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
Our guest this week is Kate Frazier-Neely who is a singing voice specialist, a voice teacher with a specialization across many styles. A musician, author, visual artist, somatic educator, and she is also involved in the arts for physical and emotional health. Kate candidly calls herself a traditionalist who is a rebel, and in this episode, she reveals why Kate explains that her own voice training was based on a traditional Western-European classical model, but has since stepped out to explore, perform and teach across many other styles. Kate further explains that as voice teachers, we need to step out of our own paradigms, and we must continue to find opportunities to learn and adapt in our ever-evolving field. Kate offers her views on different topics around singing, voice pedagogy, the limitations of methodologies, the benefits of teachers, having had a performance career, and so much more. She shares many of her own personal and professional experiences within the singing voice industry, including those significant moments in time when she was silenced as a woman and as someone who was trying to instigate change within the teaching community. There is so much to unpack in this brilliant interview with Kate Frazier-Neely and I’m sure you’re going to enjoy listening and learning with Kate just as much as I did. So without further ado, let’s go to today’s episode.
Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 03:19
Welcome to A Voice and Beyond we have Kate Frazier-Neely. Sorry, I had to do the big “Frazier” because prior to you coming on the show, you corrected the way that I pronounced it “Frasier.”
Cate Fraizer-Neely 03:39
Say what the Brits do say “Frasier” and the Scotts say, “Fraser.”
Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 03:45
Okay, so you have a Scottish background.
Cate Fraizer-Neely 03:48
Part. Yes. And you would never know it by looking at me, but my mother is 100% Italian. No.
Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 03:56
Cate Fraizer-Neely 03:57
Oh, well. At least I can see that you look like you might have Italian in you. This is sort of this Scottish-German thing happening.
Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 04:08
We call that a bits-er in Australia. It’s bits of this, some bits of that. But we normally we normally refer that to a cat though. But we’re getting way off track here. So Kate Frazier-Neely. Welcome. Now you are a singing voice specialist, a voice teacher, musician, author, visual artist, somatic educator, and you’re involved in the arts, both physical and emotional health. Wow, you’re doing some brilliant work there. How do you fit all that in?
Cate Fraizer-Neely 04:45
Well, you know, as I, as I say it’s been in this for 43 plus years, so it wasn’t all at once. You know, if you have a questing nature, and you need to find something that you’re not experiencing you go out and learn about it and have it filtered through your own self. And then finally, after a lifetime, you realize you’ve been doing all these things side by side. And, you know, teaching singing is never just one thing anyway, as you well know, you know, you’re wearing lots of different hats. If you’re doing a good job, it might not be those hats, but you have your own hats.
Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 05:26
Exactly. We seem to be multitasking constantly as voice teachers. So let’s start with a little bit of a background check, which I love doing. And especially with you. You have such a diversity of music styles that you’ve worked with you. You’ve done classical singing, you’ve done choral singing, you’ve some jazz, folk and folk rock styles. But what were you listening to as a child,
Up until about eighth grade, it was predominantly all the different forms of classical because that’s what we had in the house, but also jazz. My, my grandfather was a jazz drummer. And even when he would visit us the jazz records would be playing and we’d all like that. Lots of orchestral things, lots of chamber music, and then bit by bit, you know, Simon and Garfunkel the Mikey’s in sixth grade, and Beatles, of course, and all the good stuff. And then as I got into high school, I started getting into listening to various forms of bluegrass, and folk and folk rock, and some gospel experiences too. I was never I never sang those things. I started off as an instrumentalist. Even though I grew up in a graded choir program and was singing classical. I played in a folk rock band, and I played in a gospel rock band as a keyboard artist. And one summer when I was working in Appalachia, I actually did a stint as a guitar player and a singer. And…
Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 07:11
What were you playing?
Cate Fraizer-Neely 07:12
I was playing guitar.
Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 07:14
Yes. No, no. What styles of music? Sorry.
Cate Fraizer-Neely 07:17
It was mostly? Well, I think we would call it country bluegrass now, but I didn’t know that. I just saying, I don’t know that I had any. If it sounded to classical, they put me on the bottom. Because I had a good bottom.
Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 07:35
We weren’t, we don’t need to go there. That’s way. Yeah, that’s right. Yeah, I was gonna say way too much information. But I was going to ask you, if you had been listening to classical music, and all of a sudden you’re singing the styles that are outside of classical music. How did you adapt? Did you feel that you sounded authentic in those styles? Or were you sounding slightly ridiculous?
Cate Fraizer-Neely 08:11
You know, back then, I don’t know that we thought that way. I’m sure I remember being in this gospel musical. And I was singing in the in the chorus as well as playing the piano. And I remember the director came around, he says, It sounds like a bunch of nightingales around here. And then I realized, oh, okay, well, I am not singing stylistically correctly. But it was, you know, you just did it anyway. I don’t, we didn’t worry about it. And it was only as I got older, I was able to imitate jazz styles, I was able to imitate the blues and bend things. So there were some styles that I was better at than others. But at the time, I was known as an instrumentalist. And I did those styles just fine.
Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 09:03
Yes, I love that they called you a nightingale, because I would far rather be Nightingale than a crow or a badji on helium? There are many singers at the moment that sound like there’s some sort of bird that that that’s on helium.
Cate Fraizer-Neely 09:25
You know, that’s well put.
Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 09:28
Yeah. So when it came to your voice training, what kind of training did you have? Did you go down that classical route? Was that all that was available to you at the time?
