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A Musical Life

A Musical Life: Billie Preston-Fredholm


Billie Preston-Fredholm has been playing guitar since she was seven. Taught by her older sister, she quickly became a devotee of folk music. Later, she became interested in choral music and before long the two merged in a style that she practices to this day. Since 2008 she has performed as one half of a duo with Robin Roberts. In 2010 the pair released a CD called Pay-Day Motors. Preston (the name under which she performs) teaches voice and piano at Senseney Music in Wichita and is also a cantor and choir member at St. Mary’s Cathedral.

My name is Billie Preston-Fredholm. Preston is my real life middle name and Billie is my real life first name.

I have three sisters and we all sang together.

We learned how to sing on pitch and we learned how to sing the same vowel sounds and we learned how to blend—not be too loud or too soft, everybody be the same volume.

When I heard Joni Mitchell sing, I thought, “She has figured it out.” She could sing low and high—which I couldn’t figure out how to do.

I learned early to listen and listen real hard about pitch. There’s an upper part of the note and there’s a lower part of the note and then there’s the dead center. And that’s where good singers sing.

I think because we’re all human, we’re all singers.

Singing, I’m sure, has saved me. I think everybody should sing. Even if they think they can’t.

When I’m teaching—besides the technical aspects: pitch and breathing and rhythm—I want them to experience the song they’re singing. If they cannot live it, they cannot express it.