try and get my vocal folds to work for me.

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith  1:00:34

And what about cool downs at the ends of a show? Do you do those or you you guys naughty?

Dominique Allen Lopez Petit Frère  1:00:42

I don’t cool down before because at the same time in this environment, a lot of times I’ll go out after the show. So I’ll end up being in a pub or in a bar where there’s music playing and throughout the vessel. There’s always music playing. So I’m always speaking over the music. Yeah. And so if I cooled down, then even though I’m trying to sound nice, but I don’t normally cool down. And I know that’s a bad habit. But, yeah.

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith  1:01:09

Yes, okay.

Dominique Allen Lopez Petit Frère  1:01:11

Yeah, I’m not gonna even go further with that.

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith  1:01:14

I get the idea. What about what do you do to look after your physical, mental and emotional health? On the ship? What’s important to you? Like? Do you have a routine or a schedule? That’s important to do any of you meditating? Watch what you eat? Like, do you have something that you do to take care of you mentally, physically and emotionally?

Dominique Allen Lopez Petit Frère  1:01:46

Greet pandemic, working on ships, I had to get off the ship. Anytime we were important, I had to get off, I needed to be away from because when you work on board, you can’t escape work because you live where you work. So I had to go away from that and to have time to myself. So a lot of times, I would get off by myself, go for a walk and just get fresh air during the pandemic and return to service. You couldn’t get off crew members weren’t allowed. Yes. So I went to the contract with the mindset knowing you cannot get off. You need to find something else. So then I started meditating. And I would meditate before the shows, just to kind of escape the ship in a different way. And my voice teacher, I reached out to her to hear a little more because I knew she meditated. And she kind of walked me through some meditations. And she actually taught me, she likes to meditate to her favorite artists. So you go through and I’ve my favorite artists is Mariah Carey. So I’ve picked songs that I love by her, but her voice isn’t on it. So it’s just the, like a piano version of it. And I sit there and I visualize colors. And other things as I meditate before the show, to help me kind of reset my mind, because I’ve done shows when I’m upset. And it’s a different experience I’ve seen differently. I act differently. I’ve done shows, when I’m so excited about something, and it’s a different experience. So I tried to always come back and dial it back to zero. So that way, when I start the performance, I can dial in where I need to. But yeah, that’s kind of the things I do for mental health. Vocal Health, I try and drink a lot of water hours before the show. But the food on board isn’t always the healthiest for us. Not even though none of the crew mess. And so you tend to want to only eat bad things. So I find myself having a lot of coffee, and I drink regular milk. So I have a lot of dairy, a lot of pizza. So it’s a lot of things that don’t really lend help to me, but I don’t, I don’t eat before the shows. That’s one thing I do steer from. But, you know, there’s always artificial air going on. So humidifiers are great to have and use a personal steamer, don’t you? 

Kayla Saunders  1:04:17

Yeah, mine broke like two months ago. Sad. But yeah, mine’s very similar to Dora. I like to get off on the boards. And also, it’s fun, why not? You know? I like to do that. I find that having a schedule. It’s been really, really good. It was difficult during the install process because we didn’t know what the day would be like and so once we were out of it, I can I can sense my mood being a lot better because I knew exactly what I was doing and even like little things for the tech run, right? I knew Okay, we’re gonna do notes this sort of do We, every day don’t have this time. Every day. We’ll do sound check this time every day. And so that really helped me as well.

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith  1:05:11

But what about in terms of sleep?

Kayla Saunders  1:05:14

Ah, yeah, I try I try to sleep pretty pretty regularly. I yeah, I I have a bedtime out. That gets turned off a little bit too. Too much. I use it more. But yeah, it’s, I try and get sleep and I try. I don’t like to drink the day before the shows. That’s that’s a big no, no. And sometimes even like two days before, I won’t do that, because I find that that really affects my singing voice.

Dominique Allen Lopez Petit Frère  1:05:47

Yes. Oh, yeah. Yeah, I don’t I don’t drink. I don’t drink on board that often now. Especially if I have the same and if I do decide to have a beverage, I only drink whiskey. I’ve found through my years of performing on board. I’ve had to find what works. So we’re all different. Yeah, some people can get away with drinking a whole bottle of wine and then the next day be vocally impeccable. But for me, it’s the only thing that doesn’t dehydrate me. So the cats always joke and they’re like, are you going to have a whiskey ginger beer. And that’s that’s my go to because the ginger is a natural anti inflammatory. So or pineapple juice? I’ll have because of the Brahma Lena. So just it just varies. But yeah, I avoid drinking as much.

