South Central WI Archive
  • South Central Wisconsin
  • September 2016
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Resonating success: How singing can change your life

As a voice teacher, I have several hats that I wear in the studio: voice teacher, coach, taskmaster, friend, counselor and occasionally a parental figurehead to younger students. I can be any combination of them all at once and many things taught in the studio ooze out into the “real world” for everyone. The keys to success are everywhere around us and cannot be contained in one simple voice lesson, or one simple article. However, everyone has something to glean about the path to success. To which I offer:

1. Just sing.

The children’s choir in my hometown had a campaign at one time called, “Shut up and sing!” For most of my early career, it got me through everything I needed. Without reminiscing, let’s just say that I won a couple competitions based solely on that motto. Let loose and sing whenever you can. Taking it out of the studio, let’s replace “sing” with the words, “do it.” Sounds like a familiar athletic company’s slogan, yes? There’s a task, a desire, or an interest that you’re putting off right now for one reason or another. Just do whatever it is! The mental weight of not doing it, or convincing yourself not to do it, is holding you down and keeping you from achieving something today. It may take some time, it may take practice, but if you really want to, just do it and stop torturing yourself with doubts and fears.

2. Let go. Let go. Let go.

The best singing comes from a free and relaxed place; it’s a well-documented, scientific fact. Our bodies are built to respond in a certain way to our own physiology and anatomy, but we complicate things with tension. Tension manifests itself in several ways — in athletes it can cause threatening injuries, in singers it can cause the same or shut down the singing mechanism altogether. The most common complaint I hear is, “I can’t let go.” Tension burrows itself in your mind and convinces you subconsciously that you need it. I am here to tell you, you do not need it. What you need is to find your way to let go of it. It will take time, and sometimes will be easy; other times, difficult. Step one to releasing it is this: breathe deeply — constantly. Breathe deeper than you do in yoga. Fill those lungs of yours right now, feel your abdominals displace outward, and breathe all the way into your hip bones. Let the air out slowly without holding it. While exhaling easily, try to keep your mind blank and clear. As tension comes up, or something tries to convince you not to relax, give in to the feeling of releasing even more. In two words: let go.

3. Open yourself up.

Many folks refuse to open themselves up to the possibilities of singing better. But it makes me think, how often do we close ourselves off preventing us from realizing the possibilities before us? Opening yourself up to possibilities takes practice and patience. Challenge yourself to opening up to something new, something you have been skeptical of, in the past month and try one item a week. You will be surprised how your mind might change. We are creatures of habit but formidable ones at that, capable of creating new neural pathways and new habits consistently. But if you remain unavailable and uninterested in new things, you will never achieve or discover. Open yourself up.

These are the three most important keys I offer today: just sing, let go and open yourself up! With these you can open many doors and find out what you’d like, and if it’s on the other side of that door or behind a new one. Continue to discover each day and you will be set for life!

Dr. J. Adam Shelton

Dr. J. Adam Shelton is owner and primary voice teacher of the Shelton Private Voice Studio, L.L.C. He has performed with Madison Opera, Madison Savoyards, Fresco Opera, and the Soo Opera and Symphony orchestras. This September he will sing Frederic in Pirates of Penzance in Mineral Point, WI. He received his D.M.A. in Vocal Performance from the University of WI in 2014. The Shelton Private Voice Studio is located at 6441 Enterprise Lane in Madison. Lessons and additional information can be scheduled online at or by emailing [email protected]

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