Recently, I was invited to be a guest on a Facebook Live event with Anne Leatherland, who is a voice educator, business coach and the founder of Vocal Intuition based in the United Kingdom. During this interview, I was asked to speak about the process of researching and writing my book “Singing Contemporary Commercial Music Styles: A Pedagogical Framework”, as well as my own professional CCM journey which led me to an academic career path. In this episode, I decided to share this interview as I believe it is time for CCM to be respected and valued equally to classical music and no longer be treated as its poor relation, especially in academia.

This interview offers quite a rare insight into my 45 years of CCM industry experience, how I fell in love with this music as a young child, my award-winning career as a pop/rock vocalist, my serendipitous transition from performance career to teaching CCM styles, and my shock introduction into higher education as a mature aged post-graduate student. It was here that I realised that the music I had built a whole career upon, was not legitimised from an academic or pedagogical standpoint. This shock revelation launched my research into CCM singing voice pedagogy, write a book based on the results of that research and has inspired me to become an advocate for this music.

In this episode, I speak candidly about the status quo in higher education, and that it is time to listen to not only the needs of our students, but also the demands of music markets, music consumers, and music industry personnel as a voice community. I would love to hear from you if any parts of this interview resonated with you. A big thanks goes to Anne for having me as a guest and allowing me to speak on this topic.

In this episode

06:05 — Marisa’s Humble Beginnings

11:57 — Was Classical Singing a Thing?

17:31 — An Advocate for the CCM Community

24:42 — Music’s Supply and Demand

29:05 — Authenticity: The Most Important Ingredient

32:48 — The Special CCM Pedagogy

35:48 — Not Just Knowledge. Set It Up Your Voice!

37:23 — Warming Up to a Different Language

39:26 — Dismantling Their Articulated Backgrounds

Find Vocal Intuition Online


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



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

Episode Transcription

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith  00:05

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  01:15

Recently, I was invited to be a guest on a Facebook Live event with Anne Leatherland who is a voice educator, business coach and the founder of Vocal Intuition based in the United Kingdom. During this interview, I was asked to speak about the process of researching and writing my book Singing Contemporary Commercial Music Styles, a pedagogical framework, as well as my own professional CCM journey which led me to an academic career path. In this episode, I decided to share this Interview with Anne as I believe it is time for CCM to be respected and valued equally to classical music and no longer be treated as its poor relation, especially in academia. This interview offers quite a rare insight into my 45 years of industry experience in CCM, how I fell in love with this music as a young child, my award winning career as a pop rock vocalist, my serendipitous transition from a performance career to teaching CCM styles and my shock introduction into higher education as a mature age postgraduate student. It was here that I realized this music I had built a whole career upon was not legitimized from an academic or pedagogical standpoint. This shock revelation inspired my research into CCM singing voice pedagogy, write a book based on the results of that research and become an advocate for this music. In today’s show, I share with you that it is time to not only listen to the needs of our students, but also the demands of music markets, music, consumers, and music industry personnel as a voice community. I would love to hear from you if any parts of this interview resonated with you. And a big thanks must go to Anne for having me as a guest and allowing me to speak on this topic. So without further ado, let’s go to today’s episode.

Anne Leatherland  03:37

Good morning and welcome to Vocal Intuition Live and I’m absolutely delighted this morning to welcome Dr. Marisa Lee Naismith. I hope I’ve got your name right there, Marisa. It’s Marisa, isn’t it?

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith  03:58

Well, I actually pronounced that Marisa. Yes.

Anne Leatherland  04:03

And you’re very welcome here. And welcome to our audience, anyone who’s watching as well. If you are joining us this morning, then please do make yourself known in the chat. And I’m sure that we can have one or two questions at the end if you have any. If you’re watching on the recording, then you can still join in. You can still add your questions and your comments and we’ll look at them later on. So I’m delighted that this is working so well because you are Marisa in Brisbane. Is that right?