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith  1:06:36

Yeah, I think that’s a good call. Alcohol is very dehydrating. Oh, yes. And in terms of schedule, we’ll just touch on this really briefly, because I’ve kept you guys you way longer than then. You know, you’ve been so generous with your time. But I know that with these itineraries, they’ve been like nine or 10 Night itineraries here in Europe, in the Mediterranean and you have been doing three production shows one or two theme nights. And when you have a production show, what is your schedule for that day?

Dominique Allen Lopez Petit Frère  1:07:25

Oh, I, I’ll pass it over to to Kayla, but I have to go to the gym before we even start the notes process. And then as vocal captain, they set everything out. So I’ll let her explain it a little more.

Kayla Saunders  1:07:40

You mean like the physical schedule like work wise?

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith  1:07:43

oh, just work wise? Just no, no, just the work schedule? Yeah. In terms of you have tech run, how long does that usually go for? And then the number of shows you perform?

Kayla Saunders  1:07:57

Yeah. So depending on the the number of guests on board will either do one or two shows. So usually 7:30-9:30 or if it’s 1 o’clock show nine o’clock? Yeah. So what would happen is we would come in 12:30 ish, we would have 15/10 minutes of notes. That will be for the vocal captain and dance captain we we give our notes together and then we will do 15 minutes either for the singers 15 minute physical warm up 15 minute vocal warm up for dancers full 30 And then we will go into our aerial checks for 10/15 minutes. And then soundcheck we would get into our mics soundcheck in about 10 minutes usually doesn’t take that long. And then after that we would go into our tech run. So that would be we do the entire show with all automation all. Again, light sound, just to double check if everything production Yeah, full production. We remark. We don’t have to say anything full out.

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith  1:09:09

Can I interrupt here? I was sitting in a tech run a few days ago. And if you hold that marking, come on. You you too and the other. The other thing is you all well, you all sounded like you were giving 100% in the tech run.

Kayla Saunders  1:09:30

Sometimes you’d like to have fun and just play around and that was the sole the stage or one.

Dominique Allen Lopez Petit Frère  1:09:39

I don’t. I don’t typically I don’t typically mark any of the tech runs even when I’m not in good voice and I know that’s a bad habit. But I want to know what I’m working with. Yes, I’ve seen the tech run full out. So it gives me a chance to try sinful out that I’ve might have done lightly in the shower or while Looking around somewhere and a new herbalism has come to me. So I’m like, I’m gonna try that pull out on my to see how it goes. Because I’m bored the edge Class ships, we were in your monitors. And if you get your mix, perfect, it’s like you’re not singing at all. Yes. And so like I’ve very picky in particular with my mix, but it lends me to do my job without over singing. So it’s really easy for me to do the tech run full out, and then two performances, because it’s, it’s not anything that’s causing any fatigue or anything like that. So yeah, I tend to do it a little a little more, sometimes a little more full out. And you’ll get a show just because of the experiment to see what my limits are.

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith  1:10:43

Yes. And with the tech runs, they generally how long they go for?

Dominique Allen Lopez Petit Frère  1:10:52

They’re supposed to be about should be about two hours, but the tech runs should be the length of the show. Obviously, with all the technology, especially on board this vessel, there’s room for error. And a lot of times it can take a while to get something to corroborate. So we have a thing on board called sq m. And it’s a policy that keeps everything in a timeframe for all the departments not just entertainment, but specifically to ours, there’s a time that we have to finish the temp run by, because we need a two and a half hour rest period before our call time. So usually our managers are good at keeping that up to par, if not our dance captain will make sure that is instilled. But particularly with this cast, We’re all veterans. So we’re quick to say, hey, we’re going past we need our rest because it’s important.

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith  1:11:52

Yes, because I did sit in on a tech run where so many things went wrong with with the technology, not with the cast, but with production and technology. And that was a long afternoon for all of you. And then you had to come back and do the shows. But that’s not something that happens very often.

Dominique Allen Lopez Petit Frère  1:12:14

Especially the older classes shifts, because they don’t have that technology. For for edge class, it’s even worse, because they’ve gotten rid of the traditional stage. So it’s about almost in the round is about 320 degrees. So there’s this massive LED screen that’s made up of five panels that can move independently or together with each other. And so when they fault, we don’t have like wings to run off stage three like you would in a traditional theater. So when we can’t get on or off stage if they don’t want to move. And sometimes they can be a little testy when they reset them. And they’re like, we’re good to go. And it’ll move an inch and then stop again. And that’s what we call a fault or an error in the system. So that’s what can eat up time. As frustrating as it can be. It’s, it’s really nice. It’s a nice element of technology to have because as you’ve seen in the shows, I can really transform the theater and get into a different world.