Cate Fraizer-Neely 09:39
Might yes, but my parents were both classical musicians professional and they kept me out of Voice Lessons. Interestingly enough. They kick me out of Voice Lessons. First of all, they couldn’t afford them. But I had lots of instrumental lessons and I grew up in a graded choir program. So I started at age five, and went up to 18, with getting credible choral experiences and singing experiences and musical experiences and performing experiences. And when I went to college, yes, it was only classical at the time. But I want to stop before we go there, I want to stop and say that I was just talking with a colleague of ours by the name of Justin Peterson. And we were talking about historical classical pedagogy. And one of the things that he mentioned that, in the back of my mind, I remember my father talking about was going on to college to major in an instrument or voice is relatively new in the history of Music Education. And it turns out Australia and the US have some kind of similar trajectory and how this developed. And so you went to college, let’s say if you were in college before 1940, you could study music, but you didn’t major in it, you’d majored in something else. Study a piano, you could stay whatever. And then when you went to college, to music, major in music, it was in music education, or music theory to go teach in the public schools, and continue the tradition of singing education in like, the 1800s or 1900s. There’s a whole history there of traveling music teachers, and the church’s involvement in shape note singing and all this and that. So it wasn’t until I would say it wasn’t until until the late 50s, early 60s that you could start to major in something. And interestingly enough, you know, we talked sometimes about our frustration, that academia has been slow to adapt, not where you’re teaching, obviously, but in other places, has been slow to recognize the value of other kinds of singing. And yet, outside of academia, music educators, started the whole Pollack cultural thing in the public schools in the 19, late 1960s 1970s, and picked up on the civil rights movement, and all the songs that matter that and we’re bringing them into the public schools, it’s only academia that’s been sort of this last bastion, I find fascinating. Back to my trading at a college the undergrad I went to, you didn’t declare your major until the end of sophomore year. And I had audition, if you wanted to study music, you had to audition. So I’d auditioned in piano and in singing, and then thought I was going to be a music educator. I mean, teaching the public schools. I didn’t really want to do that, though, because I knew myself well enough to do that. I didn’t have the stamina to do that. Because I’m an empath, and this is back in the 70s. Right? We didn’t know anything about empathy. I just knew being around large crowds of people all the time, made me sick. And I ended up declaring voice at the end of sophomore year, because I was invited to be a voice major, and then went on for my master’s in vocal pedagogy and classical singing, it was all classical. But I didn’t mind I didn’t mind I love singing. And I think one of the things that I’ve observed is that many people equate classical singing with what they learned when they were in college. And if you didn’t want to sing classically, you know, that was a horrible experience for you. Even if you had a good loving teacher, which often wasn’t the case. But I would like to propose that lots of times what people are taught as classical singing in colleges, in the past has not been classical singing. I don’t know what it’s been. But… Yes, because the goal of all the historical pedagogy has been to potentialize the voice to have it be able to move in different ways and, stages not to get to be boxed in and fixed in one place. And so as I think, as Justin and I were talking about as Voice Science has taken over pedagogy, we’ve started to look at the minutiae of how things work. And many people, not all their wonderful voice scientists who are fantastic voice teachers, but many people have taken that limited knowledge that they got in their two year degree, right? And they’re teaching to that rather than what are the multiple tools one has in one’s toolbox to free a voice of any style?
Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 14:58
But then okay, that’s that’s really that’s a very interesting proposition. As someone who’s had a, what I would say I started singing CCM styles in the 70s. And I’d never had a classical lesson to last year. And I was a part of someone’s research their their Ph. D. project, they asked me would I be a participant as a CCM singer with an extensive background in CCM to go and have classical voice training, and it was six one hour lessons. Now, I can tell you every aspect of those lessons was very different. The sounds that I had to make the position of the larynx, the amount of airflow, the shape of the sounds, the use of Italian vowels that like legato singing, singing in a language, it was other than English, it was very, very different experience for me, for someone who’s come from that CCM background. And I’m not disputing I’m just using myself as an example.
Cate Fraizer-Neely 16:15
I think you’ve got a really good point. And I and I’ve worked with people who have come from popular music backgrounds, and let’s say, they have to learn a classical piece to get into college. And it will take them one year to get one of those early Italian songs and arias to the point where they’re comfortable with it. But I’m talking about those things that you just listed right now are identifiers for how these two areas, I’m just saying two areas, right now we know that there are hundreds of areas, how they are different. But how you get to those places, is what can determine your experience with classical singing or not it as being positive or negative. For example, if you have been taught to squeeze the abs for airflow, right? If you’ve been taught to lift the soft palate, if you’ve been taught smile, all these are… and teachers sometimes get on a thing, and they just stick with it. And they have you over open your mouth, over opening up. Whereas in classical singing, having the mouth closed a large part of the time increases the resonance. So it depends on what you’ve been taught, and when that will determine your experience of classical singing. So that for example, in my graduate work, I worked with a woman who had me sing just on the vowel E. And she said to me over and over again, and you know, it was a Voice Major, the master’s degree. She said, “You know, there’s something really wrong with your tongue, I want you to stretch your thumb, and then see saying E.” That is an ineffective way for tongue release. And it teaches you how to stay fixed on an eval and you can’t move to anything else. It depends on the kind of teacher you have, that will give you your experience of whether classical singing is a positive experience or not. And it usually takes two years, not six lessons to get comfortable with something. It’s just like, it’s just like when I was learning to carry chest function higher. And in the mix that we I don’t know what you call it, but that we talked about, how does it stay natural? And how does it become a tool for expression, rather than something you have to whack away at all the time? And that that will depend on who you work with and your experience over years. Right?
Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 19:08
Yes, I just for me, personally, I mean, I’ll just back-back a second. I understand that with voice, we all do have to first of all, organize our bodies in a way that will allow the muscles to work efficiently, and to allow freedom within the body for the voice to do its job, then I know we need to have efficient airflow, and we need to manage our breath. We also need to have efficient vocal fold closure, we need to have yet efficient vocal fold closure, and then we need to have resonance. But I think the type of resonance that we need will depend on the style of singing that we’re singing. So that’s the similarities I mean good singing is good singing in either style. And we need to have all those factors, whether it’s CCM, or classical voice, but then once I think they, for me, I, this is just my opinion. And I’m not saying I’m right, I just feel then there comes a point, if you want to specialize in one way or the other, that you must then go and do the work in that particular style.
