• Schyler Sheltrown

The Sound of Your Soul

When I began my singing journey, I imagine it was much like finding a new land. My first ringing, satisfying high note was what got me addicted. Although it took the "putting on" of technique to get to this point, I found that the technique actually did the opposite - it helped me UN-learn all of the habits I had taken on in order to conform.

From the moment we are born, we are taught to conform. Disruption is quelled swiftly. It begins with the silencing of that baby's cries. Then, it extends to breathing technique - can't let that "gut" hang out! For me personally, the next step was my height. I shot up to 5'4" in the fifth grade, my first year at a new school. I towered over the boys and girls in my class. Because of this, I suffered from bad posture. I remember the feeling of wrapping my arms around my midsection in an attempt to hide my stomach and awkward in-between-phases chest. The cruel comments kept me locked up for years, all the way until I started voice lessons.

Somehow, though, through college, that freedom that I found in my early years of singing went away. I found myself trying to please everyone, and this put me right back into "the cage." I listen back to recordings of when I just got out of college - I was singing beautifully, but so doesn't everyone who's pursuing opera as a career. On top of that, you could find me in a jewel tone dress with nylons and black pumps at every audition, hair pinned back to perfection. I could not figure out why I was not getting picked for auditions - I sought the help of a conductor in "the biz." As most conductors do, he spoke bluntly. "Well, you do look rather plain." It stung, but it was the best advice I had ever received. I could've used the explanation at the time, but I got what he was saying - it finally clicked. Perfect is boring. There is a reason why we love opera so much - we love seeing ourselves in the flaws of other characters, to see our inner demons put on display for all to see. It is cathartic to watch someone bear their soul, to stand emotionally (and even sometimes physically) naked and vulnerable. We enjoy watching others overcome obstacles. I personally don't relate to a person until I really get their story and struggle. I want to know that they've been in the s*** too.

Singing is scary, vulnerable, and thrilling. It is naked and raw. It's your soul pouring out in vibrations, so much like a finger print. It takes practice to take off the robe of conformity, but when you do, it's magical. I hope we never forget who we are, and that our voice is an extension of that.

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