“Spotlight”, The Movie & Priests That Abuse

I recently watched the movie, “Spotlight.” The movie revealed the many years during which priests sexually abused children in Boston. Today, NPR announced that there was a list showing which priests in Seattle, Washington had abused children.

I was raised a Catholic and attended sixteen years of Catholic education. I went to St. Thomas More, and  St. Mary’s Academy in Portland, Oregon and Fort Wright College of the Holy Names in Spokane, Washington.

I Googled a list of priests who had taught in Portland, Oregon. I was shocked to find Father Martin Thielen  who was at St. Thomas More from 1964-1983 on the list. He was there while I attended that school. My brothers, Timothy and Michael served as altar boys to Father Thielen during that time. He was later accused of molesting boys.

Father Gary Jacobson was also on the list. Father Jacobson was my father’s third wife’s brother. He was accused of molesting girls. He was at St. Thomas More from 1967-1968.

When I was a young girl, I had a sense that Father Thielen was not to be trusted. I don’t know where that came from, but I was on guard around him. When I met Father Jacobson in college, I felt the same way about him, that he also was not to be trusted.

I can’t understand how my father and his wife continued to have Father Jacobson in their home. They obviously knew what was going on with him. They continued to keep the secret about him from the rest of our family. My child was at events where he was also invited. By being silent, they condoned what he was doing.

My brother later committed suicide. He had issues around sexuality, and I wonder if any of his torments were because of these priests.

As young children, you were taught that the priests should be revered, that they were like God. Parents would never say anything against the priests. Furthermore, that generation of parents believed that children should be seen, but never heard. The idea of a young person speaking up  would be disrespectful and disregarded.

Silencing children kept us in our place. We didn’t have any directions on how to let people know we were being abused. This is a crime and the priests should be prosecuted no matter how long ago their offenses occurred.

Susan M. Carr, author of “The Ballad of Desiree”


Qualifications for A Voice Teacher

It is imperative for a singer when searching for a voice teacher to be aware of the teacher’s qualifications. There are many voice teachers advertizing that they can teach voice. But what are the qualifications needed to be a voice teacher?

Education is essential. A voice teacher should have a degree in voice, which means they went to an accredited four year college or university and studied vocal performance and vocal pedagogy with a master teacher.

At a college or university, student voice teachers can also be given a teacher’s assistantship. This experience provides guided teaching under the tutelage of a master teacher. Once they graduate, it is still very important a teacher keep training with other advanced teachers.

Professionals belong to professional organizations. For voice teachers The National Association of Teachers of Singing (NATS) is the best.  Becoming a member requires a teacher to have high qualifications.

A voice teacher that states they studied with a great teacher or states that they’re a great singer might be the wrong choice for the voice student, if that teacher lacks valid education and experience.

Learning wrong technique can vocally injure your voice and spending money and years with someone who is not qualified to teach can hinder your growth as a singer.

Beware! Ask questions. Don’t trust the web-sites. Check on a teacher’s educational background. Why waste money and years when you can go to a qualified and reputable teacher.

These are the vocal teachers I recommend:

Susan M. Carr Vocal Studio                          Wolf Carr Vocal Studio

www.theartofscreaming.com                    www.wolfcarrvocalstudio.com

A Special Christmas Place To Go

There’s an eight sided log cabin in the Huckleberry Mountains in Eastern Washington. Perhaps there’s snow falling on it as I write, beautiful white thick snow that covers the creek behind it and the large tamaracks, pines, and firs that encircle it.

I hear the birds: the chickadees, the swallows, the blue jays, the hummingbirds, the hawks and the ospreys. Maybe a coyote will walk through the pasture or a mama bear and her cub or a cougar.

I know many deer will be there frolicking in the deep snow as the beavers hibernate deeper in their dens.

The cabin will glow from the lights and the fires lit in the iron stoves and oil lamps. The cracking sounds of firewood will ward off the chilly cold.

Inside stands a tree loaded with ornaments and garlands that a young child once made. By the tree, an old walnut upright piano will be waiting to be played as Christmas songbooks sit patiently to be opened.

