Overcoming concerns about your singing voice post-menopause.
Suzanne Noble had concerns about the tone of her voice after not having used it for many years. However, as you’ll hear in the show, she needn’t have worried, and with the help of coaching, encouragement and an inquisitive personality, Suzanne now has an ever-evolving musical repertoire.
Suzanne Noble began her university studies – in the US – majoring in Musical Theatre. However, as she considered what her future performing life might involve she realized she would always be cast as:
‘. . . the quirky girlfriend’
and that she was
‘not talented enough’
so she switched her major to Communications.
On her return to the UK she thought that film making sounded exotic, so she pursued that path and successfully climbed the production-company ladder, as well as becoming a PR manager and starting a few other ventures over the years.
In her fifties Suzanne wanted to sing again, but was concerned about the changes her voice had been through, partly due to the menopause and by not keeping it up in the intervening years.
With the help of her vocal teacher – herself in her 50s – she learned to use and love her new voice, and has been performing dirty blues sets in London clubs ever since.
She has also branched out into a different style of performing, which you can find out more about in the latest episode of the Creativity Found podcast.
Clubhouse: @clairewaitebrown and Creativity Found Connect club
Music: Day Trips by Ketsa Undercover / Ketsa Creative Commons License Free Music Archive - Ketsa - Day Trips
Artworks: Emily Portnoi emilyportnoi.co.uk
Photo: Ella Pallet
For this episode, I'm joined by Suzanne Noble, who had concerns about the tone of her singing voice after not having used it for many years. However, as you'll hear in the show, She needn't have worried and with the help of coaching, encouragement, and an inquisitive personality, Suzanne now has an ever evolving musical repertoire. Hi, Suzanne, how are you? Hi, Claire. I am well thank you. Brilliant. Can you start by telling the listeners what your refound creative love is? Well, my refound creative love is singing and performing. And most recently, I created a one woman show which people seem to be getting very excited about. Brilliant. I'm excited to hear more about that. Let's go back were you musical as a child and in your school years? Yeah, I came from a musical family. So I was blessed with musical genes and most of my family is in some way musical so my mother sang on the radio. When she was a kid, my uncle is still quite a famous drummer. My nephew is a singer songwriter. My cousin is a singer songwriter. my other cousin is a singer songwriter. And I only learned quite recently that even my soon to be 86 year old father studied the drums and was taught in New York by a guy. He was one of buddy Rich's contemporaries. And my uncle, again Never knew was a sax player on my father's side. So I never knew there was anything musical on my parents side. And then, as for me, I started singing, you know, when I was little, and my mother tells a story that I used to stand in front of her friends when they were having parties when I was about six serenading them, I have long forgotten that. And then throughout school, I sang I was in a sort of elite musical group during my secondary school years that were performing madrigals and we toured around various countries in Europe. And then subsequent to that, in my 20s, I formed a band with two girlfriends of mine that did three part harmonies kind of Andrew sister style called the dirty blondes, did a bunch of sessions, singing with various bands, but then again, everybody in their 20s if you had any musical ability, or even if you didn't have any musical and pretty much everybody was in a band. So when you say that you were in a band in your 20s It was like he wasn't and then I've rediscovered singing again, after a very long break of having children and and all of that, in my 50s Amazing. Your family moved from the US to the UK in the early 1970s I believe and stayed longer than initially intended. What was your educational experience like and what were your aspirations as a young adult and how did that kind of mix of US and UK lifestyle play out? When I arrived in the UK in 1974, it was only meant to be for a year. So my dad got the opportunity. He was working for an American bank and he got the opportunity to come here for a year. And so we came over, believe it or not on the QE two, and I know crazy right right, um, which I got very sick. And I still remember the one memory I have is getting an injection with a needle that was scarily long. And that put me out for practically the entire weeks crossing. So I arrived in the UK, a girl from a suburb of New York, not really knowing anything being very wide eyed and innocent. And at that point, I was going to a department of defence school in out in High Wycombe. We were living out in Bekins field because we thought it was only for a year. And that was a note say that year turned out turned out to be actually forever. But, and my parents lived 12 minutes walk up the road. But eventually I moved. We moved into London, and we lived in a big house on Maida Vale, I had an incredibly privileged upbringing, not really recognising my privilege at that point, because I was at this American school, everyone else was American, everybody else's parents work for corporations. Everybody