Cate Fraizer-Neely 20:25
I totally agree with you there. And I think and you and I talked about this before, that, that leads into this idea of, if you have mega classical background, and you’re a classical singer, what gives you the right to teach other styles? You and I were talking about this a little bit, and there’s this, there’s this other business idea that please just teach the stuff. And it goes the other way, too. If you’re predominantly rhythm and blues, and you’ve never sung classical or never listened to it, why would you teach it? But I think it has to do with what’s in your heart? What’s in your ear? So I won’t say I’m a jazz singer. Right? That that’s a, I won’t say that. But I work with jazz singers effectively. There are I work with World Music singers, I’m very effective at that, and folk musicians, but pop music and some extreme styles. I just, I have to admit, I think there are much better people out there.
Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 21:25
But I think the very fact that you can acknowledge these are my strengths, these styles that I don’t understand, and I don’t believe I can teach effectively. I think that makes you a good teacher. Yes. So for example, I don’t understand classical. So I won’t teach classical singing, there’s no way I’m definitely a CCM teacher. Now I will teach most styles of CCM and I will even teach musical theater. But I won’t teach jazz, because I’ve come from a pop and rock background. And as I say, I sing on one. I sing on one, and you ain’t gonna move me off one. And then I don’t teach some of those extremities either of those metal styles. But it’s important. We have to know our lane. And we have to acknowledge when something is beyond the scope of what we know. And also have you used the word empathy before, we have to have an empathy for that style. And if we don’t like that sound, we’re not going to want to teach it, we’re not going to want to hear it in our studios. And we’re going to want to change it for something else. Because we think it’s a bad sound. But as a voice teaching community, I’ve made this recommendation as part of my research. And when I do my presentations on CCM, we have to learn to refer out. And as a voice teaching community, we are so territorial. And we don’t have to be there’s enough singers out there for all of us to make money we can all do well stick to your lane, do it well, and you will have a wonderful thriving business.
Cate Fraizer-Neely 23:27
And it’s very true. And you’ve got to know that it’s better than it was 40 years ago. It’s much better than it was 40 years ago, you’d have voice teachers went at it alone. And you were very territorial. And right out of graduate school, I decided to keep studying. And it was my husband’s turn to go back to grad school. So I had to get a real job, which was as a government food stamp worker. And I went to we were in DC, the Washington DC area. And I went back to my hometown of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, where my father knew a patron of the arts. And I went and sang for her. And she says, Well, I don’t know what you are. You’re not an opera singer. But yo certainly deserve to study and she sat down and in 1978 wrote me a check for $2,000 to continue my study while I was working as a government food stamp worker, which is a pretty remarkable story. And during that time, I started to realize that the first place we are in a place where when you finish graduate work, you’re expected to get a job and support yourself. And I did that with a series of other jobs. But I also knew that I had to keep studying and a lot of our colleagues are of that mind to you have to find a way to keep studying even if it’s not formal. And when I left graduate school, I thought I would go on for a doctorate. I propose several times topics for a thesis. And one of them keep in mind this is 1980, I proposed a study on popular music and was shut down. I proposed a study on collegial learning, and was shut down, I proposed a study on women composers and was shut down, I proposed a paper on the study of yoga and singing and was shut down. Those things were just too far out at that time to be considered. And now they’re in the mainstream, right? But what I went is I went down to the Library of Congress in Downtown DC, it took two buses and a metro ride. So it took a good hour and a half to go to the Library of Congress. And I would go sit in the folk music listening room, and I would listen to Smithsonian recordings of field songs, and gospel songs and appellation songs. And I would sit there and go, “What are they doing this is so beyond my realm of comprehension?” We didn’t have any information on this in the, in the Eurocentric community, right? And then when I started thinking about the oral traditions in which things were passed down, I started thinking about classical, the way classical music is passed down. And in Indian voice, there are lineages which people sort of laugh at now. So so so studied with so and so who studied with so and so right? I don’t know, if you, but it’s an oral tradition of its own time. Unfortunately, it’s tainted with superiority. You know, so in addition to this incredible learning that you’re getting from working with a master teacher, you’re also getting the attitude that this is the best kind of music or that you’re not good. And you know, you’re getting you’re you’re getting passed down little lineage of power over and less that teacher was an incredible human being.
Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 27:05
Oh, that still goes on.
Cate Fraizer-Neely 27:06
But it still goes on. Yeah, it does. And so, so this was the I’ve been on several postgraduate journeys over the years. And I do think that my co-written book, Singing Through Change Women’s Voices in Midlife Menopause and Beyond, is the equivalent of a doctorate. But it was it was written, as you know, with Boston Bozeman, and that was the end that was not done until I was about 62. So it just never stops.
Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 27:36
It never stops. See, you can’t be 62 on my show, we’re all 21. No one’s today over 21 on this program, we don’t talk about age.
Cate Fraizer-Neely 27:49
I gotta tell you, I love talking about my age, because I wouldn’t go back for all the tea in China and smaller waist, not for one chin. I like being where I am now. And I think we need people to say, yes, it can, life can get very, very interesting and very precious and special as you age and you’ve got perspectives that you didn’t have 21.
Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 28:18
Absolutely. I love knowing all the stuff that I know now. And I, I feel that the me the thing that I really liked the most about myself now that I didn’t like before, is the courage to speak up. I like the fact that I’m not afraid, and that I will speak up. And…
Cate Fraizer-Neely 28:41
That’s a very, very special, that’s a very special place to be in. And this isn’t a very smooth segue. But you know, the book that you wrote, did that come out of your doctoral thesis?
Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 28:53
It did, it did. And then it was updated to include some of the changes in teaching contexts where with a lot of us have transitioned to a digital approach to teaching. So it has and some of the changes that have occurred in our that in the way that we engage with technology and music such as TikTok, so I’ve kind of included those things as well. But this is not about me, naughty!
Cate Fraizer-Neely 29:25
wanting to ask you that and I didn’t when we talk before…
Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 29:28
Okay. Yes, it’s come from there. It’s come from there. Now, we’re gonna get back onto you. So when it came to you teaching the CCM styles that you teach and I know you do, because you’ve taught some really big named people. I don’t know who they are, but they’re Grammy Award winning performers. We allowed any?
Cate Fraizer-Neely 29:52
Well, one of them is a man by the name of Dustin Faults, and you can look them up and the Cuban artist Gabrielle Rios, who lives in Belgium, and the Chinese meditative singer refil, I had a student by the name of Paul Foul who was made it to the end of season eight of The Voice. And so I’ve worked with a lot of really special people. And actually, I just realized this recently in that I’m most interested in working with the singer, not teaching them the pedagogy. I mean, I think pedagogy is important, and I obviously continue to study it. But there are better people suited to actually teach pedagogy. And if a teacher comes to me, I say, I’m more interested in your voice. I don’t give a hoot about telling you what’s working when, unless it’s absolutely necessary.
Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 30:54
Yes. I’m quite that, actually.
Cate Fraizer-Neely 30:57
I but it wasn’t until recently, that I realized that I think I went into pedagogy, honestly, Marisa as a way to stabilize. And people misunderstand this word like this, the intuitive sense. It can mean a bunch of different things. But I needed a way to understand why I knew what I knew. I needed a way to understand somatic perception. And I needed and I think a lot of voice teachers are like that you’ve got this sense about you. And you need to understand when to address it and when to leave and go. And sort of pedagogy has been a very stabilizing force for me.
Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 31:38
So many things to touch on then. So when it comes to you working with these singers that you work with, you work with many professional singers, you have also had singers from Broadway, you have them from all around the world, obviously, as you mentioned, but those Grammy Award winning people, I know you had a big performance career, as well.
Well, I wouldn’t say it was big, but it was certainly very active. I don’t want to misspeak about it, it was very active. And it was back in the day before you traveled much. And so it’s very regional and all over parts of the US with waiting radio play in Europe, but it was very active.
Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 32:25
Okay. Well that’s, that’s still something to be proud of, and not to be minimized. And the question I have is, then, how much of that performance career influences your teaching? You’ve talked about the intuitive, which we’ll get to, but you also have this incredible, and I’m gonna call it incredible. Let’s call it incredibly active performance career.
Cate Fraizer-Neely 32:55
I’m happy with that.
Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 32:57
Yes. Then you have these professionals that come to you. Do you think because you had that career, that that helps you when it comes to teaching those people that perhaps you look at them as artists in a different way than say some a teacher that hasn’t had any performance career?
Cate Fraizer-Neely 33:18
When I can only speak on my behalf? Obviously, I think it was a huge influence. Because just in the area of let’s say, pasing, how do you pace yourself? Sometimes that is over four measures. Sometimes it’s over four pages, sometimes it’s over four hours. And so what are the tricks of pacing that will keep you renewed and allow you to rest and I have a really fun story on the on pacing. I was singing in this small group, there were eight of us. And it was a portion of the Messiah, the Handel’s Messiah. And it was done with a primo ballerina and two of her students. I mean that this was kind of wild stuff for them, and they were in front of us. And during one moment, they all went down and we’re like, like in child’s pose on the floor. And the prima ballerina, had her backhand, the hand that was facing us, just resting and relaxed on the floor, and the two students were like, in a claw and their arms were full of tension. And I thought that is a great example of pacing when how do you rest within the lines of what you’re doing? How do you stay present with something goes wrong? What are you know, you have options. And even for people that are professional, sometimes you I mean, you know, this you get in really weird situations, you know, where you have to be very, very fast on your feet and you have to, you know, adapt so I think that my performance career such as it was really helped a lot, especially for the stage work. Stage work, which is, and then knowing knowing how to craft a set, so that you’re not killing yourself. And knowing that, when you get a show together, let’s say a solo show or whatever, that you have to revisit it all the time, because four months down, or even next week, this piece isn’t going to fit right here. And you have to have the fluidity to go with it. So I think it has and mindset, which I know you talk about, where your mind go, how does it stay centered, how to stay joyful, but your your mind just can’t be a monkey? It can’t be, you know, it can’t be throwing things at you.
Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 35:53
Yes. And also too with understanding audiences. And what audiences want. That’s so important, because I think often as singing teachers, we’re just aiming for beauty of tone. It’s like, oh, we have to have the voice sounding as beautiful as possible for that performance. And I go, No, just let your emotions guide the voice. When you’re when you’re in front of an audience, you need to have your technique underpinning everything, but don’t get up and show that technique.
Cate Fraizer-Neely 36:27
Yeah, yeah, exactly. It’s, and that’s the thing is that you have to have an instrument built to channel emotion without actually feeling the emotion. You know, I mean, I’m not saying don’t feel it, but you can’t, you can’t allow heartbreak, you can’t allow ecstasy to close your throat, you have to be rooted in that open channel. And I think that’s another thing that came out of performing.
Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 36:56
In the program that I teach in, I have students, so this is higher education. And I have students that come into the program that have had no training, no voice training, some of them. I’m working with singer songwriters. So we’re looking at marketable people like students that we know that they have so much potential for a career down the track. And I love working with so many of those students, because they come in, they’re not in their own heads over their own voices. They’re just there, telling their stories in the most authentic way. And you can teach technique, but some of the qualities that those students come in with, you can’t teach, they have big hearts, they have big, big hearts, they’re totally vulnerable in performance. And it’s then finding the balance of introducing technique without them getting into their own heads over it, where it starts to take away from that beautiful authenticity and that beautiful big heart and their ability to tell their story.
