Dann Mitton is a classical bass singer, voice teacher and voice researcher and for many of us, we know Dann as founder and one of the moderators for the Facebook group, The New Forum for Professional Voice Teachers, where he inspires conversations, arouses our curiosity, and creates a safe space for voice professionals to express themselves, share their thoughts and their knowledge.

In this episode, we really get to know and learn more about Dann, his professional and academic background, as well as his achievements and how these have informed his teaching approaches. Dann is also a keen consumer of voice pedagogy literature and is passionate about connecting low male voice singers with the information they need to excel. He shares his thoughts on historical traditions in voice education, and how these traditions alongside the current voice science inform the way we think about how the voice works today.

Dann discusses the reason for actively continuing his education and expanding his knowledge across all styles, the role of the singing teacher, his teaching philosophy, how students learn more effectively, his legacy and there is so much more. You are going to love getting to know Dann Mitton.

In this episode

01:08 – Introduction

05:26 – The New Forum for Professional Singers

07:25 – Who is Dann Mitton?

24:41 – Dann’s performance career

46:34 – Teaching online v’s in the studio

1:00:25 – Dann and his love for books

1:17:29 – True or False rapid fire questions

Episode Transcription

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 00:10

Hey, it’s Dr. Marisa Lee Naismith here and I’m so honoured to be sharing today’s interview round episode with you listen, and you will be inspired by amazing healthcare practitioners, voice teachers, and music industry professionals who will share their stories, knowledge and experiences within their specialised fields to help you live your best life every day. As singers, our whole body is our instrument and our instrument echoes how we feel physically, mentally and emotionally. So don’t wait any longer, take charge and optimise your instrument now. Remember that to sing is more than just learning about how to use the voice. It’s about A Voice and Beyond. So without further ado, let’s go to today’s episode. Dan mitten is a classical bass singer, voice teacher, and voice researcher. And for many of us, we know Dan as founder and one of the moderators for the Facebook group, the new forum for professional voice teachers, where he inspires conversations arouses our curiosity and creates a safe space for voice professionals to express themselves share their thoughts and their knowledge. In this episode, we really get to know and learn more about Dan, his professional and academic background, as well as his achievements and how these have informed his teaching approaches. Dan is also a keen consumer of voice pedagogy literature, and is passionate about connecting low male voice singers with the information they need to excel. He shares his thoughts on historical traditions in voice education, and to how these traditions alongside the current voice science informed the way we think about how the voice works today, Dan discusses the reasons for actively continuing his education, the role of the singing teacher, his teaching philosophy, how students learn more effectively, his legacy and there is so much more, you are going to love getting to know Dan mitten. So without further ado, let’s go to today’s episode. Well, welcome to the show, Dan mitten. It is such a pleasure to have you here. How is life for you in Toronto?

Dann Mitton 03:11

The seasons are changing in Toronto, and the Autumn is my favourite time of year. So it is great here at the moment it’s cooled off, and everything is ready to change colour and I just couldn’t be better.

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 03:26

Oh, that’s fantastic. And we actually met a couple of weeks ago before then we hadn’t met at all I reached out to you. I had been following you on the social media forum that you’re in. We’re going to talk about that a little bit more later. But we hadn’t met and our meeting was only supposed to be for like half an hour to set up our interview today. And we ended up talking for two hours. It was quite an incredible chat that we had. And I’m so excited about talking to you today. Now, prior to that, you may not remember, but I was actually put in the naughty corner for about that. Okay, now, the new forum for professional voice teachers is one that you are one of the moderators for, and I posted something in an untimely way. And it was taken down so I was put in the naughty corner and that was because of the difference in time zones that I was confused. And I did my little brag about the podcast, but I missed the deadline. But you were so gracious in reaching out to me privately and explaining to me why I my post had been taken down and I really appreciated that and then I think I started to follow you, personally, because I thought this man’s actually a good guy. So you probably don’t remember any of that.

Dann Mitton 05:09

I don’t, first of all, because we don’t have a naughty corner…

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 05:13

you don’t? you know to have one.

Dann Mitton 05:20

No, we really dont. The new forum for professional voice teachers is sort of a, an arena for conversations and whatnot. But the reality is, we’re all teachers, and we all have something to sell. And so way back in the early planning stages of NFP vt, we looked at ways to limit people’s exposure and to respect the majority of the people while also acknowledging that people have livelihoods and that they may have goods and services that they, you know, want to make available. So the only thing that you would have shipped is a timezone problem. Because we allow, yeah, yeah, cuz we allow what we call self promotion. But yeah, promotion of any commercial, good or service. We allow that on Saturdays from 12:01, midnight to 11:59. You know, just before Sunday morning, Eastern Standard Time, because we’re rooted in North America. And you just you just would have missed that. But we didn’t. These things happen enough that we don’t attach a value judgement to that we didn’t think it at all. It’s just something that happens. So to reach out is quite normal for them.

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 06:40

Yes, yes. I’m just having a little bit of fun with it. Because my Australian humour, I have to put a spin on it. So I had to call it the naughty corner. I was put in the naughty corner. But I didn’t feel naughty at all. Once you approached me and explained to me what had happened. Now, everyone? Well, I would say most of the voice community is well aware of who you are, because you, you put yourself out there in that forum. almost on a daily basis, you share so much of your wealth and your knowledge, and you ask really great questions, you share your books. But today, with this podcast episode, we would like to know who is Dan mitten? Who are you? Really, we want to get to know you personally, because I’m sure you have some great stories to share. So why don’t we just start with Dan, and when you were a child, and when did you start singing?

Dann Mitton 07:46

Oh, well, I think like, like a lot of folks. With attachments to communities of faith, I started in church. So the church that I grew up in was a specific stripe. And I started singing amazingly, you may be surprised at this, but CCM because, yeah, the aesthetic in that church was very karaoke to Jesus. So you would put an accompaniment track with all the instrumentals of whatever favourite Christian artists you were into at the time. And you would go ahead and you know, sing your ministry for your three and a half minutes and, and that that would be it. So I started like that.

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 08:34

Well, that’s really interesting. So what point of time did you start having formal training? And was that training or classical training?

Dann Mitton 08:45

Yeah. So in the church that I belong to, there was a there was a Christian Academy of Music in the arts, and you can pay your money to join a group voice class. And that group voice class was basically just the music minister playing songs that you would sing to. And then you’d get group critique from the your fellows in the in the class. And we had a mix of, you know, men and women and we had a mix of ages. You know, I think I might have been the youngest that’s maybe 15 or 16. But we also have people in our class in their 50s and 60s, and they would be choristers from the congregation, or folks who basically wanted to improve and that was my first experience with sort of instruction. But when I was 18, that just about God so here High School in Canada, where I grew up. 18 is when you graduate, my friends were preparing for university and my family. We were not alone, a class of people that would value setting aside money for an education. So I was not going to be able to go to university and then I learned that there was a small Christian liberal arts university in my hometown and they had a music programme so I’d been singing in church and really enjoying that I fancied myself an okay singer and so I went an audition for them and I was allowed into that programme and so I lived at home and worked part time through school and started basically a Bachelor of church music and I was there for two years yeah and then I transferred to the University of Ottawa and was there for three years and then I transferred to the University of Toronto for the remaining two years of what turned out to be a seven year bachelor’s degree

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 10:38

that’s a lot It was

Dann Mitton 10:40

a lot but you know, I transferred twice what do you expect right no school take any other schools credits, so

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 10:45

right. Okay, so two questions come to mind. Firstly, you said that you started your training in the church in that group setting now you would have been going through voice change at that time

Dann Mitton 11:01

Yeah, I think that my voice change was accomplished earlier. I think my voice change was finished around around 15 and so by the time I was doing group voice lessons, it would have been like a year after that, let’s say or so so I’m not so sure. But I will say that there’s very little room for bass what so I my voice type is bass which is the lowest Yes, and there’s very little room for basis in pop music and that holds true of contemporary Christian music as well. So you wind up doing things like you know jacking your your larynx up in order to create the higher tambor and you do these things, instinctively, you’re not aware that they’re doing them and even, you know, back. So this, this would have been? This would have been the late 80s. So nobody would have even known to tell you that that was a tool in your handbag.

