The audience listened in rapt attention to Fawn Fritzen’s rich voice, their bodies swaying and their hands gently, and silently, clapping in time with the music.
Such appreciation is common during a performance at Macaulay Lodge.
“Oh, I was so happy to play there,” said Fritzen, “I think volunteerism is the heart of every healthy community,” adding much of the music she likes to play is from the era of those residents.
Fritzen, 32, is a self-described emerging jazz singer and songwriter, who now lives in Whitehorse.
She started piano lessons just before she turned four, and continued until a move to Iqaluit in 1993 left her without a teacher who could take her further in her training.
She renewed her studies in Germany for a year in 1995-96.
“There’s so much art and culture in that part of the world,” she said.
Fritzen was involved in musical theatre in high school and built on that experience while a business major at Carleton University in Ottawa.
“I didn’t know what I wanted to study,” she said. “I never thought I was good enough at music.”
She studied English, but knew she didn’t want to be a teacher and didn’t know what else to do with degrees in the arts.
“I’ve always been relatively practical,” she said, “so, business seemed practical.”
Fritzen auditioned with the Carleton University theatre group Sock ‘n’ Buskin, performing in the musical productions of Chess and Little Shop of Horrors.
She was also the rehearsal accompanist for Annie for a different theatre company.
She played one of the 12 wives in Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat with the Ottawa community theatre group, Orpheus.
“I got to meet a lot of cool people at Orpheus that I’m still in touch with,” she said.
Frizten won the North of 60 Idol competition that was put on in 2004 by the Legion in Yellowknife.
That commitment involved a gruelling six weeks with nine-hour trips to Yellowknife once a week beginning in October.
“I’ve never yet seen Yellowknife with no snow,” said Fritzen with a smile.
She was getting well known musically in the Deh Cho region of the Northwest Territories and was invited to perform at the Caribou Carnival in Yellowknife in 2005. She also sang at some gatherings and was thinking she could apply for festivals around the NWT.
Instead, she took a job offer as a business analyst with the Yukon government and moved to Whitehorse in 2005.
She was pregnant at the time and some special needs for her first daughter put things on hold for a time.
“I love being a mom, and I love my kids, but there were lots of times where it really chafed, you know,” she said. “I was like, ‘I want to go out and do stuff and I can’t do stuff.’ I’m not meeting people.
“At the time it seemed like it would be forever before I’d ever get out of the house again.”
In February 2010, she did a one-hour set at the Capital Hotel with local jazz musician Grant Simpson.
“I kind of feel like that was the start of a lot of stuff,” she said, “I was starting to meet other musicians and people were starting to get to know me a little bit and what I could do.”
Fritzen is modest, but others are talking up her talent.
“Then she sang,” said Simpson, of the first time he heard her. “I was surprised by how sincerely she sang and the song she wrote about one of her daughters.
“Sure she has good pipes – that’s obvious – but so do many singers. But when you can hear into the story that she’s singing about, that’s sincere music and it’s special. I can’t wait to work with her again.”
The two are planning to do a Cole Porter show together next year.
Fritzen submitted a song for the Yukon Women In Music (YWIM) recording project that ultimately became the Tether Hooks and Velcro CD. Of around 30 participants 12 were chosen; she was 14th.
“I’m not on that album, but that was how I got involved with YWIM,” she said.
She plays piano with the Big Band and said she has learned much in the past four years.
She also sings with Jazz Yukon.
“Soulful, suave and spunky come immediately to mind,” said Duncan Sinclair, of Jazz Yukon. “A voice with distinctive character and flexibility … and so very determined.
“To hear and see her perform is to catch the bug that she so clearly has caught herself.”
No stranger to taking risks, Fritzen has resigned from her job.
“I would be really excited to apply for something like the Atlin festival, which I think is a really cool festival, but I wouldn’t really have anything to send them,” she said.
She intends to cut a demo so she can apply for showcasing at conferences or at festivals and is planning her first full CD.
There’s a need for more balance in her life, and as she needs to spend time with her kids and wants to spend time on her music, something had to go, she said.
“I feel like it’s the first time that I’m doing something where I’m really pursuing what I want to do; really following something that I’ve dreamt about doing. Something that I’m really passionate about.”
Fritzen’s next appearance is scheduled for May 14 at the Yukon Women in Music Moonsong Concert Series Finale at the Copper Moon Gallery (McCrae).
Her website is www.fawnfritzen.com
Norm Hamilton is a
Whitehorse-based freelance writer.