else's parents were VP of this or president of that and whatever. And we thought it was perfectly normal to go shopping on the weekend down the Kings Road or weigh in at Harrods or somewhere like that. We just, we just thought that's what people did. Right? So I had a very closeted, weird experience initially, whereby although punk and all of that stuff was clearly very active, and there were some kids in my school that would turn up in black bin bags, and that were going to all those punk clubs. I was much more of a sort of weekend punk. I was the sort of person that would, you know, dress up in full regalia on the weekend with my girlfriends, and we would walk down the Kings Road all 16 years, 17 years of us thinking we were super cool. And I remember ones getting stopped on Maida Vale, a car pulled up to us and it was a bunch of guys and said Joe Strummer has just been released from prison, and we're all having a party because they lived up near the Westway, right, which was really close to where I was living. And would you girls like to join us and go to this party, and I remember my girlfriend, let's go, let's go, let's go and me sensible, nice, very well brought up middle class girl was like, No, we can't do that. There might be dangerous substances there. Like we can't go to that dress, you might fool punk gear. I mean, it was the whole thing was so crazy. But um, so then I returned to the States, because of my education. I had to go to American University, although some of my friends from school did go back into English education and had to go back to do their own levels and go back to do their A levels, but I I hated, I just hated school. So I was like, whatever, just whatever it takes to get me through all of this, which was okay, just spend a few years in the States. So I got my bachelor's. And then I came back here to the UK. And then I had virtually no friends because of course, everybody had gone and then I got jobs, working in film production, and singing and doing all of that, but really had to start completely from scratch with no mates pretty much no mates at all. Except my one girlfriend, who I formed this dirty blondes with who was my American School in London friend. It was kind of odd at that point, then working out oh, this is what London is like, when you've got no money. Oh, right. Oh, I get it now. It's not like it was before you know? Yeah, it was it was like UK one UK number one. Rich privileged, completely living on another planet UK number two. Oh, this is this is live. Okay. It used to be a bit of a saying about how hippies could afford to be hippies. It's like the well off onesie like your family can afford for you to drop out? Well, I mean, dropping out of any education wasn't an option for me, because my parents were both first generation, university educated coming from, you know, Jewish families in New York that came to New York in the later part of the 19th century. In the early part of the 20th century. My mother's an Ivy League graduate, my dad went to MIT, like not going to university wasn't, that's not happening. I did suggest to them that that might be an option because like I said, it wasn't really my thing. But they're like, no, no, no, that's not even going to have Yeah, um, what did you major in? So I started in musical theatre. And when I then thought about out what my future life might look like. And thought, yeah, she's just gonna play the kind of quirky girlfriend in the movie or the querque. Girlfriend, I just thought I'm not talented enough. And so I moved into communications, which was at the very, very start at that even being a thing. So I remember by like the second or third year of my university, because American University is four years, just regurgitating the same information that we've been taught. Like a year earlier, I just thought is this it? Have we learned this whole topic, but it did teach me quite a bit. In retrospect, at the time, I was like, This is so boring. But in retrospect, I did learn a lot just about interpersonal communication and what to do and what not to do. Yeah. So when you did come back to the UK, and you you didn't hang out with. And you've mentioned 30 brands. But you've also already told us that that the musical took a backseat. So with this communications, education, what were you doing what was happening in your life? How did the music become less important maybe or for whatever reason, and what became more important that was taking over? So I always wanted, and I still do, I always wanted a job that involves travelling because I wanted to see foreign countries, I wanted to understand and appreciate different cultures. And so my first thought was go into the film industry. At that time, English commercials were very exotic things like Benson and hedges, for instance, always used to be filmed on the exotic beaches in some Caribbean island. And I thought that looked wonderful. So so it was, of course the Centre for commercials advertising, a lot of film companies at that time in the early 80s. Were all in Soho. So what I did is, I got a book that told me about every single film production company in London. And I got a friend of mine, a chick create a little cartoon, which looks like an old fashioned office with a rotating fan that like a detectives office, actually, I'm thinking about it. And there was a little envelope on the desk and the drawing with my name in very small letters on the back of