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 12:01

Yes. A lot of that back then probably for you would have been just you mimicking sound

Dann Mitton 12:07

mimicking trial and error and trying to mimic a tenor instrument. Yeah, bass instruments and not understanding why I was never going to be able to produce the sounds that I was hearing in these records.

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 12:19

So did you find when you went through that voice change, even though you probably weren’t aware of you may not have been doing a lot of singing then. But did your voice just plummet? Or did you just keep trying to see like, how do you go from this high? This high voice this beautiful, high voice to like, all of a sudden to becoming a bass by the age of 15? Like, how was that experience for you?

Dann Mitton 12:49

I love that, that you’re asking me to, in the context of our conversation, go back 30 years? Yes. And

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 12:58

don’t remember 30 years.

Dann Mitton 13:02

I do remember that at the time that I went through puberty one of the big hits on the radio was lean on me. Mm hmm. You know that song? Yes. So there’s a sort of a basic kind of intro introduction in the melody. Yes, yeah. And it all of a sudden, very, very easy to plumb the colour of that, of that particular line. So for, for me, that was the indicator, you know, being able to produce a convincing base for that one pop song was like, oh, maybe, you know, maybe my outcome will be low male voice. But honestly, I mean, as I you know, it’s so my dissertation focuses on my twin areas of interest and expertise, which are low male voice development and rational lyric diction. And as I’ve learned more about low male voices and how they operate, I’m convinced that there’s a genetic component. Especially since my dad sang bass source and soul sings bass in the choir, and my mom was a lady. My mom was a lady tenor, very low voice Wow. So if I inherited any of their any of the morphology of their folds, and the way their bodies are, are configured, then it only makes sense that I would be a low male voice.

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 14:24

Yes. So then it came as no surprise to you, and then you would have gone to university and that is that where you studied classical voice training,

Dann Mitton 14:36

right? So the little Christian liberal arts university in my hometown, where I did my first two years, was all classical. And that was also the case of Ottawa University, and finally, the University of Toronto. I achieved my bachelor’s degree. I think I got it in 1997. And if I’m not mistaken, there were no If there was no real formal institutional, academically based CCM training at that time, yes, I imagine he probably would would know that better than me. But yes, I did not know. Like, for instance, we had a jazz programme. And so I went to school jazz singers when the University of Toronto, but we never saw them. And we didn’t coexist. I just like my friend Heather. There was a jazz singer and I would see her at parties. That’s it, we would never our classwork never intersected. And I never saw her academically.

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 15:38

Yes. So there was quite a segregation back then.

Dann Mitton 15:43

Absolutely. And I’m sure you must have, you know, 30 years ago, you must admit that you you recall the segregated idea between styles.

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 15:50

Well, my journey has been rather unique. Because I didn’t go into academia till after having quite a long career as a CCM performer. I didn’t, yes, so I did everything the wrong way around. I was a performer for well, wrong. I should say I did it all, uniquely, let’s use the word uniquely. I had my career first and a very successful career. I then transitioned into teaching, which I fell into, and then went to into a university setting. So I didn’t go to university till 2008 Oh, wow. Okay. Yes, yes. And I went in and did postgraduate studies, but even then, there was still there was a high art low art mentality. And that still continues on but we anyway, this is about

Dann Mitton 16:56

this is a really, really important thing. So I will acknowledge that when I came up through the system, all of that cultural garbage was was true. And as much as I saw it, and there were, you know, terrible silos, teachers not communicating with each other, and that that whole toxic presence, that was a thing, and also, you know, value judgments against anything other than classical music and the intimation that classical was better somehow, or healthier, or more, you know, whatever. That was real. But that was that’s from another time now. And so when I so I earned my undergraduate in 97, and then I earned an artists diploma, I finished that in 2002, at the Royal Conservatory, and then I was gone for a decade, living life and having a career not related to music. But when I returned to grad school to begin my master’s degree in 2012, the world had changed. And now there was a new rule. It was okay to voice a respect and an admiration for CCM singers. Yeah. And there was a push toward cross training in the studio. And now we have that marvellous book by Norman Spidy. And Mary Saunders, Barton, right. So it’s been a really pleasant reordering of values. For people who are really interested in voice evidence based voice training, you’re always gonna have insecure folks who need to position themselves as better than their neighbour. And that is human nature. But it does not reflect the reality. For instance, to come back to the forum in our forum, we want the new forum for professional voice teachers to be style agnostic. And that’s that’s not to say that one style is any better than that you can excel in any number of styles, but the way our physical voice works, the vocal acoustics, the way that that voices operate in space, there is a way to understand the optimal working of the voice that is not styled dependent. And I think that this is a really important Nexus for us to find common ground. And I love attending. You know, I remember a couple years ago, I went to the acoustic voice pedagogy workshop at the New England Conservatory. Yes. And in that room, there were significantly high profile Broadway coaches right next to rubbing shoulders with classical teachers and style was not I don’t know if I’m fooling myself, but style was not a thing. We were y’all We’re appreciating the information all trying to struggle with what it means to have a format, harmonic relationship and all that. And everyone is hungry for this stripe of acoustic evidence based ways of understanding the voice. So how are you going to see that voices work the way they do that sound propagates itself through air the way it does? And then try and tell me that one way of using your folds is invalid? Yes. And then you can only use them in a certain way. Yes, I have to tell you even within classical music, there is space for non classical effect, you know, in how many operas Have you seen where they do a character move or there’s some justification for a cough or a snarl or a breathy tone? And a recitatives? You know, these are all more more common than our steely teachers would have been happy to admit.

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 21:15

Yes. I love how you put all of that. I love the way that you you’ve just answered that question. And yes, I think we definitely, we have come a very long way. Even in the last even three or four years, there’s been a lot. Yeah, I think we have come a long way. And you’re right, there are still some people. And I think they’re afraid of what they don’t know.

Dann Mitton 21:46

I think of some folks processing voice instruction, as religious dogma. Yeah, when I hear it that way, because I’m not a person of faith. Now, that is not part of my life anymore. But I do understand, you know, having been very highly charged for 20 years, I understand the trappings of and the tribalism of adherence to a code to a faith. And so I do see that with some schools of singing. Oh, absolutely. One of the things that I think debunks that very quickly is a knowledge of historical voice pedagogy and the understanding that practitioner x y or Zed did not invent that. And that this actually comes through to us through a long lineage from you know, so and so and such and such. And so when we can start to retrace where a particular exercise comes from, or why semi occluded vocal tracks exercises leave us feeling so good after we do them. Because of the work of such and such voice scientist. These things help us to understand that they didn’t emerge fully formed as the gift to humanity of one person and their cash bottleneck, whether for a small fee, they’ll share the mystery with you. That’s no longer part of working vocal instruction in the 21st century. Instead, there’s a I want to think there’s a pluralism and there’s a sharing among colleagues, that I want our forum, for instance, to be a big part of I want it I want there to be a free exchange of knowledge. And that is frowned upon by folks who guard their knowledge and put a price tag next to it. And I am aware that folks who excel at the business of singing frown at me giving away my intellectual property, but it’s not mine. I just am showing people which book to look at. And yes, you know, offering somebody, you know, I found this free resource it could help you, or, oh, you’re having problems with the soprano and her upper Posada? Well, I happen to know that this person is an expert in that Why don’t you talk to them? They’re part of our group. Yes. And making these connections is I get a drug for me. I just love it.