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith  1:13:18

Yes, yes. I’ve never experienced anything like it. And the shows are just breathtaking in terms of all that technology, the sound, the lighting, and I loved in Stage Door having the London was a palladium orchestra playing they will want 50 musicians in the orchestra. It was just well, it was well, that’s all I can say. Yeah. And then. So you’ve been working out with the company for a few years, both of you. Is there anything that you feel the company can do better to support artists on the ship?

Dominique Allen Lopez Petit Frère  1:14:06

Yeah, I think they can. They can provide a lot more in terms of things that would lend to vocal how they can provide humidifiers for our cabins so that way we don’t have to travel across the world tried to have either find a humidifier. I could not find one in Australia. It was the hardest thing. It was crazy. When I did Australia, I went everywhere to find one and I had to go to a electronics store specifically to find what maybe it’s because I wanted one that had a large like gallon tank to it. So I could have it on all night as I slept. But our rooms we were not in rooms that we can turn the AC off. And so that’s kind of hard for us because we’re constantly taking in artificial air. There’s AC everywhere we go even the dressing room that we’re in now you can’t turn They’re often here. But you know if they could provide things that would help better food, for us would be a milestone. But food humidifiers? Just even simple things like vocals zone or, or certainties like I love. I don’t know if you have the brand throat coat tea it I’ve heard of it. Yeah, it has its grows, but it has slippery elm in it. That’s the main ingredient. And it’s really great. It’s soothing. I don’t particularly drink tea before I have to sing. But like if I needed to, you know, protect preventative things they could provide on board. That would be better, and also more money. I say that, because this is a big commitment. You give up your life to come here. It’s great to travel. And it’s a great experience. But at the same time, you know, I’ve gone home after doing five contracts back to back Can I realize my parents aren’t immortal. Like I’ve seen, they’ve aged with me being away. And I come back and I look at them. And I’m like, I’ve missed out on a lot. I didn’t get to see like my nephew grow up. I didn’t get to go to his graduation, you miss a lot of things. But also at the same time, it’s very demanding vocally and physically Yes. So I think we need to get to a place where we pay for what they get. I I’m very proud of the work we’ve done on board here. A little issue, a little fact we’ve scored above the target 30 points above the target of for ratings by the guests and highest ratings they’ve ever had in the history.

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith  1:16:55

And I’m not surprised at all.

Dominique Allen Lopez Petit Frère  1:16:58

Thank you. I’m not either. I’m so proud to be a part of this experience. And as I said I was a sweetened. So once the person that was originally doing this chunk resigned, I didn’t have to think twice about joining. It was a chance for me to work with your daughter again and with people that I’ve known for years, but never got to be in the same cast with. So that in itself was the main reason. But I think they could pay for what they get. I’ll let you know them another little secret, based off of the ratings. If the theater casts and the entertainment program is rated number one in the fleet, the cruise director gets a bonus.

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith  1:17:39

I don’t even want to comment on. So I have no comment on that one. Because I may cite to say something. Big regrets later.

Dominique Allen Lopez Petit Frère  1:17:53

When I found that out, I was like, No, we should all get a little more. I don’t know how it works. But yeah, it’s insane.

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith  1:18:03

Absolutely no sense because one that that person did not hire you or put the team together did not rehearse you did not have any input in the creative process does not get up and stand beside you every night or warm you up or call you down. They don’t have anything to do with your show other than an introduction and scheduling.

Dominique Allen Lopez Petit Frère  1:18:31

Yeah, which is wild. But even more so than singers getting paid for the biggest advocate dancers need to be paid more, especially with these shows, but in general, it’s so physically demanding and they’re the first to be required to do more. Yes, that’s first and I think it’s shocking the pay difference between a singer and a dancer, I understand why there is a difference. multiple reasons like there being more dancers to a singer so there’s more money to play with when you are cancelling singers. Also the requirement and the stress on a singer too because when we go out we have to be able to captivate an audience command the stage, all on our own and if a dancer misses a bit of choreography, it may or may not be noticeable, but if we crack or if we are slightly off the audience will immediately disengage with us that we are not yes, you know of a certain caliber. But the pay difference between what we get paid as artists needs to change. Dancers need to be paid more, they should be respected, more to be paid more because they are literally, you know, doing something so demanding on their bodies that it shortens their career. The way they work here, and they deserve to be paid more in my opinion.