it. And then on the reverse side was kind of my very small non existent CV, which says if you need any help of any type, give me a ring. I had as part of the national curriculum in the States, you get taught touch typing, so I always had summer jobs from the time I was 16. In offices, I worked at LWT, I worked in publishing companies as a typist doing secretarial work pa secretarial work because I could type at 110 words a minute, so I was always offered jobs. So I knew that that was a really valuable skill, just generally for anybody right? At that time, executive people didn't take their own stuff like they do now. And I sent that out to every single production company in London, 350 of them, and I got a job in a corporate video production company on Water Street. And that was the start of my career. And I moved from that job to a better job and eventually became a production manager. And I got in the film union, and I got a producer's ticket. And eventually I made a series about astrology for Channel Four. So that kind of took over. I never got to travel, however, so that was very disappointing. I never got any further than Bushey studios near Watford. And I realised that actually, as much as filmmaking seems to be glamorous, there's huge amount of just waiting around. And as a production manager, it really is about being a horrible person, you know, because you just have to negotiate fees with people. They say, I want 150 pounds a day, you say we've got 100 pounds in the budget. They say, Can we meet at 125? You say I'll meet you at 115 and you just do that all day long. And then you're you've got spreadsheets and you're just adding up the numbers and insurances, and at that point, we have Carnegie's because if you did ship things to a different country, we are I never win, but I just used to ship the cruise over vignettes fill out loads of dockets and documents. Oh, it was just incredibly boring. So yeah, so I left that and eventually joined my ex husband's PR company, which he just started and, and started moving through the world of what became entertainment PR and and I kept singing always, I was always singing in the background. Until really I got married and had kids and then, you know, my ex husband wasn't terribly supportive of that. And the kids took over my time. And so that was kind of kind of where it ended for a while. Why then, did it change what in sighted you to think I used to love singing, I want to do it again. Well, I went, I went on a holiday to a place off of Fire Island with somebody called Cherry Grove in Fire Island. And this guy that I was that I was with, he knew from what I told him that I had sung in my youth. And there was a lot of performers on Fire Island that used to go there from the weekend, you know, get mainly gay men off Broadway, who would turn up in these piano bars on the PNS would have a stack of music. And he said to me, this friend is like, you know, would you like to sing a song? And I said, Oh, God, I don't think so. It's been so long. It's been over 10 years now. And I was just turning about 40 then. And he said, Yeah, but why don't you anyway? And I said, I don't know. I don't know. Anyway, after a bunch of cajoling, I went up and I sang My Funny Valentine. And everybody stopped talking. And, and people came up to me afterwards, and they said, Wow, that was amazing. Do you perform in New York? Where do you perform? Where can we see you? And I said, No, I don't perform anywhere. I haven't sung a note in 10 years, except to the radio, you know, when they were like, but you're amazing. And I said, well, thank you. And I suppose that started the stirrings inside of me of like, you know, why did I give that up. And then, a friend of mine took me to a gig by a woman called Nikki lamborn, who's in a band called never the bride, big rocky band, she got loads of tattoos, big boys in her 50s. And I heard her sing at pizzaexpress on Dean street, and I was just blown away by her. And it really, at that point, I was a bit like, Oh, my God, there's a woman up there who's not far off my age, giving it all of this stuff, just belting it out. I think that really made me go, what am I why am I not doing that. And so I went up to her afterwards and said, God was amazing. I used to be a singer, I really miss it. And then she said, Well, I'm the singing teacher, come and see me. And so long story short, I got bought some lessons with her by my friend and my kids. And then that kind of got me back into the world of music again. Creativity found.co.uk is the place to go to find workshops, courses, supplies, kits, and books to help you get creative. So if you're looking for your own creativity, found experience, go have a browse to see what's on offer so far. And if you can help adults to find their new creative passion, please get in touch on social media, or through the contact details on the website. And you told me you were concerned or aware of a change in your voice, because of age. Can you tell me about that? Yeah, I mean, when I went to see Nicki, I suppose my immediate fear was that I'd noticed having not sung at all. And this is a big lesson for any female singers out there is just keep singing, keep pushing through the menopause, but I hadn't, I just stopped and so hormonal changes, not using my voice, all of that kind of things. I didn't really have much range. And what range I did have was very low. Not what I'd been used to I wasn't ever a