“The best music is essentially there to provide you something to face the world with.”
Diva in a Diaper
I performed in front of an audience for the first time when I was two years old. Granted, it was my parents’ living room; granted, the stage was an old 1960s white vinyl stool; granted, my microphone was the cord to the electric frying pan; granted, my costume was a diaper; and granted, my repertoire consisted of TV commercials! Nonetheless, I was performing for an enthusiastic audience, and that was all that mattered. My career as an entertainer had taken flight!
In addition to performing regularly on that little white stool, at weddings, in school musicals, in choirs, in nightclubs, in bands and duos and trios, I also studied piano and voice through the Royal Conservatory of Music and earned a Bachelor of Arts in music from the University of Guelph. Although I gained a solid technical foundation through my studies at the conservatory and at university, my understanding and acquisition of “feel” and “expression” came from many other places, and through many different people.
On the Road with a Rock Band
In the early 1990s I had my first real taste of being a musician, when I spent two years touring with the Canadian rock band, The Pursuit of Happiness. I was a back-up singer with the group and had the thrill of touring Canada, the United States and Australia, as well as performing alongside such international acts as Sinead O’Connor, Todd Rundgren, The Tragically Hip, Concrete Blonde, and many more. The “Pursuit” provided me with a rich musical education ‒ the kind that cannot be found in school.
After touring with the band, I headed to Los Angeles to continue my music career. While there, I worked for a small jazz/blues label called Spindletop Records, and studied voice with Matthew Eisenberg, who had been a student of the renowned Seth Riggs. My time in L.A. was crazy and intense, but it taught me lots about myself both musically and personally, and I came out of it with some serious street smarts.
Learning from the Best
I have had the honour of learning from, and with, many great musicians. One of my favourites is the great jazz pianist, Bob Murphy. Bob helped me realize more of my potential as a singer, and he encouraged me to be playful and generous as a musical partner. Music is not created in a bubble. It is a living, breathing, “relational” experience, and with Bob I became less afraid of embracing my musical impulses and, in turn, more willing to share myself through its medium.
Fides Krucker, one of Canada”s premier opera singers of contemporary repertoire, was another powerful force in my musical journey. Probably one of the most important outcomes of our time together was the deeper and stronger understanding I gained about breath work, which is the cornerstone of good vocal technique.
Another influential teacher is Elaine Overholt (who was the voice coach on the film productions of “Chicago” and “Hairspray”). She is a master of vocal technique and has taught me a tremendous amount. I am happy to say that I am no longer only her student, but I have now had the additional pleasure of teaching at her Big Voice Studio.
Putting Down Roots
I began teaching piano and voice in Toronto in 1998. Around that same time, I started performing with one of Toronto’s finest jazz piano players, Marcel Aucoin, and I headed back to school to learn the art of psychotherapy. Today, my teaching is still going strong, Marcel and I are still friends and colleagues, and I am a practising psychodynamic psychotherapist. I continue to practice both psychotherapy and teaching, with an emphasis on the latter.
My musical life and education have been diverse, rich and varied, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. Life experiences bring a dimension to music that is irreplaceable. I am grateful to have met so many talented musicians who have not only been teachers to me, but who are also my friends. To this day, they continue to influence me as a teacher and as a musician. I am also grateful to all of the people I have taught over the past number of years, for they are as much teachers to me as I am to them. Finally, I am grateful to my husband and daughter, for they, too, teach me how to be “in relationship” on a daily basis, which not only enriches my life, but brings energy to my work as a teacher and, in turn, to those with whom I work.
Cocktail Shakers Band Vocalist: www.thecocktailshakersband.com