Cindy Shadrick Voice Studio

Voice Instructor, Vocal Coach, Music Director

I love your larynx. Where can I get one like that?

My husband loves guitars.  Not just guitar players or guitar music, but guitars.  All of them.  We have dozens of books, and countless magazines, in our house about every guitar imaginable.  He even writes for two guitar publications talking about, what else, guitars.  As I was putting another copy of the latest music store ad in our large container of music store ads, I began to think about how much musicians love their instruments.  I know guitar players who are on the constant quest for the best strings for this axe or the best humbuckers for that one.  I know horn players who will spend hours searching for the best mouthpiece to create the best tone or the best reeds, etc.  

As singers, we don't do this so much.  How can we?  They aren't exactly putting new vocal folds or the latest style of larynx on the market.  What we can do is study and research how the voice works and what we can do with what we have to create a sound we want.  Instrumentalists are able to do this by listening to recordings of their favorite musician, research the instrument and accessories they use, then try to recreate that sound.  To be fair, you will never reach the point, as a singer, where your voice sounds exactly like your idol.  It's obvious why; Carrie Underwood just isn't putting her voicebox up for sale!  But learning about your instrument, all it's parts (yes, even all the tiny little muscles and tissues) will help you to understand how to use your voice and experiment with the different sounds you can create.

 There are many excellent resources to learn about your voice.  Two books I recommend are Basics of Vocal Pedagogy: The Foundations and Process of Singing by Clifton Ware and Complete Handbook of Voice Training by Richard Alderson.  If you're not sure you're ready to drop the dollars on these books, or they aren't available at your local library, go ahead and do some online searches.  There are plenty of great articles available online.  While you're at it, why not ask your voice teacher about how the voice works?  I promise, your teacher has desperately been waiting for you to ask!  Better clear your schedule and get some coffee - that conversation should take a while!

I hope you take the time to really get to know your instrument.  Why not even explore what your voice is capable of?  Those jazzy Norah Jones licks aren't the only thing you're capable of.  If you have vibrato like Toby Keith, give some classical music a try.  You might just like it!

I Was Glee Before Glee Was Cool

I was an awkward teenager.  This comes, I'm sure, to no surprise of anyone I have ever met.  How could I not be?  The odds were totally stacked against me.  I grew up in rural Northwest Iowa (by rural I mean we had to drive two towns over to the nearest Walmart).  We had country radio stations and....nothing else.  Ok, there was one pop radio station that came out of Minnesota but that was it.  I loved musical theatre, and jazz standards, and Elton John.....the list goes on and on.  But where do you go to express yourself, to immerse yourself in the arts that you so love, when there isn't anything around?

You don't.  So, how did I try to fit in?  I tried several things: cheerleading, talking a lot, not talking at all, being smart, pretending not to be smart, dating a lot, not dating at all, etc.  Oh, and it was an EPIC FAIL on all accounts.  I just didn't fit in.  I was shy so I would pretend to be outspoken.  One day I thought, if I can't fit in maybe it would be better to stick out.  So, I cocked my head in every picture taken of me in a yearbook.  (If you went to ELC High School, take this moment to check your yearbooks to validate).  I was WEIRD!  But here's the real kicker: I wasn't so unlike everyone else.

Being an arts educator, I have students relate their versions of this story to me every day.  The awkward boy humming show tunes in the back of the classroom, the seemingly shy girl hitting all the parties on the weekend to fit in, the jock who really likes music but can't tell his other jock friends.  It's everywhere!  This is why I was so happy when GLEE came onto the small screen.  Sure, it's got good music (or as a friend of mine put it, it's Say Anything the Musical).  But the greater impact of this show is how artistic people now have something they can relate to.  Sure, these appear to be fictional characters, but more often than not, this is really happening at most schools.  Who can't relate to at least one of these characters?  The prom king and queen?  Well you don't count anyway!

So I say, keep these shows coming!  Give us weird, socially awkward, artistic people something to relate to.  Maybe we'll finally realize we're all weird!!

Is NickJr the next Met Broadcast?

It's a joke of course (well, sort of).  If you've wondered where I've run off to, my family recently relocated from our home in Connecticut to Iowa.  Because this was such a quick move, we actually haven't found a place to live.  My husband, Jason Shadrick, is staying in Marion, IA (working to support my lavish lifestyle) while our son and I stay with my folks a couple hours away. 