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith  04:34

I’m actually in the Gold Coast. So–

Anne Leatherland  04:38

I’ve got everything wrong this morning.

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith  04:40

Oh, you’re fired! No, I’m actually on the Gold Coast. So I’m an hour south of Brisbane and on a beautiful tourist destination. I live in Broad Beach, which is just stunning. I have views of the Pacific Ocean from every room in my apartment, it is just the most beautiful place to live in. We have tropical weather, which is not so good at the moment because we’re getting a lot of rain because there is a weather in what do you call it La Niña or I think that’s what they call it. Anyway, we’re having a weather episode here in Australia, we’re having a lot of wet weather. And we haven’t been spared here in our beautiful part of the world.

Anne Leatherland  05:28

Oh it makes me feel slightly better about being here in cold rainy England then. 

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith  05:34

Anything’s Anything’s better than that.

Anne Leatherland  05:39

So this morning, we’re going to be talking about CCM singing or contemporary commercial music is what CCM means. And we’ll say more about that as we go. And Maria has been doing a lot of research in this area. But let’s have a thing to start with. Could you tell us a bit about yourself, Marisa, and how you came to be doing what you’re doing?

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith  06:02

Well, if you want the long story, it actually started probably when I was about five years old. But and I will keep it brief. But I just fell in love with this music. My brother belonged to a record club. And every month we would receive a new record wasn’t a CD wasn’t a cassette tape, it was a record and I would lock myself in the living room, put the new record on the record player, and it was always a pop or rock tune, and was the Beatles, The Who the kinks, so many of those old classic rock artists. And I would think that music at the top of my lungs. And I just loved to have that music made me feel and it still does. My husband and I listen to that music every Friday night with the wine and some cheese and crackers. And I still get up and I still sing at the top of my lungs. I still dance around the living room. He loves it. It keeps him amused. But I just fell in love with this music. And I just grew up singing this music. I was just drawn to it. There was something about it something that it made me feel it was, I think because I was silenced as a child. I grew up in a post-war migrant family, my parents were Italian, children was seen and not heard. So as part of that culture, that was the way it was it was a very strict upbringing. And I feel that music liberated me and it gave me a voice and I was able to be loud, essentially, and I was I belted everything. And then when I turned 15, I actually got a job in a band. There was a band in the same suburb that was auditioning for a singer. And I asked my mom, if I could go to the audition. And she said, “What are you going to do? Seriously, you’re a kid. As though they’re going to take you,” and what did they do? They took me. So I found myself then making money from this music. I couldn’t believe it. And I became what I call the original Hannah Montana. So I was going to school during the day. And I was going to a Catholic school with the nuns. And because it was once again a strict school there was so many boundaries at this school. I thought the nuns would get angry if they found out that I was working nights as a singer. So I kept that part of my life really quiet. So during the day of being a school uniform, nighttime, I’d been sequence. So it was quite a contradiction. Then in I moved to the Gold Coast from Melbourne. All of this took place in Melbourne, I moved to the Gold Coast. I had a very successful career here. And I was working in bands. I was working in piano bars. I was working a big corporate events, big things like the Mr. Australia Quest, things that were being televised. I was actually on a lot of local TV. I was on radio, I was singing on some of the jingles. I was doing quite well, I was doing very, very well, in fact, and based on my performance career, I was then asked to become a singing teacher at a local stage and television school. And I said no, because I had no formal training. And I didn’t know what to do. But they kept annoying me and they kept saying but you can sing. You’re an amazing singer. Surely you can teach others to make those sounds and they kept annoying me and annoying me and eventually I just said, oh, God sakes. Yes. Okay. I’ll do it. And I just wrote my own little program out. A lot of that was based on what worked for me, I didn’t harm anybody and students start started to do well. And then I started to balance the performing life with the teaching studio life that I was having. And eventually, I got to a point where, and that was 20 years later. So I started teaching in 1988. And in 2008, I thought, well, I now have a school of my own. I had 300 students, I had 12 teachers working for me, it was a big business. And I thought, well, you know, it’s time I learn a little bit more about what I’m doing. I owe it to my students, I can’t keep taking people’s money and not really know what’s going on with the voice. And by that time, I had given up performing maybe a year or two prior, so it was becoming the biggest income generator for me. And yeah, I just got to that crossroads. And I thought, no, I really want to learn more. And that’s when I went into academia. And I entered academia as a postgraduate student, they took me based on my performance experience, as well as my teaching experience. Yes. So I had no undergraduate training, but the experience that I presented myself to the university with was enough for them to say, you know, what, this is the type of student that we want in our program went to.