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith  1:19:57

Kayla, as a female Okay, is there a gender bias on terms of pay? And because I know there is with the dancers and, and that, and when I, I’m not targeting Celebrity. They’re just one of many, many, many cruise ship companies. And I know that the males are paying more than the females. Is that a thing?

Kayla Saunders  1:20:27

Well, for singers, I don’t talk about how we never really talked about how much we get paid. But yeah, however, amongst ourselves, you know, yeah, but, um, so I don’t know about pay wise, but treatment wise, it’s definitely there’s definitely a big difference. Not only, like, within entertainment, but even around the ship, and especially around the ship.

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith  1:20:58

Is that by the crew, or guests, or both.

Kayla Saunders  1:21:03

Really both. But mainly for me, I’ve noticed that a lot with the crew. We get treated differently. It’s sometimes it’s in a negative way, of course, and then a lot of times, it’s strangely in the positive way. Like if we want to go to dinner, and we’re like, oh, you’re you’re pretty addressed. And then maybe they’ll let you in for dinner. But yeah, but um, I guess negatively speaking. There’s a lot of, quote unquote, old fashioned guys who work here, you know, it could be on the safety team, and they see you and they, they question you more, because they don’t think that you know, about all of the safety stuff for like little things like that, and they’ll people will come up to you comment. Oh, you shouldn’t be doing that. You’re gonna you’re gonna gain weight. Oh, yeah. That happens. Guessing crew. Oh, really? Yeah. Yeah. Oh, yeah. Yeah, that’s happened to me many times.

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith  1:22:09

Yeah, well, I know that the female dancers and I don’t know if it was male dancers. But they used to be weighed. Yes, as well, every fortnight they’ll put on the scale, that that doesn’t happen on this ship.

Dominique Allen Lopez Petit Frère  1:22:25

The interesting thing about that. So men can get away with gaining weight. I’ve seen it within my own contracts. Both sides, my issues, like I like to trade in the gym a lot. So I’ve been kind of slapped on the wrist in the creation process because they built costumes based off of what they measured me and came back a month later, and the constants didn’t fit. They still don’t fit. But they are okay with it, because I’m putting on muscle and all this stuff. But if a woman fluctuates in their way, they tend to be quick to say something about it. Because it’s like, well, you’re not going to fit your costume. I’m actually speaking about this. I know a young lady that was recently told by the casting team that she needed to lose weight if she wanted another contract because the costume was may or may not fit her. Right. And I felt that that’s unacceptable. Because if we want to champion diversity, as a brand here, then we need to make sure that we have the ability to really be diverse, diverse as that requires. You know, fixing the costumes, or buying new costumes or making new costumes. No one should ever feel that they’re not the right size. But I don’t ever see them saying that to men. In regards to pay, I feel like and this is a very rare situation. But because I am a black male, which is harder for them to find in CAS. I’ve been able to negotiate for more money, because I know that I am something that they need at the company. Right? So when they asked me to come back after I left for a bit after my third contract, and they asked me to come back, I knew that I the ball was in my court, and I was going to ask for more money. And that set me up to be where I’m at. But because I was a black male and I knew that they needed it. boys get paid more in general male dancers will get paid more male acrobats because they’re typically harder to find that is true, but at the same time, you need we as I said, You need to be paid for your craft and what you provide.

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith  1:24:47

And okay, can we touch upon you being black? In terms of inclusivity? How are we faring? How’s the ship fare? Hearing in terms of all of that, have you ever felt that you didn’t have a voice? You weren’t accepted? Or is that not an issue?

Dominique Allen Lopez Petit Frère  1:25:10

In terms of being black in the entertainment industry, I felt that a lot of things have been performative. The Black Lives Matter movement that, you know, sparked the rebirthing of it during the pandemic, George Floyd, yes. Because we cannot hide anything in this day and age, everybody has a camera in their hands. It was an opportunity for, you know, companies to make changes that are systemically ingrained into how they operate. I was a little ashamed that celebrity didn’t come out and say black lives matter, just because not just for the entertainers, but they hire so many black employees from around the world that come from third world countries or from you know, no thriving nations. So I felt like it was important because they champion that they are inclusive and all this stuff. I mean, it goes past the color of your skin, and it goes down to the LGBT q Ai community. They say that they support these groups of people. But when you get on board, you don’t see much of it.