So what have I been up to?  Well, besides house hunting, very little.  I watch A LOT of NickJr with Parker, and I have to tell you, I secretly LOVE it.  Seriously, the music is REALLY good.  I really have to commend the writers and composers for these children's television shows for really using a variety of musical styles and doing them well.  Some of my favorites include, The Backyardagains, Jack's Big Music Show, and The Wonder Pets.

Please check back with me as updates are posted.  As soon as we find a home, I'll be reopening my studio, setting up online lessons, and much more.  In the meantime, please feel free to email me with any questions you have about voice, auditions, theatre, or with anything you would like to read about.  I promise to not be a complete stranger!

Is this Heaven? No, it's Iowa

After years of missing home, Jason and I were given a great opportunity to head back to the motherland.  Starting next week, Jason will be the Managing Editor of Guitar Edge Magazine.  We are very excited to be moving back to Iowa (I know what you're thinking.....excited about Iowa???).  And our parents are very excited to have their grandson within driving distance!

So how will this affect voice lessons?

I'm glad you asked that question! I will be opening my studio in Iowa as soon as we get settled. I've spent the last two weeks telling my local students about my having to move my studio out of the state of Connecticut.  I'm heartbroken to leave them!  This brought on an extensive search into offering lessons online (over Skype or a similar web offering).  This really intrigues me and I'm planning to run some tests into this soon.  If everything goes well in tests, I will be offering lessons online.  So let me put this out there.....would you be willing to take lessons with me online?  Please let me know your thoughts.  I have students all of the country and I'm thrilled at the idea of being able to coach them without the stress of expensive flights, etc.

Please keep checking back for updates regarding the new studio and the plans for online lessons.

Let's Talk About Callbacks

So, you had your audition and now you've been asked to attend "callbacks."  What does that mean?  What do I prepare?  What am I going to wear???

Callbacks are a sort of "round two" audition.  It means that the director liked you enough, or saw enough potential, to give you a second shot.  Sometimes it means that the director has you in mind for a specific role and would like to see you again to make sure he is right.  Other times it might mean that he liked you for several parts and would like to see you again to decide which one is right for you.  Two important things to know about callbacks are: 1) Just because you didn't get a call back does not mean you didn't get a role (the director has already made up his mind that you are the lead).  2) Just because you get a call back does not mean you are going to get cast.

What should you do to prepare for your call back?  Prepare for this as if it were the first audition.  If the director gives you sides, look over them.  Don't just hit on the actress in the waiting room.  Go over your monologue or song.  One good trick is to wear the same thing (or close to the same thing) you wore for your first audition.  You want to give the directors a visual reminder of your first audition.  When you walk into the room, assert yourself that you have this role.  No need to be cocky, just proud.

MOST IMPORTANTLY, thank the directors for the opportunity to audition for them again and leave the room graciously.  It is just as important for the directors to like you and want to work with you as is your talent.

Remember that each audition experience is a chance to perform.  Love what you do!



Best Voice Ever: Kurt Elling

In a new, weekly segment, entitled "Best Voice Ever," I will be featuring one vocalist each week to introduce listeners to a wide variety of voices, styles, and literature.


American jazz vocalist, Kurt Elling, was born in Chicago in the late 60's.  Having graduated from Gustavus Adolphus University in St. Peter, MN, Elling returned to his Chicago roots to develop his unique sound and vision.  He has won awards from Down Beat and Jazz Times and is also a Grammy Award winner.


To call Kurt Elling a jazz singer is not giving him enough credit.  His voice alone, a rich baritone, shows flawless technique, smooth phrases, and effortless approach to the lyric.  His ability to scat is unlike many of today's wannabe scat singers (those who fancy themselves decendents of Ella's).  His ultra-hip persona, complete with Hugo Boss suits, brings the audience in and makes them feel part of the "Kurt Elling Atmosphere."  The man is not merely a singer, but a true musician.  Oh yeah, and he can sing four octaves....


Why We Love Him

As both a composer and lyricist, an Elling show is more than a casual night at the club with some singer who's name is later forgotten.  Elling can croon a standard like Frank Sinatra, improvise like Miles Davis, and swoon the ladies like George Clooney.  You can also expect some great readings and poetry.

