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Arts & Culture

We Are Idaho: Leta Harris Neustaedter

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Leta Harris Neustaedter
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My name is Leta Harris Neustaedter. I am an arts educator, a musician, an actor, a licensed clinical social worker and community organizer.

I started to realize that the things that I was exploring to become a good performer and a good actor were a lot of times the same things I was talking with my clients about, just as far as empathy building and emotional insight and communication skills and how to deal with stress.

There's just so many commonalities that to me those two worlds started to seem so similar that that's when I finally decided to open my own business where I could just merge those. And so that is what I do in my business, Metamorphosis Performing Arts Studio.

"There never was a question for me about studying the human mind and behavior and having a deeper understanding about how humans work."

I've lived in Boise most of my life. I moved here in 1980.

The two things that have always been happening in my life have been music and performing, and also a fascination with psychology.

And those have been consistent throughout my life. Like I started playing piano when I was five. My interest and passion for the performing arts has always been consistent.

And then meanwhile, even as young as like 12 and 13, my dream was to become a neuroscientist. My aunt studied cognitive psychology, and she's huge in her field. And when I was 13, I spent a summer with her helping her input data on different psychology experiments. And so there never was a question for me about studying the human mind and behavior and having a deeper understanding about how humans work.

When I was in graduate school, I worked at the YMCA and one of my classes was a grant writing class. And so the mock program that I created for my mock grant was a two-week music theater program, because I really like to focus on non-competitive ways that kids can be excelling. And at the end of that class, when I showed the finished grant to the CEO at the time, Jim Everett, he liked it so much, he was like, let's do this for real. Let's make this a real program.

My graduate work was in clinical social work. While I was still being a full-time therapist, I started running the music theater camps for the YMCA.

Then I made the decision to leave being a full-time therapist and actually be kind of full time within the creative field and doing therapy as a more of a part-time position.

So doing the different camps, doing like all of that was just a grand experiment.

One of the beautiful things about owning my own business is that everything I do is super organic and just driven by the needs I see in the society and what inspires me.

"If you're riddled with anxiety as a human, you're going to be riddled with anxiety as an artist ... you're all one person."

My role isn't just cut and dry as a voice teacher or an acting coach, we're also talking about life stuff.

I feel very comfortable talking with my students about the influences of society and the ways that society can kind of encourage boys to be super brave and just try things but it it tells girls that they need to try to be perfect at things and they need to be selfless instead of focusing on their own needs and their own courage and their own excellence.

One of the trainings that I've done was an actor training called Suzuki that's focusing on breath and energy and focus and it significantly shifted just the way I show up in the world. And I know that that has changed me as a human.

I teach my voice students for that reason, because I want them to tap into that inner strength. I want them to tap into that inner warrior and know how to find that in themselves and know that they can do hard things. That shifts everything that they then try to do.

In my acting classes, I'll teach the kids how to meditate. And we'll talk about the importance of that and how it helps them become more responsive instead of reactive and how it helps them be able to center and ground themselves.

You know, if you are riddled with anxiety as a human, you're going to be riddled with anxiety as an artist. As we unravel that and figure out how to manage that in your voice lessons, you're also going to find yourself doing better being able to manage that in your life.

I had a parent reach out to me one time, about a year after her son had taken some classes with me and she was like, "You know, he still is doing the monkey mind meditation all the time. He loves it. He's continued to do it since he learned it in your class. And so I'm wondering if you would be willing to create a little tutorial video that we can provide to the Boise School District?"

I am really, really blessed by getting feedback from my students over the years. They’ll tell me about how they see changes in their confidence when they get up in front of their class and have to do a public presentation or when they have a difficult situation happening with their peer group and how they are more confident in speaking their mind.

You as a human and you as an artist, whether it's music, whether it's writing, whether it's singing, you know, those are interconnected. You're all one person.

A note: Leta Harris Neustaedter sits on Boise State Public Radio’s Community Advisory Board.

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