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 24:33

Yes. Oh. Yeah, yes, yes. So with your own teaching. Now, we skipped we haven’t talked about your performance career, but you did perform all around the world.

Dann Mitton 24:48

You know, I yes. And I wouldn’t maximise that. I I tell people I had a small regional career. Although I did, I did perform in Europe, and I did perform And you know, I did something small in, in the Netherlands and yeah, so most of my work has been here in Canada and in the States.

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 25:09

Okay, so you’ve had the performance. So let’s say regional performance career. Yeah. You have your university training. And you do a lot of reading, I know we’re going to talk about your research work as well. But what has been your greatest inspiration or who’s been your greatest mentor when it’s come to you? First up with your own career and then as a teacher, or as a singer,

Dann Mitton 25:44

career wise. And as a teacher as a singer? Well, I will say so before I returned to grad school, I spent five years learning from Canadian bass baritone Gary railly. His Son, john relia is also an operatic bass baritone, who’s doing very well for himself. Gary, helped me discover my adult voice up until I worked with him. My very first singing teacher told me you should always try to sound as young as possible. Oh, and I understand now, you know, now that I’m not young anymore. I understand where that was.

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 26:29


Dann Mitton 26:30

in 21, right. Yeah. So I understand where that advice was coming from, but it’s not good advice. And it’s not good advice for a low male voice singer, who is used by classical singing as an archetype of the patriarchy. We’re always gods and fathers and kings and demons and prophets. Yes. Male authority figures. Yes. So to sound Ah, to try and make a young tone. Instead of Oh, like, I haven’t sung today. Sorry.

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 27:05

I haven’t spoken today two

Dann Mitton 27:09

times. But there was a an aesthetic barrier for me between discovering what my voice was really capable of as an adult. And the idea that I needed to sound as young as possible, right? Yeah. So Garrett, Gary was able to help me discover how to get my folds to meet in that full full way that’s necessary for basis. And he did it. Basically, with a year’s worth of, of me making barnyard noises. I was bent over at the waist and moving like a cow for a long time. And I believe me, I lost Yeah, and I’m drawing

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 27:45

like a ball.

Dann Mitton 27:47

Well, I just I wonder what the hell am I paying for? What is this?

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 27:59

But you know, I could so I’m laughing. Not at you, but with you. Because I do that with my students. like making animal noises at times, like, puppy whimpers and, and meowing like, like a cat. Yeah, and you know, so maybe if those things really do help,

Dann Mitton 28:21

they really, really do help. And our body wants to do them. Our body knows how to play.

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 28:26

Yes, yes, exactly. And it’s amazing. When you take singing away from somebody, and just get them to create sound. All of a sudden, everything opens up, doesn’t it?

Dann Mitton 28:38

But how hard is it to get? You know, you’ve got a smart, motivated, hungry, young student in your studio, and how hard is it to pry their commitment to beauty of tone away from them enough for them to play and discover who they really are? Yeah, it’s, it’s it’s emotional.

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 28:58

It is emotional. But I think that comes down to trust. When you have built that relationship with the student. Yes. And they trust you, and you’ve created that safe space for them. I think that is the best way to get them to do those kinds of things. Yes, it is. And then when they work, when they discovered that after the first time of doing something like that, and it actually works. They go, we don’t know what just happened, but this feels really good.

Dann Mitton 29:30

Yes. Yeah, isn’t it? It’s a it’s a humbling moment, isn’t it? There’s just this space to just stop and experience humility when a student does trust you to get in there and fiddle with the machinery.

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 29:44

Yes, yes. And isn’t it great to have those moments? I don’t know about you. But when a student does something really well, you’ve worked with them. they’ve, they’ve trusted you. And they’ve gone on that journey. With you, and they achieved that one thing that they’ve really wanted to achieve. I still feel it in my body that that sense of pride and gratitude. Do you get like that?

Dann Mitton 30:13

Yeah. I mean, how could you not right? There’s a real, there’s a brilliant real key quote that I can’t, I’m sorry, I don’t have it at my fingertips. I could, I suppose I could Google it. But he basically says that it takes a constellation of errors for any one person to ever truly successfully advise another person. And that magnificent serendipitous accidental confluence of being able to have a bit of your knowledge and perception grafted on to another human in their journey. That’s a big deal.

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 30:53

Yes, absolutely. And did you always want to be a teacher, a singing teacher? Or did you just fall into it? Like most of us did?

Dann Mitton 31:04

Think I always wanted to teach. Although my mom back when she was alive, she saved this drawing I did when I was four or five of me preaching, as I’m sort of a preacher in a in a pulpit. So some kind of public facing something?

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 31:24

Sure. Yeah. Yeah.

Dann Mitton 31:27

And I don’t know if I ever felt entitled to teach because I was never sure how to sing when I was in my 20s. And 30s, you know, when I went, so I went back to grad school in 2012, when I was 40. And I had figured out how I do what I do. And so it was easy for me to Well, it was an odd experience to because I was sitting in my master’s classes, next, you know, rubbing shoulders with 20 year olds, and thinking to myself, my God, they have a world class instrument, why are they using it? And I think it’s because they hadn’t lived enough. I remember asking, and this was, this was a one of the horrible mistakes I made in grad school, because I there was a young lady who was in my, I guess it was a leader class. And she’s saying, and she was all tied up in knots. And when she came back, and I asked her, like, Where’s your personal power? Like, where is your you know, cuz she was obviously very, very bright. And the voice was just tied up in knots not able to express clearly all the work and research that she’d done on her piece. And then she just burst into tears. And I thought, well, man, you just stuck your foot in it. You know, it was a big, painful experience for me in needing to check my own privilege and understand that people are not always going to receive an honest question. Yes, where it’s coming from? Yeah. So I regretted that. And also, she looked the stink eye at me for the next, you know, three years, too, because I really damaged her with this question. Wow. Sure. Oh, wow. But but but we’re artists similar. We’re, you know, vulnerable egos. And of course, how dare you?

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 33:24

Yes. Because we do it over.

Dann Mitton 33:26

Yeah. If I could do it over, I would never have like, yeah, now I understand that you don’t, that’s not your business. Yeah, in the moment. You know, it was just so clear to me that you’ve got everything it takes where, where’s your sense of like, Where’s your personal power? And,

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 33:43

yes, well, you know what it was probably you probably with thinking that maybe it shouldn’t involve that. Because you do shouldn’t think that at times, at times, you do have someone in front of you, who has an amazing gift and amazing talent, but they don’t have everything else that they need to have to make it. There’s a lot of other attributes that you need. I laugh at myself in one sense, because I think I was never the best at anything. Like really, I’ve had to work really hard to be good at anything. But you know, when you want it so badly, it’s this poor girl, she may not have worked out that you have to want it and you have to go after it. You can’t just expect it to arrive. So you have and then you need to be able to market yourself and you have to have a certain amount of ego or confidence as well. So I think I had all those things, but and the talent kind of follow along but I had a fantastic career. And I did better than a lot of those people that you’re talking about.