It will be quiet there. The bed will be covered with thick blankets as books sit stacked by the bedside. They will have a chance to be read. Journals rest on the large table in the living room with pens ready to be used. Games like checkers, Monopoly, Clue and Scrabble will compete for the prime enjoyment of the long evenings. It’s the time of the year. To get away to your favorite place. And be…..

“The Ballad of Desiree” by Susan M. Carr

Merry Christmas 2015

You’ve Got To Take Care Of Yourself

A law enforcement officer just spoke on the radio about the San Bernardino shooting. Quoting him: “We’re not going to be there. You’ve got to take care of yourself.”

For the public, recent events are creating a new hyper vigilant awareness. As the events unfold, we may not have protection immediately. No wonder gun sales go up after these shootings by record amounts.

I experienced over the summer another similar situation. My home was in jeopardy because of a forest fire.  In a L.A. Times newspaper,  there was an article titled,  “A fire chief calls for help, but no one is there.”

I learned what it takes to fight fires. Many people last summer had no help and they took care of fighting the fires themselves.

We live in a world where taking care of ourselves means being asked by our officials to become a person who starts to observe who is around them at all times in movie theaters, elementary schools, churches or large gatherings of people.

This new awareness can be seen as a sixth sense that alerts us to possible dangers. In some ways that’s not a bad thing to have. For instance when I travel to other countries, I try to school myself about where it’s safe to visit.

In the United States I have never had to have my guard up all the time. My husband works in an elementary school and now I wonder if someone coming into his school could possible hurt him. That has never crossed my mind until now.

If any governmental official says, “We’re not going to be there. You’ve got to take care of yourself,” then I want to know what I should do. I want them to educate me in how to react in a violent situation such as a shooting or to help me know what to look for in someone who could be a possible danger to others.

An expert on NPR claimed that our government is asking people to report things that we see or hear, but there is no official hotline to call or department to listen to our leads.

I can understand why a woman would want to get a gun. If I was alone, I might buy a gun and learn how to shoot it. However Bustle magazine reported on Oct. 1, 2013:  “Studies show two thirds of female gun owners do buy their weapons for safety reasons. But females who live in a home with a gun are nearly three times as likely to be murdered than those without a gun in the home.” That makes me think that maybe I should not buy a gun.

Deep down inside, I believe the world is changing and we can’t be blind to the events and situations around us. Just the same, we need to not live in fear, not to be locked up in our homes, and scared of the people that are around us. We need to be informed, educated and aware for ourselves, for our kids and others. Let’s have a sixth sense of what is around us and be alert to know what to do.

Susan M. Carr is the Author of “The Ballad of Desiree”


Why Are They Cutting Down The Trees?

This time of year, I hear Joni Mitchell’s song, “It’s coming on Christmas, They’re cutting down the trees, They’re putting up reindeers, And singing songs of joy and peace….”

I walk down Highland Drive and see another incredible 100 year old tree cut down. The canopy was phenomenal. Standing under the tree, I was in the cathedral of joy and peace.

In 2007, an old Queen Anne house was on the chopping block for a new multimillion dollar home with connecting townhouses. The first thing that came out of the contractor’s mouth,  ”Your tree has to go!”  “But my 100 year old maple is on my property!” I said. “My utilities are going to run right through its roots. It has to go!” He said.

I called the mayor’s office. I went to see the contractor’s plans at City Hall. I begged the City Council to listen to the tree and me. A blessing came through our city arborist, who became my constant assistant in helping me protect this beautiful stately tree.

One family who had five brothers and sisters lived across from this large maple. They spent summer nights climbing up the tree to be safely held in it while they watched the sunsets. One can see tiny slats of wood left, reminding us of what children cherish in their memories.

When I was a young girl the abundance of large trees delighted us. Long ropes that swung from towering tree limbs kept us entertained for hours. “Who can swing the farthest? Who can do tricks on the ropes? Who can jump off and never get hurt?”

One day someone started a fire where the trees had grown up so protected. Within a short time,  firemen were called in to battle the flames. We were told not to go down and watch but every child in that neighborhood was there. Each time the flames were doused or beaten down, we yelled with yeahs and applauded these brave men.

Looking down at the fresh cut tree stomp, I wished I could have been there to protect it. The canopy of trees may soon all be gone and we should have protected them. We should have.

“What Meghan Trainor, Sam Smith & Adele Voices Might Need To Get Through A Tour?”