Anne Leatherland  11:34

Have an intuitive grasp of what to do, I think, and also, sorry to interrupt you. But I wanted to, if you could tell us a bit about the challenge of that, because it was very much a feeling at the time wasn’t that classical singing was the thing and that was the way you did. So how did you deal with that? And how did you find that?

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith  11:57

Well, I didn’t know classical singing was the thing. It was the opposite for me. I had not ever entered that world until I went into academia. I didn’t know any classical singers, all the music that I listened to was all CCM as we call it now it was pop and rock and whatever it was soul, funk, reggae, whatever you want to call it. I didn’t even know there was a banner that this music came under a banner, I my whole world was completely segregated from that classical world and that academic world. So I was having a great time doing what I was doing. And I wasn’t in my head about it, either. I thought this was totally legitimate. I’ve had a very legitimate career. For a time I was a single mom and I paid off my home, I was able to put my daughter through private school education, I was earning a fortune from this career. So it’s a very legitimate way of making money. And it wasn’t until I went into academia that I got the shock of my life went into a Conservatorium. And most of the cohort were classical singers. And I was really frowned upon. I was made to feel like an imposter. I didn’t look like them. Because I was wearing very short skirts. I was wearing plunging their clients, I had wild hair. So I didn’t look like the typical academic. And I belted I was making sounds that was so different to everybody else. They couldn’t cope. You know, it was like, Who is this woman? What is she doing here?

Anne Leatherland  13:44

You shook things up.

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith  13:46

I did shake things up. So the students, not only the teacher who was a classical teacher, and every time she modeled CCM, every hair on the back of my neck stood up because I thought, oh my God, that is not what we sound like a lot of you wouldn’t get paid a cent for that sound in my world, but the students were also ridiculing me. And it was the definite high art low art mentality. And I was the lowest of the lows in their world. And at the end of that year, so I did a postgraduate certificate. I wanted to return and do a postgraduate diploma and then go on to a master’s and I was told no, I mean, I didn’t have an undergrad, but I think there was a little bit more to it. But then I ended up getting an academic award. I got the highest mark in the cohort. I worked my absolute butt off to prove myself I had to let me back in from top and yes, and there was not a book in the library about CCM. There was the only person who was an advocate for me was Dr. Irene Bartlett, who you’ve met, yes, she was my mentor. She was my advocate. And it’s because of Irene, I’m where I’m at now. I ended up doing my masters. And the last day walking up the stairs at the Conservatorium. Last day of lectures, I was walking up those stairs, and I thought, I’m not done yet. But I thought, well, there’s nothing more for me to do, I can’t go on, I’ve completing a master’s, I’m going to pass this, this is the end of the road for me, but I don’t feel that I’m ready to leave here. I just loved the institution, I ended up loving the place. By the end, I just loved the whole vibe of people creating music, all the different sounds, walking down the hallway, you’d have a trumpet, you’d have a pianist, a rock guitarist, and all these amazing sounds and even the Conservatorium, I just grew to love the place. And the last day of lectures, it was with Irene and we had to do a book review. And I reviewed Elizabeth Blade Sela as she was known, then, A Spectrum of Voices. I don’t know if you’re familiar with the book, but in that book, she interviews, a whole lot of very high profile pedagogues of the time, all classical, yes. And I gave her a review on that book. Now, that book, there was the book that I was always drawn to in the library. And in fact, I kept taking that book out all the time over the years that I was there. So no one else ever got a hold of that. But I just loved the way it was written. I loved the fact that I felt that I was in the studio with all these remarkable teachers, I felt that I got to know these teachers, I love to how it was written. And so I was telling Irene and the cohort about this book. And then at the end, I said, my only negative is, why is there not a book like this for CCM singers?

