Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Dee Cassella

Dee grew up in Connecticut, in a household filled with music. Her late brother, Joe Berlingo, the jazz saxophonist and leader of the Joe Berlin Quartet, taught his sister Dee, 10 years his junior, to play blues chords on the piano so that she could jam with him. Dee remembers "As a child, I would sit for hours at my brother's feet as he practiced his scales on the tenor sax, clarinet or flute." The music of Joe's heroes-Stan Getz, Stan Kenton, Dizzy Gillespie, John Coltrane, Miles Davis and Mark Murphy-filled her with wonder. "I would scat to tunes played on the radio, not really knowing what I was doing." Young Dee had developed a passion for jazz.

But music wasn't a big part of Cassella's life until fairly recently. After raising two daughters, she left her 17-year career as the owner of a real estate company in Norwalk, CT and began to practice as a Body Psychotherapist in Connecticut and Manhattan. Her supportive, positive energy could now be channeled to making a difference in people's lives. But in the early years of working with clients, Dee was surprised to find that she herself had a deep resistance to making vocal sounds.

Many years of therapy revealed that a hidden message of "don't make a sound" was integrated as an unconscious belief. This was due to Dee being traumatized in infancy. When she was two months old, she had congestion and began to cough. In an effort to go to her, Dee's mother was taking boiling water off the stove, and in an effort to get to Dee she put the pot on the floor. Dee's sister, Nancy, 2 ½ years old, fell into the pot of boiling water and died two days later. This created the unconsciousness block to making any vocal sound.

Dee decided to work with a voice teacher, Arlene Stone, to overcome this block. It amazed her to learn that she had voice- indeed, real vocal talent. But in the beginning, she was severely limited in what she could do with that talent because she still could not overcome her inhibitions. She began to explore singing with different teachers, but the emotional block continued for seven years, even as she began to sing and perform in concerts and clubs.

Dee found the key to desensitizing her deeply-rooted anxiety while training for certification in Francine Shapiro's EMDR therapy (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reproces-sing)-a practice that specializes in removing uncomfortable feelings connected to trauma. That was when she uncovered the freedom to be a jazz singer. When she performed the following week, it felt like a miracle had happened. She has never again had a problem with singing discomfort. Dee says: "EMDR has changed my life. It opened up a new world to me and I now integrate this wonderful therapy into my current body-oriented psychotherapy practice. In addition to working with people with trauma issues, I feel I can be of help to those with creative problems such as performance anxiety" Dee has a private practice in Connecticut and in New York City.

Dee now finds joy performing regularly in New York, Connecticut and Internationally. She attributes her winning style of singing to jazz legend Carol Fredette. "The first time I heard Carol Fredette sing I was blown away and knew I had to study with her!  For three years, she taught me the art of communicating a lyric, phrasing, and special attention to great diction, space and rhythm; the result changed my singing completely. My ability to "tell the story" in a song is due to her dedicated work in perfecting this art, for it is an art, says Carol, to masterfully combine all these elements in a song, and have it come out Yours!"

Cassella captivated and thrilled her audience at her sold out CD release show in Milford, Connecticut as well as an encore performance of her standing-ovation-crowned performance at the New York Metropolitan Room.  "My debut CD, 'I'm Here Now,' is a tribute to my long journey to finding my voice and feeling myself worthy of it," she says, "Each and every time I sing I have to pinch myself that I'm really expressing the pure joy of my life force. " Dee chose each song "for the truth it holds for me, and the wisdom that unfolds within it." Brother Joe passed away in 1989 never knowing his little sister could sing.  "My voice is now my life force, and I sing for Nancy and for Joe, in my heart--forever and always. It would have been such a hoot to have been a vocalist in his 16-piece jazz band. Maybe he's up there smiling down at me now."

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