Cate Fraizer-Neely 38:15
And I think that that’s what when I was talking about classical music, and not really receiving, what classical music is, I think a lot of teachers of classical music, and I really have to include myself in this for a period of my life when I didn’t know any better. You are sucking the frickin joy out of it for everybody. You’re knocking it out and your intention is good, but you haven’t quite finessed that. It’s okay to not be right. It’s okay that they don’t learn to do it, right. That’s such a rigid, restricted straightjacket that we put on students. And I think that that’s what I meant classical singing is a very, are. Fortunately, I’ve experienced it as incredibly joyful and liberating and stabilizing. And so when we’re in our heads for anything, and it happens to classical singers a lot, there’s just no music to be made. Music doesn’t come out, the music doesn’t come out.
Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 39:18
So you obviously you do teach a method, or do you teach from you have a toolbox that you’ve…
Cate Fraizer-Neely 39:26
I have massive toolboxes. And, you know, let me let me say a word or two about methodologies. I think they’re very useful. And I’ve studied a couple of them in depth and really benefited from them. But the problem that I have with methodologies is it becomes one lens to look through. And it might have it might be grounded in incredible principles or over arching philosophies as well specific exercise as in, blah, blah, blah. But if you just use that method, basically you’re taking the person or persons who have created the method and you are looking and listening to the voice through their lens in their ears. Well, excuse me, I, you know, we have our own years, we have our own lens, we have our own experiences, we have our own things that are maybe outside that, that don’t interfere with anything, but that are more useful to the student. And so I’m an amalgam of everything I’ve ever learned. And I’m pumping out stuff right and left.
Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 40:37
Yes, I believe that when it comes to methodologies, you’re endorsing another form of a one size fits all approach to teaching,
Cate Fraizer-Neely 40:47
I feel a little bit that way. And actually, this doesn’t happen very often. But I work with a lot of people who are certified in in one of the same methods that I am, and the method has not served them. As they’ve gotten older, as they’ve gone through their hormonal changes. It’s for some people, some people would ask, or if they have a small phone-trauma or priestess or something, I’ve known methods that have helped these things. And I’ve actually benefited somewhat from them. But with these people, I go way outside the methodology. And it doesn’t mean that the methodology does not work. It just means that that person in that moment, maybe they were certified in this methodology 20 years ago, 20 years is a long time. That’s a long time, you have to try something new. So that’s that’s my feeling. I really benefited from the methodologies that I’ve studied, but I go outside them.
Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 41:53
Yes. Who’s been your biggest inspiration then as a teacher? Or what’s one piece of information that you’ve picked up from somewhere? That’s giving you that “aha” moment?
Cate Fraizer-Neely 42:04
Oh, my God. Well, I’ve been really influenced by the work of Elizabeth Daniels, whose teacher was Todd Duncan of the first mortgage, mortgage and us. I’ve been really influenced by Elizabeth Kirk Patrick radio’s who wasn’t for everyone. And, and I, she, I started working with her after graduate school. And she was really the first person to talk to me about the body and singing. I made it through undergrad, and then I have been influenced for the better by Jeanne Livery. And so many colleagues, Marissa, my colleagues have just fired me and have taught me so much. And people like Rihanna, and and Bobby McFerrin it just is just a very, very large group of people. And I’m very grateful for.
Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 42:54
Yes, I know, we do have some brilliant colleagues and I, that’s why I love coming to the US are some of the international conferences too, because you can get stuck within your own country. And I’m not we have we just had our national conference here last weekend. It was amazing. But it’s also important to step out of your own area. And even if you can only do it online, do it, because that’s how you really stay abreast of everything that’s going on everywhere. And every country I find is doing something a little differently too.
Cate Fraizer-Neely 43:33
Yeah, and it’s very inspiring. And it it gets sometimes you hear something that you think, Well, I’m gonna have to think about that for a while. But you kind of just say, what in my frame of reference, would this mean, if I got outside my paradigm? Would there be some truth to that? And I do try to do that, because I’ve been wrong so many times.
Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 43:55
And that’s okay because I love how David Cisco says, “We have to learn to fail better.” Oh, yeah. That’s how we learn, isn’t it? Every time you have that failure, or that misstep, that’s where you learn. I actually believe when everything’s going right all the time, you’re not in a place of growth, is when things don’t go right all the time. That’s when you’re going to have the greatest amount of growth as a person, in your personal life in your professional life. It doesn’t matter in in different areas of your life. And when you go to conferences, you’re not always going to agree with everything that you hear. But then you’ve just learned something. And that is I actually don’t agree with that approach. I’d never thought of it before.
Cate Fraizer-Neely 44:47
But as I said, was some of my teachers that I learned how not to teach when they were wonderful human beings. Actually, I never had anybody who was horrible person, but actually, I didn’t learn a thing. about technique in undergrad or grad. And I think my musicianship skills and there was a lot of music in the voice. So they just sort of wound me up and let me go. And so one of the tenants is do no harm. Those early teachers did no harm.
Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 45:16
And then there were a lot of teachers that did a lot of harm by berating their students. Did you ever have a teacher like that?
