Susan Carr is a master in the art of screaming.
Since 1978, she has taught multitudes of singers, from jazz to metal, how to protect their voices from injury — whether it be from screaming, belting, grunting or growling — night after night.
Known for her vocal techniques, the Queen Anne resident has taught such artists as Macklemore, Hey Marseilles, Mastodon, Alice in Chains, Minus the Bear, Sunny Day Real Estate, Jesse Sykes and the Sweet Hereafter.
Since childhood, Carr has had a passion for acting and singing. She has performed professionally on TV, film and the stage. While living is Seattle, Carr received a BFA in theater from Cornish’s Professional Actors Training Program and has performed all over the city.
Over the years, she has also sung with a symphony and in country-rock and rock bands. She even developed her own musical tribute to Portugese-born Brazilian samba singer, dancer and actress Carmen Miranda. She presently performs in her own Latin jazz ensemble, comprised of artists she has known for 35 years.
“It’s very passionate; it makes me feel very happy,” said Carr said. “The feeling of the samba takes you off into another world. It reminds me of being on the beach in the summertime.”
She has always been a connoisseur of all types of music, noted her son, Wolf Carr, who has studied with her since his early teens and also teaches voice in Portland, Ore.
“I think it’s a testament to the way she teaches,” he said.
Like Carr, Wolf also teaches a number of artists who have been sent to him by agents and music labels. He recently went on tour with the band Modest Mouse.
“She was always a huge inspiration,” he said of Carr, adding that he still remembers mimicking the sounds he overheard while sitting outside the door of her studio as a kid.
“Sue is a very flexible vocal coach: She can take an English or Japanese song I’ve written and find a way to break it down so I can practice it for recording or a tour,” said Seattle-raised Emi Meyer, who tours internationally and just released her fifth studio album, “Galaxy’s Skirt.” “I am grateful that she has taught me how to protect my voice, something I didn’t know about when I started out. Now I can call her if I am feeling under the weather before a show — whether it’s in New York or Tokyo — and she can give me advice. It’s reassuring to have someone reliable like that.”
‘Freedom in their voices’
Carr’s musical training includes a BFA in vocal performance and vocal pedagogy and a two-year teaching assistantship at Fort Wright College of the Holy Names in Spokane, Wash. She received further advanced vocal training from the University of Washington.
On the side, she found herself training artists how to protect their voices.
“I came into the picture because I was kind of a rebel,” Carr said.
The “art of screaming” involves helping singers to sing (or scream) with more power and stamina by using the abdominal muscles and singing from the diaphragm, she explained; this prevents singers from straining muscles around the larynx, where the vocal chords are. This technique also includes placing the sound in the bones of the face, the sternum, and top of the head, where it can be stronger and louder.
Between 1978 and 1996, Carr developed a vocal studio for singers in Seattle. She taught in New York in 1997 and then in Los Angeles for the next seven years. Carr returned to Seattle in 2004 and continues to teach in both Seattle and Los Angeles.
She prepares her students for recording, touring and presentation of their own original material. She also works to give each one the power, range, tone and endurance necessary to complement the development of their unique and personal voice.
Artists of all levels and styles often come into her Seattle and Los Angeles studios because they cannot figure out how to make them better or stronger, she noted. Working with them, she finds out what the problem is and fixes it.
“I get really excited when I hear freedom in their voices,” she said, adding that it usually takes about a year to get the technique to work, unless lessons are on a more concentrated, fast-track level, as is the case with artists on a tighter schedule.
“Sue has given me the confidence and stamina to pursue singing as a career,” said PickWick band member Galen Disston. “I do her warm-up exercises before every show, and her practical techniques have saved me multiple times when I’m psyching myself out onstage. I am so thankful to have found her.”
In Carr’s DVD and app “The Art of Screaming,” singers of all levels can learn about her techniques and use them for any style of singing. According to Carr, it generally only takes singers about two weeks to begin to see improvement in their voices after implementing the exercises.
“People should never give up their dream,” she said, adding that she has known some artists who released albums in their youth who were undiscovered until they were in their 50s and 60s. “Never underestimate the possibilities of what you put out.”
Though one’s voice will eventually start to age, vocalists can still learn new ways to keep it fit. By continually training and strengthening their voices, artists can still be singing strong in their 60s, 70s, and 80s, Carr said.
Carr recently finished a novel, “The Ballad of Desiree,” which she anticipates to be released this winter.
She will also appear in the upcoming film by Seattle filmmaker Lynn Shelton, “Laggies,” featuring Keira Knightley.
For more information about Susan Carr, visit www.susanmcarr.com.
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