Dann Mitton 35:00

But that falls like your personal experience, I think is is well documented. I think people acknowledge that it but is it 99%? perspiration? 1% inspiration? Like, yes,

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 35:13

yeah, I used to teach the business side of the industry. And I used to say the first lesson, it’s 80%, no 20%, talent, and 80%. Everything else, you don’t need to be the most gifted to have the best career. Life. That was me. When I mean, I probably wasn’t that shabby, but just saying that there were people out there that were way better than I was, and they weren’t working. I was always working, I was a hustler. So

Dann Mitton 35:50

well, you have to think to just talking about people who may be perceived as less talented or less coordinated, let’s say a nice, nicer way to frame it. If, as voice teachers, we can’t help those students to coordinate better than what are we doing? Right? They’re coming to school to learn how to sing. Yes, I can help you coordinate your body in a way that’s going to help you deliver this repertoire. If you can’t do that, what are you doing? Taking people’s money?

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 36:22

Yes, it is. And we’re really in a privileged situation as voice teachers, we are privileged to have to be able to have those students in front of us that they trust us with their with their instrument, and we can really do some damage. Like we have to be so careful. And you often hear about students that have had a terrible experience with a voice teacher along the way and a lot of teachers themselves, who have had a bad experience when they were learning did that ever happened to you?

Dann Mitton 36:59

Oh my god. Yes, that did happen to you. Like

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 37:03

Yes, but not till later. Like, as I as I did have some training that was in CCM, and it was in the 70s. I don’t know how that happened, or who this person? Yeah, it was exceptional. So I’m thinking they may have come from the Seth Riggs. Maybe from along that that school of training, I don’t know who else was out there at that time. But really know that person was an amazing teacher, very supportive teacher. Like, I had training in so many things that a lot of teachers don’t offer. Now I was taught how to how to perform to a TV camera, how to sing in a recording studio, I was taught how to sing a big cabaret show how to sing in a in an intimate space, like I had such well rounded training and it was all from a very positive, inspiring, encouraging space. So I think maybe that’s what gave me the audacity to give up with some of the others did. So what about you, then? What happened? What was your experience? What was something that happened? That was that could have been to your detriment?

Dann Mitton 38:19

something that happened that could have been to my detriment? Well, we were talking about teachers and positive, you know, positive as well, or less than positive experiences with teachers. I think so in in my life, I’ve had 10 boys teachers, and I, knowing what I know now like it’s it’s been strange, you know, Marissa to cross a, an educational threshold. So now I have a doctorate in music. Yes. specialisation in voice pedagogy. So, just objectively, I have to admit that I now have better training than a lot of my teachers on the way here had,

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 39:03

yes, yes.

Dann Mitton 39:05

So it there’s, there’s a split screen on that where I’ll look back at a bad fit with a teacher. And you have the emotions that you had, or the processing that you had at the time, which would include confusion and why things aren’t working. And you may be owning that and thinking, oh, what’s wrong with me that I can’t get this and whatnot. But now, on this side of my educational arc, I can take a look at those bad fits and say, Oh, well, they had a different agenda. I can see that now. Or Oh, they didn’t know how to teach this or this person didn’t know how to work with a low male voice. Yeah. Yeah. Like all of these things. have become instead of instead of committing me To the negative interpretation of a bad fit historically, in my development, my training now allows me to go well, they didn’t know what I know now.

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 40:09

That’s all. Yes. This is just something that came to mind. Because we we refer to you as being a bass voice. Now, me being the CCM singer, and we don’t have the fox system, as you know. So what are your notes? What is the range for a bass?

Dann Mitton 40:31

Yeah, that’s a that’s a good question. So I’m not sure who the audience for your podcast is, and whether or not they would have a working understanding of the fox system. So I’ll just say

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 40:43

really, lately, yeah, yeah. Okay, so, so diverse audience.

Dann Mitton 40:47

All right. So I’ll just explain in 15 seconds or less. Yes, that fox FA ch is a German word that means pigeonhole. And it is a tool that’s used by German opera houses to divide people up into categories that they can use as chess pieces to populate their their seasons. So if you audition for a house in Germany, and you’re a specific kind of soprano, a certain form of soprano, they’ll hire you. And then you’re expected to do all of the soprano roles that are assigned to that far in whatever shows they’re doing that season. And you can’t really be asked to sing a soprano role that’s not in your lane, right? Oh, it protects the singer from being abused, and it protects the house so they get the maximum bang for their buck. The Fox system has been mis applied outside of German opera houses, right? That’s interesting. Fox has no meaning outside of that, like in the like on the auditorio stage or with symphonic repertoire. Any number of voices can sing as a soloist, that’s any depending on what the conductor wants for the colour of the soprano. You know, he wants a heavier voice will hire a heavier voice who wants a lighter voice, higher lighter voice so far, is not something to get hung up about. And also and I’ll put this cheeky plug in there. foc is what you get hired for actually Fockers, what you get hired back for. So if you’re a working singer, and people are hiring you, so my father has zero years of us serious bass, right? Because all of the opera roles that I get hired to do Spotify, Cheetah and Enza, rostro and whatever, those are zero years of bass rolls, right? But it doesn’t matter in auditorio because bass is just bass in order to write like, if you’d like me my personality and my colour of voice, then you hire me for your for your tutorial. In CCM, you don’t have fog, per se, but you do have qualified calls. Like for instance, the closest that we get to a base I think in rent would be the role of Collins. It’d be a baritone. Really. Yes. But but that’s a low ish voice.

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 43:15

Yes, yes. And in jesus christ superstar time we had yesterday. Yes, that was the that’s the only bass singer that I’ve heard

Dann Mitton 43:27

the force. So you’ll like, Is it is it Guzman, somebody did their dissertation and they quoted me in it, which was weird to see. Fascinating, wonderful, wonderful.

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 43:40

Yeah, that’s that’s, that’s amazing. But

Dann Mitton 43:43

he did his dissertation on low male voice roles in music theatre. And there are more than a few. So saying that there are more reviews still the 10 or gets the top billing. It’s always you know, high notes or the money notes. And little male voices in music theatre are are still character, although in male and South Pacific, is baritone. in pop music, there’s not a lot of space for a low male voice outside of the novelty of our colour. Unless you’re the bass in an acapella group.

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 44:25

Yes, like the Four Seasons or like,

Dann Mitton 44:28

I was thinking more like Pentatonix right. Okay, like Abby Kaplan, who was in Pentatonix. I think he’s left the group now. Yeah, but, and also, what’s his name from take six? Oh, the best bass ever like Yeah, but but the aesthetic of an acapella group depends on a bass to be the harmonic underpinning. Yes.

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 44:52

A couple of weeks ago, I interviewed Duncan rock, who is a professional baritone. He said that when he found out when his voice settled and he was a baritone, he went to classical training. Before that he was in a rock band. And he was told he was a baritone. He was really disappointed because he said that he thought it was like a ranking system. And the baritone was at the bottom of the rank, like the tenor was up there. He didn’t realise he didn’t understand the the depth, the system and the voices. And he thought in the ranking system, he he had drawn the short straw. Yeah,

Dann Mitton 45:41

that’s a funny misunderstanding, and not one that I’ve heard before. Yeah, yeah, it’s my understanding that and maybe maybe somebody else will correct me on this, but it’s my understanding that classical music anyway, and Opera sort of inherits the way it treats voice types from commedia dell’arte. And so, you know, Sopranos, you know, virginal heavenly angels, basses, demons, Gods kings, right. Like there’s a, there’s a archetypical sort of usage to the way that those voices are used. And I’m happy to say that in new Canadian repertoire that’s being written that’s not the case anymore. They’re using these voices. They’re breaking away from old stereotypes. And I think that that’s important. Yes.