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith  1:26:32

That they do advertise.

Dominique Allen Lopez Petit Frère  1:26:33

They advertise it. Oh, yeah, they advertise it. That’s where it comes in performative to me, like, I feel like would be working here as a black man, I have had to master the skill of code switching. So I will speak differently to guess and to other colleagues that I would around other black people, just because I don’t want to be held to a stereotypical idea of what who I am. So I code switch. So when I speak to Kayla, sometimes you’ll hear me like Heyliger and all that stuff. But I would never speak to a guest that way, because they they’ve made comments in the past, about, you know, who I am, I’ve been called everything from, you know, the boy with nappy hair to avoid have referred to as boy or a guest have not me in particular, but guests have called other performers, other colleagues of mine, the N word. So it does need change. And that stems from the top and it requires the company really saying this is what we stand for, and actually doing it, not just saying it because they want to sell a cruise. And that that extends to the industry in general, not just celebrity. All the other cruise lines, the movie industry, the the you know, GED everything.

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith  1:28:04

Yeah. Do you have any comments on that, Kayla?

Kayla Saunders  1:28:09

I don’t even know. I feel like Dom has said everything. Yes. But yeah, I feel very similarly. We, I’m before this contract, I’ve never met dawn on one fundamental story for you. I never met him, but in person, but I met him during the Black Lives Matter movement. Because we all we joined a group of all of the black employees in the entertainment, singers, dancers, and we, we wanted to make change. And he really inspired me and to try and make change for the company as well. And I don’t know, unfortunately, I don’t really know that I can’t really say that much has come out of that for the company’s sake. We tried to tell them you need to cast people based off of they’re based off of their voice types. They’re like, instead of how they look and they say, okay, okay, and then they end up doing the exact opposite. So it hurts me. Thinking about how hard we pushed for change, and it hasn’t really been much changed.

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith  1:29:28

That’s really so sad to hear. So, but, you know, this is not an excuse for the company, but it’s it is everywhere. Isn’t it a maintenance in my community as well and the teaching voice community, we can all do so much better. Everybody can do so much better. But it has to start somewhere and it’s not just just about tokenism, or you called it performative actions. Yes, yes, yes.

Dominique Allen Lopez Petit Frère  1:30:00

I think that was the biggest thing. Like, as she said, we never got the chance to work together. And it’s because they wanted to make sure they had diversity on every ship within their counts. So of the black performers that they did hire, they sprinkled them throughout the fleet. Yes. So in this big group, I’ve known all these artists, but never gotten the chance to share the stage with them. I’ve been in cast where I’m the only black person in the cast. And I’ve been canceled, I’m one of five. And that’s really rare. This is the first time they’ve opened vessel to my knowledge, with three black lead vocalists. And even so that being said, We’re mixed race vocalist as well. So we’re of the fairer skin tone, and comparing in comparison to some other singers that may be, you know, richer skin tones. But for me, seeing the company, they have a black casting director, and he set up some, sorry, he set up some video chats, and we did some zoom calls with all of us and hearing everybody’s stories and hearing how I’ve experienced similar things or stuff like that was really shocking. And it really inspired me and a bunch of us to get together and say what could be done for change. And, you know, like that, it was all through Facebook. And I’d never met Caleb, before, I’d only seen videos that were performing, yes. But we ended up writing an open letter to the CEO about what can be done, and we shared testimonies with her and personal accounts. And she did respond, and it was a great response. And they started to make the step. For me, it’s a step in the right direction, but I need more than justice stuff. And I think if we try our best not to forget that these things are still happening, then we can continue moving forward. So far, this contract I haven’t seen, people are more mindful of not using microaggressions. Or saying things that they shouldn’t say, I’ve had people actually ask to touch my hair, before guests used to just touch my hair if it was down, or Yeah, and it was always led by Oh, your hair is so beautiful. And as much as that’s appreciated, I’m not a pet on display, like, you don’t just I would never come up and touch someone else’s hair or invade their personal space. So there has been those steps toward change. And that’s because of what’s gone on in the world. And people are more educated in what’s acceptable and, and also what’s, you know, hurtful in the sense of how we say things and what we say. But as a company, I believe that not only celebrity but all the other cruise lines, I don’t think many of them did come out and say black lives matter. But we all need to take that step to making sure that if we want to champion these groups of people that may be on the oppressed side of the world, then we actually do it, not just say that we do to sell occurs.