Anne Leatherland  17:07

Absolutely. I mean, the isn’t where the walls and it’s very little, of course, we’re gonna be talking about your book in a few minutes. But yes, so Well, what was it this prompted you to research? What works well, with questions what inspired it?

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith  17:23

Okay. Okay, so Irene just so just getting back to the story, Irene then said to me, well, Marisa, you need to write the book. This was 2015, you need to write off maybe 14, you need to write the book. If anyone can write the book, you can come back next year, do your PhD, and write the book. And I just went, okay. Yeah, I, and that’s what I did. And it was a tough road. Because I didn’t have an undergrad, I’d never done research. So there was a lot of obstacles for me. And essentially, I did the PhD and the research to write the book, I actually didn’t really care about the PhD itself. It was the book that I cared more about that having said that, a lot of people do PhDs because they think they’ll get a job promotion, or whatever it is. And in those times when that research gets tough, it can be really hard. But for me, I would always ask myself “Now why am I doing this? I’m doing it, to write a book that is really needed in our field. There is nothing in the library at present on CCM. This is an industry that I’ve made a lot of money in, there are a lot of teachers out there who are struggling, who wants to learn more. And if they want to learn more, they have nothing.” It was like, in one sense, it was a giving back for me in honor of that industry. It was also helping others. It was also legitimizing CCM from a pedagogical standpoint, because at that point of time, as much as and we’ve got to thank Jeanne Lawbattery for the work she’s done in our field, when she introduced the term CCM in order to legitimize us. So we had a name because up until then, we were just other we were just

Anne Leatherland  19:37

Non-classical as if everything else didn’t matter.

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith  19:40

Yes, exactly. Which was really, when you think about that term, “other” or “non”, it was saying what the music wasn’t. And it was really highlighting the fact that we were caught up in this Eurocentric teaching model. And so She was trying to help us move ahead. But we still didn’t have that legitimization from a pedagogical standpoint, in higher education. If anyone wants to learn CCM, they had to go and either learn a methodology or some sort of go and learn it privately. At a local studio somewhere, there was really nothing. So that was my driver was was basically those reasons. And so I want you to come up with some sort of framework, the burning questions as you just asked me was, okay, so what are other people teaching? I know what I’m teaching, and it’s worked. And I’ve had students performing all around the world. But I’m just a teacher. And I’m a no, like a no body teacher, I’d never been in an academic setting for what are other people doing? So I started to search people who were prominent in the field of CCM. So first up, obviously, Jeannie. And then I found people like Julianne, I found Kim Chandler here in Australia, there was Diane Hughes. In the US, there was Ann Hecm, who’s just released another book from she’s from Berklee College, went inborn. So I started to find these particular people to see what they were doing. And was a possible by asking them all the right kinds of questions about their approaches and their beliefs, that possibly we could come up with some sort of framework. And it didn’t have to be set in stone. It was never this is the be all and the end all. It was more about, let’s give our teaching community a starting point where then other people can go and do further research, where this framework, it ended up being a framework, not a model. And not because to me, a model is speaks whereas a framework is a structure where you can keep adding to a structure or you can remove pieces of a structure, whereas a model is what it is.

Anne Leatherland  22:14

Because it means that you can be flexible. I mean, everything is different. Every teacher is different. But the framework with flexibility will give you that and I particularly love that part in the book. Yes, yeah. And the different aspects that you decided to talk about. Yes, with your different pedagogues.