soprano is more like an alto but I just didn't have any sense of this new voice that I had. It just didn't come out the way I remembered it. And so I was a bit like, what am I going to do with this? There's nothing I didn't feel like I had much flexibility. And I didn't really know So partly, I went to her to find out like, Can I sing? Then she worked with me and we started developing the songs together that I brought to her these crazy dirty blue songs from the 1920s kind of quite cheesy, lots of sexual innuendos, but not terribly vocally challenging songs, but fun, and she loved them and they were very suited to me, my personality, my style. And so through developing that, I started getting more comfortable around that lower range, which I now feel almost is my thing. I've really taken ownership over it now like really low, and my most recent singing teacher just loves it. She's like, Oh, those chocolatey sounds down there. I love them. So I've really grown into and gotten very comfortable around what is now my thing. I know what you're thinking, dear listener, you're thinking I want to hear Suzanne sting. Well, luckily for you, I asked Suzanne to give us a quick blast while we were recording. Enjoy. Yeah, so for dirty voice song. So it goes, I woke up this morning, with an awful ache and head woke up this morning, where then I'll feel like and hey, my new man left me just a room and an empty bed. Oh, thank you. Before I move on to how you start actually sharing this voice with other people and actually start performing again, I want to know, once you started learning this and accepting this and making it your own, what other ways do you think you felt you were benefiting in your everyday life and your emotional life, whatever, by coming back to this? Well, alongside this, I had just recently left working in PR and moving into tech, and started a little app for Londoners on a budget called frugal, which is now morphed into something different. And I joined the world of the startup scene in London, which required a lot of pitching, getting out in front of people and pitching was something that I started to do with greater and greater frequency. And this was not something bearing in mind that when I was younger, I did have a lot of nerves around just getting up on stage. And they used to get quite scared. And I'm not good with nerves like some people are good with nerves, I'm not good with nerves, I need to be really calm to perform otherwise, my mouth dries up. I feel like I can't breathe, and it's not good. So I started doing all this pitching to the point where I got really comfortable with it. And then I moved into the singing and the singing and having all that pitching experience. I just recognise that there's nothing to be scared of what are you scared of what was going on before with me was lots of different thoughts around fear what happens if I make a mistake? What happens if people notice what happens this what happens if that. And then I realised through pitching where I made numerous mistakes where I never got offered money, or just I got told those grades and nobody offered me anything and all of this, there's nothing really that bad that can happen. Even if you screw up, it's not really going to make that much difference. Like you can forget your lines. As long as you just keep going. Pretty much nobody's going to know. So I became a much better performer, mainly because this other stuff was forcing me to just constantly get up in front of people and there's no better way to get over any fear than to just battle through it. Um, this other stuff I kind of battled through my fear of presenting. So by the time I got to the stage, although Yeah, of course, I was scared, but not to anywhere near the same degree as I had been previously. And I would say that now it's just gotten really comfortable now just presenting, he just have to battle through it. Yeah, we come up with that a lot with guests is that whole thing that it doesn't really matter if you go wrong, if you sometimes you know, you'll go wrong, but nobody else does. And really, nobody really cares that much. They really don't. I mean, I did a show last week. And you know, at one point I forgot my cue and my penis was waiting for my cue which didn't come so I just started singing the song. I was just like, I just looked at him and I was like, here's a hello from your friendly receptionist. Welcome to Holiday Inn, just looking at him like come in anytime you want to start speaking about that performing. How did you come to start performing for other people? If you want to actually get up in front of an audience of course one of the hardest things to do as we all know is to get gigs and one of the benefits of Nikki many benefits but one of the benefits especially for me of working with Nicki was the fact that she was a working performer. She was a singing teacher and she is a great singing teacher but she also gigs on a regular basis. And if she likes you, she feels you're good enough, she will invite you to do a few songs in between her sets. It's almost like you're doing a mini showcase for the venue. So she invited me to the green now, which is a lovely kind of world music venue, beautiful little venue near me and Camden Town. And she said, you know, would you do these three dirty blues songs? And I said, Yeah, sure. And her gigs are always sold out. So it was like this packed room. Nicki sets are not short. So