Recently in the news media, Meghan Trainor, Sam Smith and Adele have had to cancel their tours. Whether any singer has vocal cord hemorrhaging or polyps or even nodules, they must have strong vocal technique in order to survive tours.

Teaching voice for over 39 years and running a successful vocal studio in Seattle and Los Angeles, I am an expert. Working with successful Grammy winning and nominated bands, I teach strong vocal technique. Technique that has been based in the Bel Canto style of singing, and transformed into vocal exercises for pop, rock, jazz, blues, country and metal.

Clients have come to me after they were told by doctors that they had nodules, polyps, or ruptured vocal cords. Since the 1970s, I have been working with singers who needed technique so they could begin to build the instrument inside of themselves. They realized they needed to know where the diaphragm and abdominal muscles were and how to engage them to support their singing. They also needed to know where to place their tone in a resonator chamber of the face with an even air flow connector. Through vocal rehab exercises that I had developed, my singers no longer have vocal polyps, nodules and have recovered from vocal hemorrhaging.

Singers must realize they can’t just sing songs stylishly or emotionally. They must learn techniques to get through a grueling tour. Sometime it is their speaking voices that can ruin their vocal cords as well.

A singer must come to a point in their career that training doesn’t take away from their voices, it enhances it. With technique from a vocal teacher, the instrument can be strong and powerful even in their fifties, sixties, seventies, and eighties.

Surgery is the last step that a singer should take. Scar tissue is a huge problem. If you choose surgery, then a singer must get a technique teacher to help them make their voices strong, healthy and flexible again.

“How Women Can Stop Taking Their Spouses Last Name?”

In the 1970s, when women got married many of them chose not to take their spouse’s last name. This had long been a tradition for many cultures. That the wife’s maiden name or birth name would be no longer used. Women would of course adopt their husband’s name. The American suffragist and abolitionist Lucy Stone (1818-1893) made it a national issue that women keep their own surname as part of her efforts for women’s rights in the United States.

For me, it was a feminist thing to do. My name reflected that I was of Irish descent. My husband was of Jewish descent. To take his name made no sense to me. I was not Jewish. My last name was given to me and reflected who I was. I wasn’t interested in joining my name to his. I just wanted to continue being the same individual person that I was christened.

In a recent Jezebel article, “Why Are We Still Taking Our Husbands Last Name?”, 50 % of Americans still believe that a woman should be legally required to take her husbands’ last name. Traditionally the last name was to help carry on the family tree, the man’s family tree. That is astonishing.

Recently, my son and his partner decided to give their daughter my son’s partner’s last name. It’s funny to realize that my husband’s name will not be carried on. And neither will mine.

My son’s partner is a feminist like myself. But her name is also her father’s last name. When I think that my last name was my father’s name, I can respect that. Anyway we look at it, the male’s name is still carried on. We’re caught in this quandary of carrying forward a father’s or grandfather’s name. I am trying to imagine how we can establish a name to carry on a woman’s identity. It is nice to think that the matriarchal names could be leading the way to a stronger family tree in the future.

Singers Need To Know When Something Is Not Getting Better

As a singer, when you start to feel sick and you have to sing, that’s a BIG problem. First, you can always sing with a cold. Even though you might not want to, singing can help heal your cold quicker. The vibrations that you produce in your sinuses and chest bone cavities stimulate warmth and bring the good cells to help fight the infection. Of course, gargling with salt water does amazing things. Take one cup of hot water (hot as you can stand it), put ¼ tsp of salt and gargle every hour for 48 hours. Also using a “Neti Pot” to flush out the infection is a must. Remember always use filtered or distilled water with 1/8 tsp of sea salt. There have been reported cases of people doing damage to their bodies when they used tap water and iodized salt.

Usually I give my body one week at the most to be sick. If you start to sing, check your break notes on these vowels: a, e, i, o, u. The vowel a, e, and o will be most affected when you are sick. If no sound comes out, then you must go to an E.N.T., an Ear, Throat, Nose, doctor who is a specialist that has seen many possible problems that could go wrong with a singer’s instrument. If I am sick for a week with fevers, I go to my E.N.T. doctor. They will give me the low down on what is the problem and what drugs I should take so I can get the infection over with and be able to sing. My doctor would always say get more sleep and eat hot soups as well.