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith  22:33

Yeah, so I just wanted to find out what are the teachers doing? Is it possible then to come up with a framework, that’s a starting point for our Singing Voice Community that it can be adapted, it could be communally added to it can be debated. It can be whatever you want it to be. And so that was that was why I did the research. And to become an advocate. The PhD gives me some sort of cred, I suppose. And writing the book has given me credibility, but I’ve now really become an advocate for this music. And I feel that I’m in a place of privilege, because I’m a teaching within an organization where the program that I’m working in, I’m working with popular music students, they’re all singer songwriters, they’re all writing either pop, rock, R&B, soul, funk, metal, across the broad styles that fall under that umbrella term, and I’m not going to lose my job for speaking up. In fact, my boss tells me, Marisa, do it. You’re the one that has to do this. And Jeannie has told me the same thing. You’re in that position where you can, and I will, and I will continue to speak up and I will continue to make recommendations. And I’m not scared to I’ve had a lived experience. And I think I’ve proven myself as as a performer, as an artist as an author, as now a teacher working within academia. So I’m here to now speak up and be the voice as much as I can be for the field and and to maybe speak up for others who feel that they can’t for fear of losing their jobs.

Anne Leatherland  24:32

Absolutely. Absolutely. Because you represent a whole body of work, which up until now has been in a way overlooked. And yes, one of the most surprising things I couldn’t believe it when I read it was that you mentioned in your book that of all the music listen to classical music is about 1%. 1%.

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith  24:56

It is 1% it is yes.

Anne Leatherland  24:58

 Where is all the rest and the people interested in listening to and singing? 

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith  25:03

Uh huh. Well, strangely enough, it’s really, it’s so messed up the whole demand versus supply for this music. And the training of these styles is so messed up. Because the CCM styles represent 99% of total music consumption globally. And this has been the status quo. Now for many years. I started researching this in 2015. The only change has been that rock music represented the most highly consumed under that 99%. But it’s now funk, and R&B, I think is now the top. So rock is now second place. That’s the only change. And then in terms of supply, for teaching these styles in higher education in the US, and 75 institutions that have vocal pedagogy programs, only three offers CCM, and only one specifically CCM is a standalone and that’s Shenandoah, one of the other ones has music theater, CCM, and classical and the other ones classical and CCM. So the only one that has it as a standalone program at present is Shenandoah and good on them because they’re flying the flag. And I see through what Matt Edwards is posting that they’re making changes to their program. They’re updating their program all the time to be more inclusive. Yeah.

Anne Leatherland  26:43

I mean, it’s interesting, because there was a time when I suppose vocal pedagogy programs weren’t there, were they? So they’ve gradually filtered into the mainstream in the conservatoires and universities. And now here we have the CCM, you know, following up in the rearguard, yeah. This is a book by the way, everybody, I’m just going to show you the bulk discounts we have on each framework, go and get it. It’s absolutely wonderful. I haven’t really saw yet enjoy dipping in. And I love the way, Marisa that you put CCM music in context, historical context, and also pedagogical context and in terms of how things have developed over the years. And then also, because of all your experience, you’ve put it in the context of the music industry. And I think that it’s absolutely vital that people understand that. And for me, it adds it to a lot of musical theater singers is realizing that, you know, musical theater, you mentioned, this has also developed over the years, it was always aligned with the popular styles of the day. So it’s, it’s essentially aligned with CCM. Now, it’s not aligned with those classical styles, as it was back in the 40s and 50s, and 60s, so.

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith  28:08

And I think now really musical theater should have its own pedagogy. Its its own unique art form. It’s not commercial by popular music standards, nor is it aesthetically commercial people can hear a difference. The average person can hear a difference in the sounds it should be respected and validated as its own form. Should have pedagogy now.