she was on for like, an hour or so. And I was just like, Oh, my God, just panicking inside because I hadn't sung in ages. Then she invited me up on stage. And I did the songs and everybody was laughing and just smiling. And you know, because they're fun songs clapping away, people came up to me afterwards, that was amazing. You were so good. And then Nikki said, the venue will offer you a gig, I'm going to get them to offer you a gig. So she negotiated with them for me to get a gig. And that gig went really well sold out. And then they keep offering me dates. And she did that then with some other venues. And so I got some other gigs at some other venues, which to be honest. Because people said to me, how is it that you just returned to singing and you've got all these gigs? Well, it was because she kept inviting me. And I kept doing these gigs. And it just one after another started unfolding. And before I knew it pre pandemic, me and George, my pianist who I found we had loads of bookings. So yeah, that's how it all kind of kicked off. That was brilliant, because I don't know, how I would have felt about just doing singing lessons with no real objective. Yeah, I can understand that. I think you had to be a bit more prepared than you thought you were your own gigabit green note was it when when you asked you know, what do I need? And they told you what you need? Because of course, you know, the thing. Make it sound so easy. So it was September, on our first gig was December 28 2018. And I said to the, you know, the people booking, what do I need for this gig? And she's like, you know, 240 minute sets, a website, a flyer, you know, a poster we can put up in the window, blah, blah, blah. And I went, Oh, okay. Okay, I've got three songs, okay. It's and she's like, What day do you want? Do you want it this side of the year? Do you want it next year? I was like, no, no, let's do something this year, let's do something this year. No pressure. And so then I had to go and find a pianist. He had to learn a bunch of songs from the, you know, 1920s and 30s. That for which there was no music anywhere, I had to build a website, get all this stuff done. So it was quite Yeah, it was quite frenetic during that period of time. But I met this young guy, he hadn't been out of music college for very long. And he was quite happy to dive into the fair with me. And we were doing our next gig gig and shortly, which is great. Yeah, we just hit it off, and we became friends. And we just had a blast. And then of course, once we've done that gig, he's like, Well, Suzanne, we've now got to 40 minute sets. So we might as well do some other kicks, like, and that's what happens, isn't it? You go well, I know all the songs might as well keep doing it. So yeah, yeah. Well, you've put all that work into the phonetically of the learning of it. And what have you got? Well, I've got it here. I've got a whole thing here. We just keep recycling it. Exactly. I mean, I thought I was going to do that for the rest of my life until my next pianist came along and went, Well, why don't we do a show? Well, this is what I was gonna ask you about next, because the latest thing is something altogether different from the dirty blues. So tell me about the if my friends could see me now show. George, my pianist had to go away for a while. At that point, I had a gig in the next like six weeks. And I had to desperately find a piano. So of course, I did the same thing as I'd done before I went on all the music boards on Facebook groups, all this posting. And then at my friend's gig, I met a woman who's a sax player. And I was just saying to everybody, you don't owe a PSD to no panacea. And she said, Oh, my, my father in law, could be interested in that. He's a retired West End composer, arranger pianist. So she introduced me and he was like, Yeah, I'm up for it. Give me a playlist on Spotify. I'll learn the tracks. We'll meet up we'll do this. He basically just listened to them was writing them down while he was listening to them, because he's a genius like that. And then we did the show. And then he said, what next? What should we do next? That was fun. And I said, Oh, I didn't know aren't we just going to do this show again? And he said, No, no, let's do a show. Well, of course, he's from the West End. So when he said, Let's do a show. He meant let's do a show. Not let's do a few songs with a piano as well. don't really have a Do you have any ideas? You? Do you have any ideas around what you were any thoughts around that? So we started to say things. And then he said to me, what about Dorothy fields? And I said, I don't know who is Dorothy fields? And he said, we'll look her up. She wrote all the lyrics to some of the greatest songs in the American Songbook. If they could see me now, I can't give you anything but love lovely to look at sunny side of the street, all sorts of great songs, and hey, big spender. And so I looked up this woman started reading her biography did a bit of digging was like, whoa, this woman's got an amazing life. Plus her life is had some similar trajectories to mine note that I ever won an Oscar or had that degree of fame. I never worked with Jerome Kern, sadly. But she had had a break from her career. Not as long as mine but a seven year break. When her brother died with him. She wrote Annie Get Your Gun, the book and get your gun. And he'd written a lot with Cole Porter and people and they they worked on this