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 46:34

Now you have been teaching online for some time. Yeah. Yes.

Dann Mitton 46:40

Since all the online since we all went online in 2020.

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 46:43

Oh, okay. Before that you weren’t online? No, I was teaching

Dann Mitton 46:47

from my studio at home downstairs. And yes, it was going terrific. But we moved online. And so did I. And I think I might stay online. Yes, I really like it.

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 46:58

Yes, you do. So what is some of the surprising benefits that you found? Or some of the things that you didn’t think we’re possible? by teaching online?

Dann Mitton 47:09

Reach? my studio reaches to Germany now, my students like I’m able to teach students I had somebody booked me. Where were they? Were they in Austria? Which is just amazing to me, right? Yeah. You’re in Australia, right? Yes, yes. I’m in Toronto, and we’re having a conversation with no delays.

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 47:32

I know. And Isn’t it lovely? Like I speak to my colleagues overseas all the time? And it just feels like you’re in the same room with them?

Dann Mitton 47:43

Yeah, it really does. Yeah, so. So there’s a couple of bits of software that you can use to sort of even tighten it up even more, and so I have some of that stuff here. But for the most part, my lessons, you don’t even process that there’s a delay. And I’m finding that our students are really technologically savvy, and they’re there. They’re willing, you know, whatever it takes to connect, they’ll accommodate. Yeah, so yeah.

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 48:14

So have you found the teaching to be as effective online? Well,

Dann Mitton 48:22

I was taught not to touch my students physically. And we do that for liability reasons. But also, you know, comfort reasons. And you know, you think of it I’m a big cisgendered man in a room with a younger student, like, it just makes sense not not to physically touch. And even though touch has helped me in the past, as a student of singing,

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 48:48


Dann Mitton 48:50

respond to my training not to touch by not touching. Yes. So I would say that because touch is not in the equation, the way I teach that most of what I would be able to help the student with by way of interventions is achievable online. And we’ve had a couple of you know, funny things well reposition the camera to show you No, no, I want you to do the like bending over at the waist or redistributing your your body gravity or you know, modelling, head out of alignment or head in alignment. All of these things, I think, are achievable with an online paradigm. Yeah, I do miss though. Like, you know, I had a, my first my first low male voice student that I was preparing for university. We’d sit down when he come, we’d sit down and have a cup of tea at the beginning. Oh, you’ve talked to him about, about, you know, what was going on at school and how I look at things and so I missed that kind of time. Suppose you could still have tea with somebody online? Well, you can. That hasn’t again, part of my, my online expression. Well, you

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 50:07

have a coffee and a coffee has miraculously turned up in my household too. And yes, and that’s really interesting you checking in with that student? Because that is something that we, we all kind of do whether we do it instinctively or not, even if it’s to go, what to ask them. Okay, how has your week been? You know, we kind of do that little check in because as singing teachers, I feel that we create, we talk about that safe space with our students. And often they share things with us that they wouldn’t normally share with other people. And okay, we are not psychologists, I’m not, nor do we pretend to be. But at times, students do open up to us they’re finding their voice then discovering themselves. Has that changed in that online platform?

Dann Mitton 51:09

Well, you’re asking a good question. So that did happen like with with my student that I that that I was talking about? Part of receiving him and the first question being, would you like a cup of tea? Part of that was defusing him from his day? Because he made me aware earlier that he dealt with some anxiety, which we all do, right?

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 51:34

Yeah. So yes, just about everybody right now, whether they want to admit it or not.

Dann Mitton 51:40

So the process for him was cup of tea, and then stretching, basically doing like alignment and stretching and whatnot, was basically the first 15 minutes of our time together. And that the function of that was to just get him into his body. And out of his day a little bit. Yes, yes, um, I teach. The students that I have right now that for my, my virtual studio, are not developmentally as formative as that wonderful student. So he was in a certain place in his developmental arc. And the students that I have now are not in that particular place. And so a few of my students, I feel like they’re coming to me for, excuse me for my specific knowledge. And if there are personal questions, or if there’s informal banter, it’s usually in the context of some funny passing thing, because we’re humans, you know, yes. But but it’s less. I feel like the quality of my lessons now have less of a personal mentorship, feel, and more of a professional and technical and musical mentorship feel. And that’s okay, because this is just the this is just the you know, if we think of these as the as the the warp and weft of our studio over time, this is just the expression of my studio at the moment. And yes, maybe this time next year, I’ll have half a dozen undergraduates who, you know, need to sort their heads out. And so that’ll be what we process while we work on our song, you know,

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 53:38

yes, absolutely. And your teaching philosophy that I found, when I was delving into you and your website, I thought that was beautiful. We learn by doing. And I believe that singing well is largely about self discovery and self acknowledgement. Ultimately, we own our vocal discoveries most deeply. When we teach ourselves to sing, how to sing. Where did that come from? Is that just your experience as a teacher, as someone who has trained themselves as someone who has had a performance career, as someone who has done the research is that all of that has arrived at that point for you?

Dann Mitton 54:33

Yeah, again, you’re looking at what I consider as a snapshot in time so I love that, that that meant something to you and I yes, that’s very gratifying. But I also don’t expect that that’s the finish word for me on singing. Yes, I don’t know if you noticed, but this week I posted something in the forum. That was something about it was like an open letter to my singer, saying like dear singer, the reason I asked you so many questions is because If you is because the stuff that you discover about yourself is going to stick better than if I just tell you the answer. Yes. Did you see that post? Yes,

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 55:11

I didn’t I didn’t see that post. So I’m going to go back and look at it. I’d like to see the comments.

Dann Mitton 55:18

Yeah, there’s there was there’s some good comments on there. Yeah. But I think that falls in line with what you just read my, I really believe and look, they’re paying our students are paying us for our guidance they’re paying us to, to show them where the guide ropes are, and some, you know, to hear some interventions that will help them optimise what they already do well and minimise what they don’t do so well and, you know, strengthen this and hone that. But I ultimately believe that we do teach ourselves to sing and so when I propose an intervention, it isn’t with the thought. So they’re now so do it right from now on. It’s Have I given them enough lead in for them to trip over their own solution. No, yeah, I have I have I have a peppered the path with enough breadcrumbs so that they fall on to Oh, this is how you, you know, because it’s more like Tron, it’s more like trying to explain somebody how to ride a bike, or anything, right? Like, how do you frame the balance in your ear? Yes,

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 56:33


Dann Mitton 56:34

Yeah, do it by falling down. You you learn to sing by singing and you learn to sing by singing badly sometimes that’s okay. Yes. Or you learn to sing by singing well and excelling and then all of a sudden it not going so well and you having to stop and take a look at how to you know how to do on purpose, what came naturally at a certain point. That’s an important moment to

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 57:00

now you’ve done a lot of research. I mean, you have a lot of research interests, and they’re really quite broad mean applied vocal acoustics motor learning theory. You know, there’s so many trends, voice pedagogy voice habilitation. Which one of those is most fascinating to Do you have a favourite?