Lately, more voice students are coming in sick and staying sick. Don’t wait a month without seeing an E.N.T. A regular doctor might not give you a correct diagnosis. Your instrument will be exhausted. Your speaking voice will be exhausted. Your entire system will be exhausted. You need to be smart and take care of the illness. An illness that lasts that long is a sign of something bigger. You could be contagious which means you could put other people at risk.

If you are traveling on a plane, take a Claritin three hours before and put a dab of Neosporin on your nostrils to help fight any bacteria in the plane.

The most important relationship that you have as a singer will be with the E.N.T. I listen to mine and if he says, “Try to see if you can get better naturally in a few days. If you don’t, then these are the drugs I recommend.” I will follow his advice. I always have a choice, but sometimes if I am teaching and performing, I will take the drugs to not have the illness linger longer.

“Who Has Grit?”

In the music industry, you have to have “GRIT” as a woman. Nothing is going to be handed to you on a silver platter. The incredible long hours of writing songs, practicing them, recording them and marketing them is never ending. There is no moment of falling in your puddle and crying. Your journey is a long lonely road full of determination and GRIT.

Do you have GRIT? The courage to do what you want to do without rewards of fame or money.

Do you have GRIT? To keep getting up on stage and performing with all your moral fiber.

Do you have GRIT? To have the backbone and conviction to tell the world what you think is important.

No one has the right to tell another person what they should think or believe. Especially the Catholic Church. I think Sinead O’Connor has GRIT. Listen to her song, “My Special Child.” Sinead O’Connor tells the world about her own abortion and expresses how she felt even if her words created controversy.

Pope Francis said that he had met so many women who bear in their hearts the scar of this painful decision, yet the church still believes it is a grave sin. The Pope will allow priests to show mercy but only during the Holy Year. I don’t believe the Pope is going far enough.

The grandson of Planned Parenthood has spoken out on The Pro Life comments that Pope Francis made during his trip to the United States.

The Pope said, “The innocent victims of abortion, children who die of hunger or from bombings, immigrants who drown in the search for a better tomorrow, the elderly or the sick who are considered a burden, the victims of terrorism, wars, violence and drug trafficking, the environment devastated by man’s predatory relationship with nature at stake in all of this is the gift of God, of which we are able stewards but no masters….”

Women’s words are extremely important right now. If you are an author, have GRIT. If you are a playwright, have GRIT, if you are a songwriter, have GRIT. Your pain will have merit. It will resonate to others. We must all grit our teeth and put our words to the test.

“PTSD Triggers”

I recently had a traumatic event happen. After fighting a fire at my cabin. I realized that it triggered PTSD. I never would have thought to make this connection but now I can.

My upbringing as a young child was incredibly traumatic. There were already signs showing that I had PTSD. Memory problems, always being on guard for danger, trouble concentrating and being easily frightened or startled. Immediately, when my friend came running in and said, “You have to evacuate!” I went into a hyper vigilant mode. My heart pounded faster, my blood pressure rose, my senses became very sharp. A mental list of what I needed to bring to survive appeared in my mind. Sleeping bags, blow-up mattresses, pillows, sheets, blankets, clothes, food, camping equipment, tents, water, toiletries, flashlights. My mind was racing and my physical movements were quick. But as the stress kept compounding day after day, my concentration began to falter, my memory started to fail. I also had troubles with words when I spoke and the right words were slow to connect to.

Every time airplanes started to come down low above my cabin, that triggered it. Seeing the plumes of smoke or fire near my cabin triggered it too. It took awhile after I returned to Seattle to calm down, to feel safe again. When I would see a plane, I slowly started to not be in fear and wonder “Oh my God!”

It made me see that my childhood had led me to react to the fire as a traumatic stress situation. The times when my mother ran after me with a knife, the times when she would drive a sports car with me in it and drove us both into a telephone pole. Put me on constant alert as a child because I would never know what kind of battlefield would be behind the front door of my house when I came home.

Now I know why I am the way I am. I want to be able to balance myself when stress triggers me again. Even in a small way. I want to be able to concentrate. To be able to speak clearly and controlled. To be able to retain memory. To be not in a hyper vigilant mode of behavior. To be normal.