Susan Frazier, national sales manager for Goldenrod Music and a well-known and well-loved veteran of the women's music business/movement, was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia in September 2009. Over the past five months, she has undergone five rounds of chemotherapy. This month she is scheduled for a bone-marrow transplant, a procedure made possible because of a donor match through the national bone-marrow registry.
As a full-time employee at Goldenrod, Frazier was satisfied with the insurance coverage, a high-deductible major medical and hospitalization plan that includes coverage for prescription drugs. But now that the need is critical, the insurance situation is reminiscent of a Michael Moore movie.
Because of the intensive treatment and recovery period after the surgerytreatment that will involve twice-weekly travel between her home base in Lansing, Mich., and the University hospital in Ann Arbor for a yearFrazier will not be able to maintain the 30-hour-per-week work schedule required by the insurance carrier to qualify for the employee group coverage. An individual private-pay option offered by Blue Cross/Blue Shield will provide major medical coverage for doctor visits, but the policy has an annual prescription cap of $2600 per year.
Frazier's post-surgical medications are expected to run $2,700 per month. She will also have no income to contribute to the home she shares with bookstore manager Rebecca Huntington, her partner of more than 25 years.
While battling for her life, Frazier, 52, is devoting huge reserves of energy and time to determine how she can live without ruining herself and Huntington. Meeting with lawyers, government bureaucrats and the like, she has learned that Medicaid requires her to spend down her entire pension fund and any assets other than their house, car and $2,000before qualifying for assistance. The same regulations hold true for Social Security, which would not even begin for five months. "If I live, I won't have anything to live on if I'm unable to work," she said.
An Ohio native and activist in high school and college, Frazier got involved with The Tenth Muse women's collective, which produced the Betsy Rose/Kathy Winter show in 1980. "We were hooked … we sent out letters to all the women's labels at the timeRedwood, Olivia, Pleiades and several more," Frazier explained. Their marketing succeeded and The Tenth Muse produced Holly Near that autumn. "We went from a coffeehouse that at most fit 60-70 people to an auditorium at Kent State. It was quite the leap. We produced many other artists, including Margie Adam, Kate Clinton, Teresa Trull and Barbara Higbie, Toshi Reagon. We partnered with the YMCA to bring Alix Dobkin to our part of the world to do her workshop, 'Women Hating, Racism and Violence in the Top 40.'"
Frazier started her career with Goldenrod when founder and president Terry Grant hired her to sell music at shows around Ohio. "I thought it was a trick question," said Frazier of the job offer. "Get to see all these shows for free and get paid?" She accepted the position, taking on the job of part-time traveling sales rep in addition to her volunteer work as a music producer and full-time employment at the YMCA.
In May 1991 Frazier moved to Lansing to become national sales manager for Goldenrod. In a phone interview, Grant talked about Frazier's ability to connect people from her many networks of friends and her selfless willingness to promote her artists. "I'm just living my life," Frazier said in response, "trying to do whatever I can to fulfill Goldenrod's basic mission, 'keeping women's music alive, well and out there,' and I'm glad that some of what I have done has been helpful."
"Susan is one of the pioneers in Women's Music," said Tret Fure. "Her gifts to our culture are innumerable. She has always had the passion, devotion and dedication to the music that makes us all successful. I always know that when Susan likes one of my songs, it is a good song. Susan has a joy that is contagious and an appreciation for life that is remarkable. She stands alone as one of the most steadfast, hard-working women who have made and kept our culture and our music alive. I love her dearly."
Frazier's network of friends and beloved music artists are working to raise money to help with medical and living expenses. "It was Elizabeth Ziff of BETTY who suggested we donate a song that could be sold digitally through Goldenrod and donate all the proceeds to the Susan F fund," explained Alyson Palmer. "That gave me the idea for a digital album, available online. It would be Goldenrod artists coming together in the beautiful way women in our music community can do. When I thought of a name for it, I laughed to myself about the way Susan signs all her e-mails, 'have a day most swell'. That will be the name of the album: A Day Most Swell." [ For further information on contributing to the Susan F fund, write SusanFsFriends@aol.com . ]
"I believe in the importance of women's music: music by women that speaks to women's lives. Otherwise I wouldn't have spent all of my adult life involved in the industry and movement," said Frazier. While newer artist like Ani Difranco, Ember Swift, Melissa Ferrick and God-des & She "might not feel the need to call themselves 'women's music artists,' they are offering the same thing to their fans that the pioneers didsongs that reflect their fans' lives and empower them.
"The visionary women who started those first women-owned labels, who dared to sing songs about their lives without the filter of the male-dominated recording industry of the 1970s and '80s did pave the way for today's strong, independent women artists. And the world is a much better place for it."
Singer/songwriter Ellis, now in her mid-30s, first met Frazier in 1999. "Susan was the one who agreed to put my music in bookstores around the country, and because Goldenrod carried my CDs, I was able to book a fairly national tour, performing at those same bookstores," said Ellis. "The women I met on that tour have become my most ardent and devoted supporters, and I credit Susan with helping to make those connections. ... Her recommendations have opened countless doors for me. I absolutely would not be where I am today without Susan's support and encouragement.
"Susan is such a dedicated supporter of women's music and is one of those connectorsa person who is actively building community wherever she goes... She is so optimistic, encouraging and funny that even when we visited recently and she shared details about her health, she shared in such a way that built even more connections between us. I feel inspired to learn more about bone marrow transplantnot just for her, but for others. That's the thingshe cares not just about her situation but also about everyone else... and that is just who Susan is. She is an active participant not just in the women's community, but in the community that is all peopleand that is a wonderful gift to everyone who has the privilege to know her."
Going into her surgery, Frazier's greatest concern was that this article help spread the word about the bone-marrow registry ( www.marrow.org ) : "They especially need minority and mixed-race folks to join, because with bone-marrow stuff, race and ethnicity matter more than blood type, and without this organization, I would not have a match, so I'm liking them a lot these days!" And, of course, she wants everyone to "have a day most swell!"