Cate Fraizer-Neely 45:24
No, I didn’t. I think I didn’t have anybody berate me. But I was always very secure. And who I was, I’m a traditionalist, who is a rebel. So I’ve gone through life like that. Sometimes it’s hard when you don’t fit in, like I have, I’ve only ever placed in one competition in my life. I’m not competition material. I don’t sit on the opera stage very well, because I think the hero winds from the operas back backwards. I couldn’t do them. They were like, Oh, come on, you know, because they’re always killing themselves and dying. And you know, and they were victims of the culture, right. And so I never had anybody berate me. And I think that what I did have this, this was the hard thing. My teachers sometimes would be triggered by me and I had done nothing to them. When you trigger somebody, you force them to take a look at something in themselves that they don’t want to look at. And I triggered something for, they’d be jealous of my singing, and kind of subtly undercut me. And it took a while for me to grow out of that that was pretty much the case, until I was in my mid 40s. Because I studied singing for 30 years after graduate school, and I would learn what I would start to recognize it, I would stop working with them, and move on and find somebody who did better. For example, there was a time you couldn’t open up the Washington Post, which is the big paper here in DC, you couldn’t open the post up without seeing my name everywhere. My teachers had trouble with that as they wanted to be that name in there. Rather than saying, I mean, you would do the same thing. I would just say, Oh, my God, my student did that. I’m proud. I know. And I understand that. But that doesn’t happen anymore.
Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 47:29
Sometimes our job too, is to be that facilitator to allow the voice to just, you know, we’re talking about vocal freedom expressivity. There are students that I teach, that they do stuff that I can’t do.
Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 47:47
All the time, all the time.
Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 47:49
And, and I am in awe of those students. And my job is okay, how do we make that sustainable and efficient? And so you can do that, at all your gigs, no matter how often if you’re on tour here in a recording studio, that’s my job.
Cate Fraizer-Neely 48:08
Yeah, exactly. Well, you know, you think a lot of frustrated performers and teaching and I would like to say to the say to them, do the world a favor, and don’t do that. Go find another job. Because you have you know, being a teacher I think is a certain dharma. It’s your it’s a calling is a way of life. Yes. And if you don’t have a calling, don’t pass your bitterness on to other people, please.
Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 48:32
Yes. And if you’re teaching, because it’s a way of making money, and you can’t make money any other way, and this includes young people, too, that have had a few singing lessons. And at the age of 18, they finish school and they go on rather than going to work at McDonald’s. I think I’ll just start teaching. So you know, I think I’ll make money that way. No, don’t do it. You’re going to, you’re going to upset so many people, you’re going to you can take people’s voices away if it doesn’t come from the right place. Now with you, Kate, you said that you haven’t been berated. But has there been a time in the industry, whether you’re a performer or as a teacher that perhaps someone has tried to silence you?
Cate Fraizer-Neely 49:25
The silence being experiment. The experiences came from within a national organization that many of us are a member of and back in the late 1980s and 1990s. In the early 1990s. I held office in one of the local local chapters, and I brought in a clinician to teach the first what you’re calling CCM workshop. I was one of the first people that brought her into this organization and the The Old Guard were so upset with me. They were so upset with me that they got together and blackballed my nominations for further office. And a lot of the younger teachers were very happy with the idea. But at the same time, at this particular workshop where she had come, I had was doing a running aside workshop with a man who was an Alexander Technique teacher, and this was before anybody knew anything about Alexander technique. And the combination of these two people was more than, I mean, you would have thought that I had lit the building on fire. And…
Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 50:44
Sorry, I actually, I’ve heard this story here in Australia, I didn’t realize you are the person that organized the event. What can you do you mind sharing what year that was?
Cate Fraizer-Neely 50:58
Well, it was roughly it might have been 1993 94.
Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 51:04
That’s not that long ago. No, no. Shame. Not that long ago. Shame, people shame.
Cate Fraizer-Neely 51:13
And it. And it was out that workshop, though, that this clinician was able to get some opportunities. So it was good. I’m glad I did it. I’m glad I did it. Because there were some people that came that really, really liked her and started supporting her work. But yeah, that and then I ended up staying away from that organization for a little while, and then came back to it. And I couldn’t believe how much better things were.
Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 51:44
Yeah. Well, perhaps you did more good than you thought. Or what you realized.
Cate Fraizer-Neely 51:52
All you can do is do your thing. And if it falls on deaf ears, that’s not your problem. You have still spoken. The other thing that I experienced a lot of and, you know, it has the effect of silencing you but I don’t think it was intended to this, this sexual innuendo. I stood up to sing for a very famous bass baritone, who in a masterclass. And when I stood up to sing, he said, in front of the whole group, he said “With tits like those who cares what you sound like.”
Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 52:29
Cate Fraizer-Neely 52:32
I was 21 years old. And the effect was, I was so shamed. And you know, none of the teacher stood up and said, What? So this was like 1978 1979, there was a lot of sexual innuendo. I went to another organizational meeting, and the teacher, look, the one of the male teachers came up, and he spoke to my chest, you spoke to my chest, you did not lift his eyes once. So I got on my knees, and I spoke to his crotch.
Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 53:05
Well, that’s probably the only part of his body that listens.
Cate Fraizer-Neely 53:10
That’s all much better to you’re sort of, you’re swimming through all this stuff and trying to come to a sense of self that’s not built on this stuff. And I was, I was I was once. You know, I was discouraged from having children. And because I would never make it if I didn’t have children. It turned in my path. Wasn’t that mega stardom anyway, I didn’t want it. But you’re just lots of times in your 20s and 30s. You’re just trying to make sense of the world through something that is not based on sexism. Right. And, and certainly that and the women who sung CCM and the singer songwriters, you know, the early people really, they had a mountain to climb.
Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 54:07
Well, it’s very interesting you brought that topic up, and I will call it misogyny. Yes. Because I’ve had a real issue with this with my students this week. I’ve had a number of female students in my teaching studio, talk about the treatments that they’ve received from their male peers. So these young girls, they would be, say, roughly between 18 and 22. And they’re put into ensembles. And there’s only say, two or three, there’s three male singers but all the female singers are being harassed by the male singers, in the sense by the male musicians in the ensembles, and it’s that same old treatment that I received when I was performing professionally. And what do you know? You’re just the cheap singer, you don’t know anything about how to work with production? What key? Do you think that, you know, I’m not gonna play in that key, you can sing it in the key I play it in. But the treatment, it still goes on. And it’s and it’s going on with the new generation of musicians that are coming through now. And my problem with all of that is, aside from this is so wrong, is why is it allowed to happen? Yes, obviously, there are sorry, there are male teachers in that class. Is it so inbred in these males? That they don’t see it? Or they don’t hear it? They’re just oblivious? If I was in that room, would it be a different scenario? Because I tend to those boys would be shut down?
Cate Fraizer-Neely 55:56
Yeah, well, that’s the advantage of being older too. And, and, but I think it is inbred. I mean, I, you know, I used to work for many years, for about the first 30 years, I did work with a high school age, and singers, ages 11 and up. And I actually had a singing school for girls, and the singing school for girls, I founded it because I could not stand what I saw in these other situations in the institution, which I taught at that time, and that kind of thing. And so the goal was to teach them enough theory and language to counteract that.
Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 56:44
All these girls have got all that, and they’re still in strife.
Cate Fraizer-Neely 56:47
Well, I guess my point is, that was happening back then. And there are many people that are trying to, I mean, how do you teach them the language to use? Do you actually say to them, this is what you say, and I want you to practice it in front of me, and I want you to practice it in front of a mirror. How do you handle that?
Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 57:08
Well, I basically said to them, well, this is something that you’re going to be dealing with, in the music industry, your career, if you decide this is going to be your career. This is how it’s it’s going to be in life, you teach people how to treat you, you must learn to speak up, unfortunately, you have to learn to speak up. And yes, if you’re like one of those little puppy dogs that rolls over and plays dead, they’re just going to walk all over you. So you have to learn to stand up for yourself. And it’s not going to be easy. You need to call out that behavior in the moment and say, I’m sorry, the way you’re speaking to me is inappropriate. And it’s disrespectful, and I won’t stand for it. Now you tell me what you have to say and reframe what you just said in a manner that’s more respectful, because I will not from this point on put up with that behavior. If it continues, then what you do is you simply walk out, you just walk out, and I said what I’m here, these particular days, and you just always know that you have a safe space in my room. So I’m not necessarily going to solve your problem. But at least you know, you have somewhere to go where you can get your head together.
Cate Fraizer-Neely 58:38
That is they are so so lucky to have you really so lucky to have you.
Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 58:44
I’m not gonna let these kids go through that. It’s no no I…
Cate Fraizer-Neely 58:49
Part of it’s part of the teaching of them. And this whole idea of giving them a voice not not giving them a voice, having them use their voice, having them voice. You know, there’s there’s more than one way to use your voice. And allowing people to start to uncover what that means is I think part of what we do.
Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 59:11
Exactly. I mean, in the industry, not only did I have musicians who misogynist, but as you said, audience members, I remember working in clubs, where it was prior to the responsible service of alcohol and people would get highly intoxicated, there’d be men out without their wives. And I’d get comments like, Ah, this is Australian accent sorry, people being like, ah, get your gear off, you know, and what I said to these girls was as tough as this may sound, it was the best thing that could have happened to me because anyone can say anything to me now, and I’ve had to learn to come back with the quickest comebacks and, and I have had to learn to handle myself. And that’s why I’m not afraid to speak up now is because I went through that that was my training. When someone says that to you, an audience member says that to you, in front of a larger audience, you can’t just stand there and take it, you’ve got to learn to go bang straight back at them. Right. And that’s what I learned to do. So that quick thinking on your feet. Now, that helps me in all sorts of areas of life.
Cate Fraizer-Neely 1:00:34
You know, it’s interesting that that resiliency can be taught, and it’s, you always have a choice for how you handle something. And those those early experiences in my 20s were some of them. And you know, they they’re, it’s not just one or two experiences, it’s like, sometimes you’re not even sometimes it’s so subtle, you’re not even aware of what happened until a few hours later, you go, Oh, my God, they teach you a certain amount of resiliency. And I’d like to think that, that in the women that I work with, now I’m teaching them also how to be resilient and stand up for themselves. And that’s another area where being a performer helps a lot.
Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 1:01:20
Now, we’ve done a lot of talking here, and and we haven’t even touched on your work as a singing voice specialist. And I feel that that is a whole other conversation. It is and the healing qualities of the voice. And I’m really interested to learn more about that. And maybe if you wouldn’t mind, I would love for you to come back sometime and talk about that very thing.
Cate Fraizer-Neely 1:01:51
You know, I’m really glad to get to know you a little bit better. I’ve seen your name around. And I think you’re charming. And you have a lot of say, and yeah, I would love to come back and talk a little bit about that. Julianne Keys and Jeremy Fisher and I talked about that fairly recently. And there’s, there’s more to be said, to be said about the difference between needing how do you learn to stay in your lane? How do you learn to work with the medical community? How do you learn to like, put the pedal to the floor and just zoom ahead with what you know is right. There’s no one way to learn how to be a singing voice specialist. At least not right now. The people have been trying to come up with a program for this, but there’s just too many different elements of it. And you can have, it’s just like being voice teacher, you can have all the skills and experiences and be a very good so you were specialist and then be have a different set and be equally as good a singing voice specialist. I tell you one thing, you can’t learn it in a 4, 6, 8, 10 year degree. You can’t.
Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 1:03:00
There’s a lot of things too, that you have to learn experience teaches you those things. That’s part of my issue with Voice Science. I as much as I think it’s a great thing. I think we have to have perspective on everything. There are some things you can’t throw out with the bathwater. What do they say the baby with the bath?