Dann Mitton 57:26

Oh, so I will respectfully reframe what you just asked because, okay, um, even though so, so my

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 57:37

disrespectfully It’s okay.

Dann Mitton 57:41

Never. Research is a funny word to use for what I am, I think of myself more as a consumer of other people’s research. Ah, so

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 57:54

I would rate based on what I’ve seen on in the forum,

Dann Mitton 57:59

so a consumer and a curator of other people’s research. So for motor learning theory, I mean, nothing, I have no primary research to offer that. But I do know to point to Lynn holdings book and to Christine bergens, Journal of singing article on on motor learning theory that gives you the basic vocabulary of it, and a number of other like, I can build you a bibliography of places to look for that. Yeah, but I wouldn’t say that motor learning is a passion of mine, I just think is damn useful. No, well, my twin areas of expertise are low male voice development, and Russian lyric diction. So those are my twin passions, low male voice development, because I always wanted to understand myself. And I was never certain that my teachers had specific knowledge of specific low male voice challenges. And, and that’s what I’ll say about that Russian lyric diction, because I had to work so hard to acquire that knowledge. And I waited through all of the English print literature on Russian lyric diction, to arrive at a basic understanding of how to pronounce Russian for the stage. So those are my twin passions. The other stuff is stuff that I think is important stuff that I would like to know more about stuff that I am excited to consume when I see new bits about it and stuff that I’m happy to compile. Good responsible bibliographies on that can help other people who really are interested in those things. Yes. I don’t really know much about trans voice instruction or the politics around that. But I know who to ask.

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 59:57

Yes. And I have applied podcast on that too. Good. That’s an episode on that one. I can’t tell you the number but I know

Dann Mitton 1:00:09

rod needs that knowledge and oh, glad Yes,

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 1:00:11

yes. Yeah. No, it was very very interesting. I learned so much in that episode.

Dann Mitton 1:00:18

Isn’t that great? Like I when I learned something like I just, I love that I love that.

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 1:00:23

Is that love of learning what led you to all the books? Dan, you have a new book at least every week a new book arrives at your doorstep I’m sure

Dann Mitton 1:00:36

I wonder if people think that I read them all. You don’t?

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 1:00:42

Do you just like having them?

Dann Mitton 1:00:44

I have Well okay, so some books you sit and read like the last I Lynn holdings book you would want to read. Karen Brunson has a book on the life life cycle of the voice that I think makes for good reading through. I reviewed Carrie Reagan’s book, and that was that made for really good reading through. But other books are referenced books. And, you know, I don’t know if I could sit and read that book by titsa principles of voice production. That to me, you dip into four important nuggets. Right, right. Maybe Maybe somebody out there has read it through. But I’ll tell you, I read Richard Miller and how I’m sure he well. But then again, Ian reads the way he reads to write

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 1:01:36

Okay, yes. And I can say that, because I know Ian and I said that with love.

Dann Mitton 1:01:42

Yeah. Oh, nothing but love for you. And I will I can tell you that as someone who moderates a forum. My first thought, when dealing with a challenge is always How would even act like

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 1:02:04

that speaks volumes.

Dann Mitton 1:02:07

Yeah. But I learned how to be a little bit less of myself and a little bit more of Ian, when it’s when it’s advantageous that way. He’s just so thoughtful and reasonable and kind. Yes, the world needs more of that.

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 1:02:25

Oh, oh, that’s really nice. We’ll have to, we’ll have to send him that that snippet that you actually said.

Dann Mitton 1:02:34

He doesn’t need another love note from me. He knows Oh,

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 1:02:37

okay. So with. I know, some of the books that you have a really old literature, like, some of them are so so old. Oh, I had seen some of the books, you know, the hardback books, some of them? You know, go back? I think Garcia, some of those.

Dann Mitton 1:02:59

Sure. I send you my Library link. So I keep a link to my library. Yes,

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 1:03:05

I had that. I had that. So when you go back and you read some of the old older literature, let’s just call it the older literature.

Dann Mitton 1:03:15

So we know that history historical waste pedagogy, literature. Historical voice,

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 1:03:22

okay. Yes. Okay. So when you read the historical voice, pedagogy literature? And do you think to yourself, these people were onto something here? Or, like, do you think what were they thinking? What do you think? Well, we should have stopped and listened. And, and taken note of some of this.

Dann Mitton 1:03:50

Oh, Marissa, you asked all the good questions. So good. One of the best parts about owning my own books is that I get to write in the margins. Ah, if I’ve read a book it my books are full of underlines, and exclamation marks and notes like, you know, look at such and such, or what would Miller say about this or that? And exactly, what you’re asking is in the margins of many of my books,

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 1:04:17

I want your margins.

Dann Mitton 1:04:21

Every once in a while, I’ll post a photograph a snapshot of a page of something and you can see my margin. margins. Yes, right. Right. I use a red pen to write margin notes on journal articles, right? That I print out, but in my books, it’s always pencil because I think Yes, okay, what I’m just gonna erase it. Yeah,

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 1:04:41

exactly. And it’s respect to the author.

Dann Mitton 1:04:45

So I had this conversation with somebody earlier this week about, about a respectful understanding of where of the client text of where the author was writing from. So we know a lot better now than they did back in the day. And it is like time has fast forwarded us X amount of decades and we’ve been off we’ve been given the crib notes to all the answers that you see them teasing out. So when Yeah, you see when you read Lily laymen’s book. Yes. And you see all those crazy drawings of her notes above the head, which are beautiful art, you know. We understand now thanks to chadli Ballantine, popularising them that that’s a lot of that has to do with pacinian corpuscles. And the vibrations where we experience them in our skin. And that is something that would have blown the layman’s mind because she was dead sure that a sea natural was right here. Right, right. Okay. So when I read that stuff, a lot of the time, I think, quaint, but not in a patronising way, in a way of Wow, this is how a turn of the century woman who had a career, she was teaching placement, because that’s what worked for her. And that’s what had paid for her house. So it as much as I know that placement isn’t real. I accept, yes, that can be a very helpful way to fall into that self understanding that I talked about earlier.

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 1:06:34

Yes, absolutely. Yes. So

Dann Mitton 1:06:37

I mean, we all want to be evidence based, but at the same time, whatever gets you there is a right answer.

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 1:06:43

Mm hmm. So with all the knowledge that we have now, all the science, do you think we’re creating better singers as a result of that?



Dann Mitton 1:06:57

I’m going to risk answering your question with a straight up. Yes, I do. Okay, okay. Um, now, I have some books in my library. If you look up dahlias books, they’re literally called we’ve sang better. Right? So he disagrees with me. He’s, I think he’s an Australian, too.

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 1:07:14

I don’t know who that is. Yeah. Okay.

Dann Mitton 1:07:16

So take a look at libraries. Yes. So there, there is a large vocal contingent out there that thinks you know, that singing is in a constant state of decline. And they’re, you know, deplorable today versus blah, blah, blah. My, my sense is, I bet singers are a lot better now. Because the science is better. And the the reach like the classism for singing is less of a thing. Like, you don’t need to live with a master singer for five years before you’re allowed on stage. Yes, right. Yes, you can come from a happy family and wind up becoming an expert in singing.

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 1:08:10

That’s Yeah, right way of looking at it. Yeah. So anyway,

Dann Mitton 1:08:18

I do think I do think that it’s so hard to tell without recorded evidence. I bet that more people are helped to sing better now than back in the day.