Anne Leatherland  28:39

I agree. I agree. And then of course, Dr. Julianne Kayce, who’s my wonderful colleague, when I worked with. And Jeremy Fisher have been working for this for years, haven’t they to actually, yes, on the map. And to have this approach it within musical theater, there has to be it’s text driven. But there has to be authenticity, which is something that you talk about a lot, actually in terms of authenticity of style. And another part of the book that I’ve really enjoyed so far,

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith  29:17

Yes, because I break down the styles and what makes them authentic in their own way. But I have to tell you, that is one of my bugbears as someone who has been a part of the industry to hear the music being performed inauthentic oh my goodness, I have to tell you this quickly when I was in Vienna, there was only myself and Trinice Robinson Martin, really who were presenting on CCM she was talking about soul music and I was just advocating for CCM and making recommendations for our industry and bless there was a teacher there. She was an American teacher who was very proudly she got up and she played some samples of our students singing CCM styles. And I thought to myself “Love, if that CCM I will run around Vienna naked,” you know, it was there was so much vibrato, there was so much legato it was not CCM, but you know, good on her, they’re having a go. And I look, I truly believe people are doing their best out there. We can’t knock teachers.

Anne Leatherland  30:37

No. They’re doing their best to break this. But I mean, I underline that you’re by no means doing down classical singing. It’s a very wonderful. But it’s putting it in context. 

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith  30:52

Yes, I have total respect for all my classical colleagues. And I do have some wonderful classical colleagues who I love and adore, who are doing a great job and I’m in awe of their singing. But all I’m saying is, it is time that we can stand side by side. And we can stand proud as the CCM industry alongside those people, we don’t want to be lesser, I think we’ve earned our stripes. Look, as you said those music consumption figures 99%. That’s what audiences want to hear. And, you know, when it comes to this higher lower mentality in higher education institutions, all they’re doing, I’m sorry to say this is thieving, because these poor students who are paying all this money for an education, a lot of them are not going to have jobs. Where are they going to work? I’m, you know, just saying and if someone can answer me that, I will, I will eat my words, or as Homer Simpson will say, or was it Bart Simpson, “Eat my shorts!” Okay, but I gave I will eat my shorts, but that they’re just my feelings. And we absolutely respectful of what music markets are demanding. listen to the voices of the students, what are the students wanting? What am music markets wanting? What a music companies wanting? What does the population want?

Anne Leatherland  32:36

And you have a very real insight into that you have a real insight into that unusual fact, both from your experience and your research, which is summarized in the book. And you have found patterns in what your different pedagogues have said, haven’t you? And drawn these together to make this framework for a special CCM pedagogy? Which I think is absolutely fantastic. Now, something else that struck me was there’s a diagram somewhere with all the different styles and genres that fall under CCM, and there are hundreds of them. Can you foresee in the future, you know, like, like you said, a musical theater should have its own pedagogy. Can you see other elements of CCM sorts of breaking away and having their own pedagogy?

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith  33:26

I think the next step to legitimizing this music is to do away with the CCM term. The reason we had the term was because we didn’t want to be called alpha. That was in 2000. And music markets have certainly grown since then. And it’s an industry that’s dynamic. It’s frantically evolving. And it’s okay to call the music, Popular music, it’s okay to call it Rock music. We don’t have to have an umbrella term anymore. I think, you know, I read somewhere that CCM excuse me for swearing was the bastard love child of classical music. We’re not that anymore. I think, as I said, you know, look at the stats, I think the next step is and this is the thing that I will be advocating for. And it’s part of my journey. And part of where I’m going to start waving some flags is it’s okay to call the music, Popular music or Contemporary music or Commercial music. It’s okay. We don’t have to abide by a term that no one else knows. Other than people who are in the singing voice field in academia. I asked my students have you ever heard the term CCM? No. I’ve asked people in the industry, music producers. Do you know what CCM is? No. So why? We don’t we don’t need that term. You know, I think it’s like, it’s now time to rip off the band aid and and take that next step.