musical together called redhead. He died, her husband died and then she took a break. And then when she returned to the theatre, it was the 1960s She was by this point, 60 years old, everything had changed. You know, hippies were their American musicals were of a completely different flavour than they had been. And most of our contemporaries by that point, couldn't get any work, you know, because their style was old fashioned. So she then met sai Coleman with him, she wrote, Hey, big spender, and she got propelled back into the world of theatre. And she died on the day, their next musical together seesaw was nominated for Best Score, our Tony Award for Best Score, or won the Tony Award for Best Score. So and I recognised in her this Jewish East Coast woman came from this middle class family rebelled against her parents to work in the theatre, even though her father was a major huge vaudeville star. But of course, didn't want a girl working in the theatre, you know, that was totally not considered appropriate at that period of time and having success in her 60s, a bit like me. So I felt really like this was a script, I could really add a story I could really own and tell and really feel I knew. So that's what I've done. And it seems to be going down very well. Really, yeah, that is so exciting. You have other ventures on the go that are specifically aimed at talking about ageing in a positive way. So can you tell us about startup school for seniors and the podcast six advice for seniors? Yeah, everything's got the word seniors in some in some ways, so seniors sex, something like that. Yeah. So my, my main job is that I run a not for profit that delivers a programme that helps people, typically over 50, to become self employed called Startup school for seniors, we get funding from local authorities on grants from trusts and foundations. And we've just actually moved into offering it as a paid programme as well, which is quite exciting, and people are paying for it and enjoying it. So that's very reassuring. I always think when people say I'm too old for this, my immediate reaction to that is that whoever has designed this product or service, assuming they want it to reach out wide demographic has obviously just been incredibly lazy, and not done research to indicate whether or not you're completely excluding a very valuable sector of the market that could deliver you revenue, right? So anytime, like when people say to me, I don't get technology, I don't get how to do this. I don't get how to do that. I'm like, this stuff is designed to be as easy as possible. If it's not as easy as possible. There is something wrong with it, not you. You are fine. It is the problem, not you. You're cool. You're just a person going about your business, wanting to use this stuff. The people designing it are lazy. That's what it's about. I won't have any of that ageist nonsense of like, I'm too old for this. This isn't for me. No, everything can be suitable for everybody if that's what it's aimed at, as you said, sometimes products and services are aimed at very young people. And yeah, maybe I just think Well, that's not for me. Yeah, absolutely. And then the other thing, which is really lots of fun, is a tick tock channel and a podcast that I do with my partner called sex advice for seniors. And that is as it It says on the tin, just to helping people that may be struggling with issues around the menopause, sex and all the stuff that happens around this time of life with regard to intimacy, to Yeah, give them some tips that I'm not an expert, but I've done my 10,000 hours. So I feel slightly qualified here to be able to impart some wisdom around this. And, yeah, people really like it. And we get people, you know, a bit like you, we get people who are guests on the show to talk about, whether it's an area that they work in, or whether it's an area in which they're doing something out of the ordinary. So whether it's an older woman, that stating much younger men or an older woman, dating men or same age, who are paying for everything, because that's the expectation, then yeah, we talked to them. So it's kind of it's fun. Yeah, that's brilliant. That's so good. How can people contact you? How can people connect with you? How can they find out about upcoming performances? And yeah, just generally find out where you are. Oh, well, I'm on multiple way too many social media channels. I've got a Facebook page for my singing. One of them's called body blue Seuss, and one of them's called Dirty blue Seuss either the Instagram I can't remember which one they are. We've got a YouTube channel that's youtube.com forward slash dirty blues. sex advice for seniors is pretty self explanatory. It's just sex advice for seniors.com and and startups go for seniors is startups go for seniors.com. Thank you so much, Suzanne. It's been really lovely to talk to you today. Thank you so much, Claire, for having me. I'm really looking forward to hearing this from you. Thanks so much for listening to creativity found. If your podcast app has the facility. Please leave a rating and review to help other people find us on Instagram and Facebook follow at creativity found podcast and on Pinterest look for at creativity found. And finally, don't forget to check out creativity found at CODIT. UK. The website connecting adults who wants to find a creative outlet with the artists and crafters who can help them tap into their creativity.