Cate Fraizer-Neely 1:03:22
I agree. I agree. As a matter of fact, the whole study of psychology, most of the people that I know who are wonderful voice teachers who have pretty intensive ecology background, wouldn’t know the first thing to do in a singing voice specialist situation. Yeah, so they got a lot of book learning and understanding that I don’t have that doesn’t always translate to working well with someone.
Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 1:03:53
Yes, exactly. Exactly. And I so there’s a whole bunch of things that I still need to talk to you about. But in wrapping up, because we could talk for hours. And I thought, oh, gosh, I kind of think we’ll just like find a lot to talk about a lot. So what is your mission?
Cate Fraizer-Neely 1:04:16
Well, I think that mission has changed over the years. And now my mission is to use my own artistry in the visual arts because I received a diagnosis of Bilateral Vocal Fold Paralysis 10 years ago, so I can’t perform anymore, but I’ve some voice back. So my mission now is to experience the arts for myself and I have always experienced the arts as healing. And this is my mission now when I work with other people, even if they’re preparing for performing or they’re preparing for their own growth is to begin to heal something in them and It’s like even performing is can be very healing for the audience with their listening. But it also means that the performer has to be has to have moved moved their ego boundary enough to be serving something greater than themselves. And my mission right now is in the people that I work with, and I’m semi-retired from private teaching. That is what I’m laser beam focused on. I’m laser beam focused on recapturing my own artistry, because it went neglected with teaching the world saying and raising children. And some listeners might know that our oldest son or our oldest is Adam Neely, who is a YouTube Music influencer. He has popularized music theory, and his YouTube channel has over 1,600,000 viewers. Wow. And you know, and he’s a jazz musician. And then my husband and I are about to head off for an adventure. In Spain in Mexico, we are going to learn a new language, and we’re going to learn are some things we want to study, but we’re going to learn how to be we’re gonna learn how to not be so useful. Just for a little while.
Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 1:06:22
I can teach you that.
Cate Fraizer-Neely 1:06:27
I was taking care of my mother for the past 10 years, who’s had an unhealthy, we just need we’ve, we’ve decided to experience life a little differently, and then come back and see where we feel led to serve at that point.
Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 1:06:43
Yes. Beautiful. And what advice would you like to offer our singing voice community? If any?
Cate Fraizer-Neely 1:06:51
Yeah. You know, here’s something I’d like to say it’s okay not to know things.
Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 1:06:57
Yay. That’s great advice.
Cate Fraizer-Neely 1:07:00
It’s okay. And I know, I know that there are people that seem like they have it all together. And their teaching is very inspirational, but you know that it’s information, you have to give it time to come through you and come out in your way. It’s okay not to know it’s okay to sit in sort of a liminal space and not sure which direction you’re moving in till you feel like you can move ahead. Not everything is linear, we think live in time and space in a linear fashion. But it’s like forward, backwards, up and down. You have your own way of getting through things.
Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 1:07:38
I love that.
Cate Fraizer-Neely 1:07:40
Thank you. Thank you. That’s that’s what I’ve come to feel.
Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 1:07:44
Yeah. And I, yes, 100% agree with you there. Now, Kate. We’ve spent a lot of time here. As I said, talking and we could keep talking. We’re going to share all your links with the listeners in the show notes. So if anyone wants to look up, Kate Frazier. Okay, if I’m going to say Frazier, you have to say one thing for me. Okay. I’m going to challenge you to say in Australian. Oh, okay. You have to say no, no, I’m not bad. There’s still a bit of American in there. That’s I heard it. How funny is that? See, everyone mimics my “No” and when they hear an Australian it’s the Oh, like, so? It’s no, no, no, no. Yeah.
Cate Fraizer-Neely 1:08:44
My tongue didn’t know what to do.
Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 1:08:48
Did you have a little bit of tongue root in there? Yes. Yes. You need that? No. Yeah.
Cate Fraizer-Neely 1:08:57
Oh, fascinating. Fascinating.
Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 1:09:01
That was funny. Well, Kate Frazier-Neely you can now say, No.
Cate Fraizer-Neely 1:09:11
Thank you so much. Marissa, this has been wonderful.
Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 1:09:14
It has been thank you so much. And I’m gonna have you back on really soon. Because, as I said, I have all these questions for you that I didn’t get to ask you because we were so busy chatting about other things.
Cate Fraizer-Neely 1:09:27
There was a lot to cover, you know.
Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 1:09:30
So much, so much, especially when you when I have a guest that that comes on the show that has so much experience and so much knowledge to share. And so many stories that life experiences, it’s going to take time to get through it all.
Cate Fraizer-Neely 1:09:47
And to let people know that this this is like I say teaching is a dharma. It’s a way of living. And whatever you choose to do, you have to cultivate resiliency and kindness in your own invulnerability Yes, stamina for not everything requires stamina that is like athletic. There are other kinds of stamina to like tenacity and stubbornness and stuff like that. That can be very useful.
Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 1:10:15
Ah yes. I’m Italian too. You You’re preaching to the choir here and Sicilian. You’re dealing with the Sicilian here.
Cate Fraizer-Neely 1:10:34
Oh my gosh. Oh my gosh.
Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 1:10:36
It’s called cement shoes in the Hudson River, if anyone messes.
Cate Fraizer-Neely 1:10:42
I love it. Love it. My mother’s people were from the southern Abruzzi, which is now Malays.
Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 1:10:49
They’re very stubborn. Oh my god, the most…
Cate Fraizer-Neely 1:10:53
Personal will the personal is ironclad. Don’t cross or push, you’ll end up at the bottom.
Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 1:11:01
Like, yeah, absolutely. They are known the abroad says they’re absolutely so known for being stubborn.
Cate Fraizer-Neely 1:11:11
Oh my god, this is hilarious. Yeah.
Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 1:11:15
Thank you Kate. Love your work. Talk to you soon. Bye.
Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 1:11:24
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.