Anne Leatherland  35:11

All these different forms, and they’re all valid ways of expression and important thing. And we have a lovely comment here from Charisse who’s just chipped in. And she’s saying it’s so interesting. Thank you, Anne and Marisa, wouldn’t it be amazing if conservatoires or pedagogical training could start from the place of informed knowledge on all genre and styles of singing equally? And then with the option to pursue your chosen field?

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith  35:43

Well, okay, I think I’m getting the gist of the question. And good singing is good singing, irrespective of style, we all need a technical background, you know, we need to have some technique to underpin what we do, definitely, we all need to organize our bodies correctly, we all need to have efficient breath, we all need to get that vocal fold closure happening the way that it’s meant to. And we all need to then have resonance based on the styles that we want to sing. Just so yes, we do need to set up that instrument. But how we set it up is different. It doesn’t mean that we don’t set it up, we all start from a place of knowledge. Yes, but it comes a point where you do have to specialize. I had classical training last year. And I can tell you, and it was the first time ever, and I did it as part of someone’s research that for their PhD, I was a participant as someone who had a long standing CCM career, having classical rep lessons and seeing what the results would be will prove. And I can tell you, it was so different. It was so different. Yeah. I mean.

Anne Leatherland  37:05

Did you feel off balance with it? Like, I’m very often I’m meeting people from the other standpoint, going from classical into musical theater or into other forms of CCM. And yet it makes me feel unnerved in any way to suddenly be in this position?

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith  37:21

No, no, because I’m very open and curious. I have I went into it with an open heart and I was quietly excited to my voice could do. And so I went in, and I was just open. But it was so weird for me to stand still. I don’t even stand still. When I teach when my students sing, I’m move. I can’t. When I hear music, I want to move my body moves, I have to stand still. And then the amount of air intake, I was hyperventilating.

Anne Leatherland  37:57

It’s so different. That manage monitor. 

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith  38:00

So different. So much like larger volumes of air, having to learn a language like seeing in the language. We’re fortunate for me, they chose an Italian song and I could I speak Italian. So that was a no brainer for me. I was just fortunate. But those other poor people that had to learn the same song Who are Australian, and only spoke English.

Anne Leatherland  38:27

During this talk with. Yeah.

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith  38:29

That legato line, the vibrato, the lowered larynx, you know, spending 45 minutes of an hour’s lesson getting laughs in that lowest setting.

Anne Leatherland  38:43

Yes. And that a different resonance shape altogether? Completely. Because what’s going on here?

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith  38:50

Absolutely. Absolutely. Whereas we don’t need to warm up that long in a CCM lesson because we’re already in that setting that we need to be in for those sounds.

Anne Leatherland  39:01

You’re already in that mode.

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith  39:03

It’s so agree with that mode.

Anne Leatherland  39:06

Sorry. overlap there. I don’t know if you’ll agree with me. But one thing that will definitely derail, a CCM song was if you go at it with classical breath, because you’re sending out this continuous stream of air and trying to keep the pressure. Same and it just doesn’t work. Yeah. Completely overloaded.

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith  39:25

Yeah, I find a I was working with a classical singer. And watch and it was so weird. She, she was doing so many glottal attacks. Like there was a lot of glottal. It wasn’t like a glottal stroke as an onset. It was an it like a lot of sounds. It was the weirdest thing, but also to trying to get her to sustain his speech quality sound or am one or chest voice whatever you whatever you’re listening This call it it’s, I’m not a terminology snob.

Anne Leatherland  40:03

 So as long as we all know what we’re talking about, that’s all that matters. I speak whatever you call it, Fred. I don’t care as long as we know what it is.

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith  40:13

Yes, yes. And I speak in whatever language people want to speak in. And, yes, so try to keep her in that speech quality. So I was getting her to read out the words, as a monologue, just spread it out as a monologue, then I had her holding the vowels, just within his speaking range, holding the vowels, and then starting to move at slightly towards the pitch zones of the song. And then as soon as I and she’d be fine, and as soon as I press play, and she was still in the same key, oh, my God.