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 1:08:37

Do you think that science and the knowledge that that is giving us is just helping us get to the problem a little quicker? Yeah, figuring it out, like it’s helping us to diagnose and and to fix. Whereas before, maybe that it just took them that little bit longer? Because they didn’t have that understanding?

Dann Mitton 1:08:59

Well, we can’t ignore it. So science has no agency, right? Science is just an inanimate tool. A thought it’s a it’s a way of processing information. And science doesn’t mean anything, until you put it in the hands of a practitioner. And whether that practitioners purpose is to respect the science or to try and sell some other point. That’s that’s the the the the not that. I see. I don’t think scientific discovery helps until singing teachers can apply it with predictable results. So yeah, so so I don’t think it’s it’s it’s not quite right. And I’m sorry, my thoughts aren’t gelling very well about this. I don’t think that new scientific discoveries about the voice For a panacea for our vocal problems, I think that there’s a role for teachers like you and me to curate this information and filter it so that we can meet our students where they’re at, yes, not dad dump on them and show them that we know things, you know, like,

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 1:10:20

oh, you’re speaking my language right now. Because? Well, no, I totally understand I And personally, I totally agree with you. I think sometimes my fear is when not necessarily your forum, but sometimes on other in other forums, there’s a lot of Look what I know, rather than well, that

Dann Mitton 1:10:48

how, you know, who’s to say that somebody doesn’t receive my latest book recommendation as some kind of flex from me what I know, right? Like,

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 1:10:58

yeah, but it’s the spirit in which you, you write the context around what you’re telling us, but

Dann Mitton 1:11:06

you’re kind and receiving it the way I intended. But I also accept that other folks may be sitting back with their arms crossed and going, Who does he think he is?

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 1:11:13

But what was that what you touched upon, was the fact that it still comes back to the student, we must be student centric, we must be, must be student centric. And that, to me means that the voice isn’t just a larynx, we’re dealing with a human being human

Dann Mitton 1:11:34

being. And I want to I want to come back to Carrie Reagan’s model for evidence based practice in the voice studio. And one of her pillars is actually student input. Like it’s hardwired into her model of how things ought to work in the in the studio. There there is a branch for evidence based practice, for sure. But that’s not the end of the story. And also, there’s a dialogue that needs to happen. And you know, how was that is often the most important question we can ask a student after and

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 1:12:05

yes, yes. Yes. And also, was there something that you that you weren’t happy about that, you know, all you like, I I’m very big on having that student, tell me what they’re thinking, you know, and what they’re wanting, because I work with a lot of singer songwriters. And so they have a preconceived idea of what they want. Sure, they do. And, and, and for me, it’s about facilitating that, and helping them expand on that as well. But at the end of the day, yeah, I mean, I want to introduce other colours, as well. So broaden their horizons, and not just give them what they want, allow them to play in that safe environment, to introduce new sounds, and then they can decide if they want to use them or not, in maybe their next song, and not limit them. But to create sustainability is what I feel my job is in the sounds that they want to make. So it is very student centric. And it and yes, relying on that feedback. And that’s what I loved about what you said, when it comes to science, we can’t forget about that. We have to look at the human. And it’s not just the larynx, it’s with, there’s a whole person in front of us. Sure, there

Dann Mitton 1:13:36

is I’m also reminded from motor learning theory about in terms of a feedback sense, you know, we want to be of service to the student, but also stopping after each effort and knowing how does that or what do you think we’re, that’s not optimal, either. We know, we know. Yeah, talk less and create time for them to phone eight. My my sense is that if I’m phone ating more if I’m speaking more in a voice lesson than the student is, then I fail.

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 1:14:09

Yes, absolutely. It’s picking and choosing your moments to phone eight. Isn’t it

Dann Mitton 1:14:15

also letting them play which is so hard for me because I’m such a clucking mother hen, but letting them struggle sometimes, like the good things call again, a student that resolves their own struggle?

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 1:14:27

Yes, I had a student came to mind immediately when you made that statement. And I thought that’s a student right now that I’m having to allow that to happen. And it hurt, it is hard. But sometimes when you’ve tried everything else, you’ve got to let them go and do it their way and see how it works for them as well without any damage of course. So based on everything, the science, the books, the The literature everything. What do you feel that we can do better as a voice community? I mean, I know that’s a big question. And I’ve just thrown that out at you. But is there in any area that you feel that she you know, we can do a little bit better than in this field or on this particular topic? Or

Dann Mitton 1:15:24

you and I are surrounded by luminaries by gifted experts, by generous colleagues? Yes. And so I would not dare to put on them. What I’m going to suggest, so I’ll speak about myself and what I could do better.

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 1:15:45

Okay. Yeah,

Dann Mitton 1:15:47

I could, I could listen better. And I know that that sounds pretty fundamental. Because no, no, you know, you you want to you want to compliment the teacher, you tell them they have big ears, right? You You, we value the ear of the teacher. But I don’t always listen for content. And I am embarrassed to say, and you’ll see this in the forum sometimes, too, like, I could read more attentively. I could suss out nuance I could, I could listen, from the perspective that somebody is not raising a contrasting point to be argumentative, but that they’re trying to achieve deeper understanding, I could take that for granted. And I don’t always I don’t always have the bandwidth to live from that place. So for myself, I would like to listen better. And I think that I would like to listen better in conversations between colleagues like we’re having now. But also I’d like to listen better for insights when I read those bits of historical voice pedagogy and go you know, tetra zini really knew her stuff back in the day, she did the best with what she had.

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 1:17:06

Yes, exactly the best with what she had

Dann Mitton 1:17:10

listening and reading between the lines and not not just crossing my arms and go well, that’s ridiculous. Why would you create a whole vowel system? Yes. And go Wow, man coffin, you were ahead of your time. Like what you would have done with a Mac Book and prot?

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 1:17:27

Yes, you know, now, we’re going to come to the end of our interview, you’ve been so kind with, I could talk to you for hours and days, and we probably would do that. But I want to end with a little bit of fun here. Now when we read magazines, there’s always a lot of stuff. There’s a lot of rubbish rubbish out there, that we read about some of our favourite stars. And, and people that we know that are in the media. And these are some little things that I’ve read about you. So I would so I kept you without the photo, like I’m, I’m the pepper outsi, behind the bushes that’s gone. This is what he was doing at this point of time. So I would like I would like for you. So make a statement, and then you give me a true or false has that. Okay, I’m ready. Okay. All right. You have two dogs, and they are bernese Mountain dogs and is correct. And they are your babies. Oh, yeah, for sure.

Dann Mitton 1:18:39

We’re spending all of our kids names on dogs. That is accurate. So what are they called? My boys. My older my older dog is a twin and my younger dog is Connor. And how old are they? Oh, when will be 10 in December and Connor will be eight in November. Oh,

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 1:18:57

they’re coming up to puberty. The old one is

Dann Mitton 1:19:00

they’re actually at the end of their life cycle burners don’t live for very long. So yeah.



Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 1:19:06

you are okay. And you are married.

Dann Mitton 1:19:10

I am married.

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 1:19:14

You have suffered chronic back pain.


Oh, yes.

Dann Mitton 1:19:19

I saw a physiatrist today about it. His eyes trust physiatrist. Yeah,

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 1:19:27

I’ve not heard of that one. That’s it’s a Doctor of

Dann Mitton 1:19:31

Physical Therapy. Okay, yeah.

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 1:19:35

Don’t we call them physio therapists?