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith  1:33:18

Both of you are finishing up at the end of this contract, you’re going on to other things and what you’ve just said I’m not stopping the conversation there. My question is, if you’re not here to lead the campaign, what advice would you then give to other performers who are coming to the ship? Who are black? Or what? colored skin tone? What would you say to those performance? What advice would you give to them?

Dominique Allen Lopez Petit Frère  1:33:58

I would say for them, especially from my experience, not to be afraid to live in their authentic truth. To use their voice. Don’t be afraid if you sound a little more country because you’re from the south or you sound a little more black to someone don’t be afraid of that. I think it’s time that we stop pretending that we’re colorblind and and actually see I want you to see my blackness and acknowledge that and see the beauty in it and use that to your advantage. You know, so I don’t want—

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith  1:34:41

Negotiate more pay? That was me being sarcastic though.

Dominique Allen Lopez Petit Frère  1:34:50

Listen, I agree with you and given the check. But no, honestly though, like don’t be afraid to know your work. I knew what my worth was do because I was like, Okay, I want a few black men here. I’m one of the few black tenors here. I know my worth, I know what I bring to the table, I know what I feel like I should be paid. So absolutely that people shouldn’t be afraid because all they can do is say no. But I think to carry the torch going forward, do not be afraid to live in your truth. Regardless, if you’re black, white, Asian, or Hispanic or Latino, you just have to be authentically you. And when someone tries to challenge that, speak up for yourself. Don’t be afraid or think that you’re going to lose your job. Because if you do lose your job, first of all, that’s going to be an age, our situation. And it’ll you know, go way further than that. But if it is a problem, you don’t need to be there. Life is so short, that if you’re unhappy, or if you’re not being valued at the way that you expect to be valued, go somewhere else, find your find your happiness.

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith  1:36:00

Find your tribe, find your people, find those who love and accept you for who you are. What about you, Kayla, do you have advice? From a female perspective? Or the same perspective?

Kayla Saunders  1:36:13

Yeah, I mean, good advice, in general, I think is to find, like you said, find your tribe and don’t be afraid to have friends outside of the entertainment because it is such a bubble. And if you’re black, you’re going to be one of very few. So I’d say go out, make more friends, you know, and, and don’t be afraid to be yourself like Don said.

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith  1:36:38

So in finishing up, what are you doing next, Kayla?

Kayla Saunders  1:36:42

Oh, wow, my goal is after this, go to New York City audition, lube the land life? That is what I want to do is I have not really had that since I started working here. So I’m excited for that.

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith  1:36:59

So uh, you’re looking to go into musical theater?

Kayla Saunders  1:37:03

Yes, that is the plan. I would love to do a tour Broadway that that’d be amazing. Some regional theater, anything like that.

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith  1:37:13

And what about you, Dom?

Dominique Allen Lopez Petit Frère  1:37:15

So going on from here, I got to focus on doing I have a self produced show called a song for you. And it’s a it’s a love letter to the black male icon. So it’s called his arm for you. It’s a it’s a love letter to the black male icon. And it just celebrates all these incredible artists that have paved the way for me to stand on stage and share my gift with the world. And so I’m focusing on that, but I want to definitely pursue other things and be on land like Kayla said, and, you know, I hope to work with her again, in the future where with a lot of these people that I’ve I’ve come across within this cast, but you know, I mean, how amazing would it be to say one day that we both ended up at the same Broadway show, or, or tour.

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith  1:38:03

Well, you might have Jacob in the show, too, because he’s auditioning for musical theater in New York. And I promised Jacob that I would come and watch his show that I will be there in the audience and I make you the same promise for you guys get into Broadway or in in production, I will be there to watch you. It’s been such a pleasure getting to know all of you over this last week. I’m so sad that you’re leaving. I’m actually staying on for another nine nights. So I will be here with the old with the the new people. Oh my gosh, like it’s just been such a joy. I’m getting emotional. But like the shows, I’m actually really just been amazing. Like, just love you all. I said to Ashley wish that was the day. This never happened. Oh my gosh.

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith  1:39:03

I want to wish you both all the very best in the future. I wish she was staying. I’m staying for another nine nights, you’ve been a joy. And it’s been a privilege and an honor getting to know you and I appreciate your candidness in this interview. You shared your authentic truth. You’ve been open and honest. And I hope that our listeners will also learn from this episode as well. And thank you so much for being so generous with your time I wish you all the best in the future. Thank you. 

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith  1:39:45

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. But 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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