Anne Leatherland  40:59

It’s difficult because the, the speaking center in the musical center of the brain are in different places, aren’t they, and it’s making that link between the two. So the habitual thing kicks in. And it can be very difficult to override that. But I think that’s a great way forward is to get people speaking and speaking, in toning around the pitch, and then sustaining and going in. And then now did a bit of research on what happens between vowels and consonants, in terms of classical singers, and it was actually musical theater singers, and they were all undergraduates. And there is a very real difference in the way that they treat those. I mean, that was musical theater. But there will be a difference again, in the different elements of CCM in the different genre, and the different styles. And that’s vital, too, as well as all the other things. I think.

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith  41:51

It’s really interesting in the program that I work in, in the popular music program, that the hardest students that I have to absolutely take away all their toys are the ones who have had a strong musical theatre background.

Anne Leatherland  42:11

So everything we’ve had to adjust to lots of different styles within the musical theatre canon. So the result is, it’s never completely authentic in style, is it? But it’s.

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith  42:22

it’s it’s not that it’s not authentic to them, either. It’s almost like they’re wanting me to direct them. It’s it’s over articulated, it’s over dramatized, it’s not conversational enough, it too much vibrato, way too much twang in a lot of cases. So I have to strip those poor singers back to nothing. And it’s all and sometimes

Anne Leatherland  42:50

When they’re coming into. Yeah, because the driving force in musical theater, of course, the over articulation is all part of it, and the intensity and the length of those consonants as opposed to the vowels. And then of course, you come to other areas like rock like funk like jazz, and you have to do it completely other. And that’s difficult for them to let go, because it’s been trained into them, just like classical singers have the legato line trained into them. And then the balance again. So it’s yes, so interesting. And on the So isn’t it?

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith  43:29

Yes. And that’s why my framework is a framework, because we will need to as that umbrella of music styles continues to evolve. Goodness knows what needs to happen to that framework. And in the years to come. Even when we went into an online teaching context. In my own studio, I added the students learning preferences, another linkage when it came to the individual student, because I found by understanding the student’s learning preference also helped me and it guided my teaching choices and approaches when dealing with the student in that context.

Anne Leatherland  44:13

Fantastic. I’m going to have to wind up which is a shame because I’ve really enjoyed this and but I want to just let you know, this is Charisse again. She’s saying she’s so struck by the awareness and crafting a vocal function of CCM singers and teachers. And that classical training has historically been a bit of blind, almost mysterious, and she’s thanking those same people like yourselves, advocating for this awareness is so important. So that’s a really nice thought isn’t it to end up on as time goes on, and I’m going to give the book another plug because it really is super. So here it is again. And if you haven’t got it, people if you’re interested in teaching CCM styles go out and get it now. Absolutely the thing to have, or if you think CCM, even and you’d like to know more about the styles and how to approach them, and I hope we can maybe talk again, Marisa, because it’s been.

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith  45:17

Lovely to catch up with you. I haven’t seen you since 2015. And that was in Florence.

Anne Leatherland  45:23

It was Florence. Yes, it was to manage P voc again, at some point have to come down time in between, but everything’s fine now. So hoping to meet you again in person. But this has been absolutely lovely. Lovely. 

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith  45:38

Yes. And if I can add to that my podcast if people do want to learn more, I do often talk about CCM in my podcast episodes called A Voice and Beyond. It is a weekly podcast that you can access on all the usual podcast platforms. So yeah, A Voice and Beyond

Anne Leatherland  46:00

Of course me because I’ve called this CCM and Beyond. So Marisa podcast is A Voice and Beyond. Don’t forget to have a listen to that. It’s absolutely super. Thank you so much, Dr. Marisa Lee Naismith. And soon and have a wonderful.

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith  46:19

Thank you so much. Likewise. Take care everybody. Bye. 

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith  46:28

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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