Dann Mitton 1:19:38

I think you can be a physiotherapist without a doctorate. This guy has a PhD in what he

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 1:19:42

does. Oh, okay. Well, he or he he is entitled to be if desire Tristan, right. himself whatever he wants in mind.

Dann Mitton 1:19:54

He helps my backfield better. You’re right. debilitating back pain for about 14 months. And I’m at the end of it now and Oh, good. But his his advice was strength training. He said, Don’t be afraid, go ahead and try and be active

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 1:20:10

is that core strength training?

Dann Mitton 1:20:13

I used to do Olympic lifts so like squats and clean and jerks and that kind of stuff. And so Wow, yeah. And he said, I’d mean don’t he said, don’t go from having experienced chronic back pain for a year or two straight into it. But he said, Do bodyweight squats, you know, check your alignment, you know what to do you know what to do to? And this is one of the mixed blessings of being a singer because we know our transverse abdominus and our obliques and our spine and all that stuff, right? Yes. So I’m aware of how to strengthen that stuff. And he’s like, Yeah, go ahead and do the hard work now.

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 1:20:48

That’s so you got the thumbs up from the physiatrist?

Dann Mitton 1:20:52

Yeah, yeah. Check in with me in another two months, and we’ll see what

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 1:20:56

Okay, you’re on. You don’t like anti vaxxers ranting on Facebook? Oh, I did say ranting.

Dann Mitton 1:21:09

I have space for people with legitimate questions. I think that’s over 6 billion doses of the vaccine have been administered. And it’s time to stop pretending that people without a legitimate reason to not have a vaccine are anything but selfish. Mm hmm. And if we behaved with that understanding, policy would change.

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 1:21:45

Absolutely. Okay. You love tic Tock.

Dann Mitton 1:21:51

Do I love tic Tock? I think I’m a little addicted at the moment. But it’s

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 1:21:56

okay. addicted. You’re addicted to teach?

Dann Mitton 1:22:00

I don’t know. I mean, it’s I just curious, I’m curious about social media and where wherever I see something of value, I’m ready to, to bring it in and share it. You must be talking about some of the tiktoks that I’ve linked to in that forum. So they’ll have to do with

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 1:22:26

physiology on your on your personal page.

Dann Mitton 1:22:28

Yeah, yeah. So they’ll have to do with things that I’m interested in right. Or cute animals.

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 1:22:34

Oh, you can’t go past those ones. Yeah. And, and you played soccer.

Dann Mitton 1:22:41

I played soccer in a co Ed, recreational Soccer League for 15 years. And I miss it terribly. I would love to play I can’t play with with the back pain that I’ve had. But I’m hopeful that I’ll be able to resume next year.

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 1:22:59

Yes. Okay. And what are you working on right now? Do you have a specific project that you’re working on? That was the end of the true and false by the way? And I did really good. Yeah. Good. I should be writing the magazine articles. I tell true stories and not hold the lies.

Dann Mitton 1:23:23

By expected a big lie in there for me to be able to say was false, but it didn’t it didn’t quite know. I

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 1:23:29


Dann Mitton 1:23:32

Um, yeah. So right now I’m working on a couple of articles. Yes. Okay. They’re, they’re occupying my time and attention. I think there’s space for somebody to Well, you know what? I that’s, that’s all I’ll say.

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 1:23:51

Okay. No, surprise us. And when it’s closer to the time we’ll do another interview, and you can tell me all about them. We can promote them. Oh, okay. Okay. What is the greatest piece of advice you would like to give our singing voice community community? If you could just say whatever you wanted? Be kind. I knew you were going to say that. How weird.

Dann Mitton 1:24:20

You know what? It’s career limiting to not be kind. So whether you think about the carrot or the stick, there’s never a disadvantage to being kind. Even when you don’t feel like it be kind and I’m speaking to myself as well. Yes, yes. But it matters to have a colleague to be that be that colleague who’s kind kind does not mean powerless. Yes, does not mean ineffectual. Yes, it just means that you’re kind.

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 1:24:49

Yes. I totally agree. And I think we have to start with ourselves. We have to be kinder to ourselves and then we can be kinder to others. So

Dann Mitton 1:25:00

I love the way you’re framing that and part of being kind to ourselves is being kind about our failure to be kind. Mm hmm.

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 1:25:09

And I actually yeah, I actually have to set that as an intention every day is to be kind to myself so I can be kind to others

Dann Mitton 1:25:21

while it’s working, because your way of being is on dauntingly positive.

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 1:25:26

Oh, thank you. Thank you. And what is final question? What is the legacy that you would love to leave for the world? Your labour, see, what would that be?

Dann Mitton 1:25:41

Honestly, I thought about this a lot of exits, existential crisis in my 40s. And the best thing that I can think of in response to that are the are what drives me, which are to love my family, and to make good art. That’s what I have to leave if I

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 1:26:06

if I invest.

Dann Mitton 1:26:11

myself, and my goodness, and my intention in the strong family that I have, so that we create an atmosphere of love and support here, that’s something and if I get to create good art, whether it’s through a recording I did, or whether it’s through the legacy of students that I get to, to participate in now. Yes, but that’s love my family and to make good art. That’s, I think that’s why I’m on this planet.

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 1:26:43

Yes. Beautiful. Dan, it has been such a pleasure. Honestly, I could just speak to you forever and ever and ever, and

Dann Mitton 1:26:54

ever conversation part. Oh, really, really love

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 1:26:57

it. Thank you know, it’s been such a joy. And we’re going to pick this up again some other time. When you release your work your net, those two project pieces.

Dann Mitton 1:27:08

I’m sure we’re gonna cross paths at some point somewhere. Absolutely.

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 1:27:12

And I promise to engage in the forum more. Yeah, I mean, start dipping my toes.

Dann Mitton 1:27:20

I love that because it’s only as good as the people who participate. Yeah, you know, we’re very, we’ve been so lucky to have people give of their time and knowledge. And every time somebody shares or or opens up another stream of conversation, all it does is enrich everybody else’s experience. So

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 1:27:44

yes, absolutely. Yeah. Yes. Well, thank you, Dan. I’m not going to keep you any longer. But I appreciate you so much, and keep up all the amazing work that you’re doing. And we will connect sometime again in the future. I look forward to it. Take it easy. Bye. Bye. Hey, I hope you enjoyed this episode of a voice and beyond. Now is an important time for all of us to spread positivity and empowerment in our singing voice community. It’s time for you to invest in your own self care, personal growth and education. use every day is an opportunity to learn and to grow. So you can show up for your students feeling energised, empowered, and ready to deliver your best. Be the best role model and mentor you can possibly be and watch your students thrive as you do. Thank you so much for listening to this episode. If you enjoyed it, please make sure to share it with a friend or a colleague who you think will be inspired by this, copy and paste the link and share it with the people you think will enjoy listening to this show. Please share it on social media and use the hashtag of voice and beyond. If you would like to help me please rate and review this podcast and cheer me on by clicking the subscribe button on Apple podcast right now. I would love to know what it is you enjoyed the most about this episode. And what was the biggest takeaway for you? I promise you there are many episodes to follow as I’m committed to bringing you more inspiration and conversations just like this one. I’d like to finish up with my final thoughts. Remember that to sing is more than just learning how to use the voice as singers. Our whole body is the instrument and our bodies echo what we feel physically, mentally and emotionally. So singing is not just about the voice. It’s about a voice and beyond. Please take care of yourself and I look forward to your company next time.