Album to Check Out

Ellings latest album, "Dedicated To You," won the Grammy Award for Best Vocal Jazz Album.  This live recording is a collection of songs by John Coltrane and Johnny Hartman.  Not only do you hear Elling's amazing takes on these fantastic songs, but you also hear Elling's ability for story telling.  My favorite track: "Lush Life."

Instant Gratification

My favorite Kurt Elling song: "In the Winelight"

Vist Kurt Elling

The Road Home

Happy New Year and welcome back to reality.  Like many of you, I made a trip home to visit my family over the holidays.  Jason and I packed up our son, and a whole mess of stuff, piled it into our Envoy and made the 17 hour drive back to Iowa.  While Jason drove, I spent many hours reading the Julie Andrews memoir, "Home."  What an amazing book.  If you have not had the great fortune to read it, run out to your local book store or library and bring it home today.

I have spent a lifetime adoring Julie Andrews.  I used to pray, "Dear God, if you could make me a little more like Julie Andrews today, I will never ask you for another thing."  The woman is utterly amazing.  Not only is she an incredibly talented singer and actress, but a fantastic writer.  Reading the stories of her childhood not only brought me into her world but also allowed me to see Julie as a real woman, not just this goddess that I have made her out to be.

Without giving away the entire book, the memoir includes stories of her parents, recollections of performances, and intimacies regarding her experience working on My Fair Lady.  Perhaps my favorite portions of the book were the stories of her voice lessons and appointments with her ENT.  Yes, Julie Andrews had a voice teacher.  And guess what?  The lessons her teacher gave her were the same ones my teachers gave me and I give my students.  We practically ARE Julie Andrews!

It is so rare to be able to humanize your idols.  While I will probably never get the opportunity to meet Julie Andrews, or have a conversation, or hug her endlessly or tell her over and over what I huge impact she has had on my voice and career, she has given me the ability to see her as a woman.  A plain ol' girl who used to take singing, dancing, and acting lessons (just like the hundreds of students I work with each week) who literally sang for her supper.  Sure she had musicians as parents who were able to get her an agent and move her ahead a little faster than the rest of us normal folk, but she's just a woman.

I do hope you'll take the opportunity to read her book.  It's fascinating, invigorating, and while it isn't focused on making you a better singer, it really makes me want to practice!!!

Great Gifts for Musicians

We are in the midst of the holiday shopping spree (or as I like to say, it's a marathon not a sprint) and that means finding gifts for the most difficult people to shop for: musicians.  Each year our families find themselves Googling "gifts for musicians" in hopes of finding something for my husband and me.  They are not alone.  I'm sure many of you do the same thing (perhaps that is how you stumbled upon this blog post!).  To aid in this endeavor, I have compiled a list of really great gifts to give musicians. 

1.  Gift Certificate for Sheet Music

Sheet Music Plus offers a variety of styles of music for anyone and allows the customer to purchase a gift certificate right from their website and have it emailed to your loved one.

2.  Metronome

It's amazing the number of musicians, especially singers, who do not own a metronome.  This is an ESSENTIAL piece of equipment for EVERY musician.  They are relatively inexpensive (many for under $20) and there even metronome apps for the iPhone.  Metronomes can be purchased anywhere instruments are sold or online.  Amazon has a wide selection.

3. Subscription to Magazines

If you have a musician in your house, you're bound to find at least one magazine they would love.  Not sure which one? Take them to Barnes and Noble or Borders and let them browse the magazine aisles.  Write down the names of the ones they pick up.  Some of my favorites include, Opera News, Classical Singer, Broadway Magazine, and American Songwriter Magazine.

4. Music Lessons

Music lessons are the single best gift you can give a musician.  Not sure if they're going to stick with it?  Want to try a few teachers before choosing the best one?  Not a problem!  Most teachers and schools offer sample lessons.

5. Digital Voice Recorder

I recommend my students record their lessons for many reasons.  Being able to hear your own voice, checking your progress, bringing your teacher home with you, and practicing purposes are all examples of how recording your lessons can help.  In the old days we used cassette tapes.  NOW we can record our lessons with a digital voice recorder.  Not only can you play your lesson back on your device, but you can also upload it to your computer, save and email files, and much more! Target is a really easy place to find a variety of digital voice recorders for any budget.

6.  Piano

I know what you're thinking.  "I don't have thousands of dollars to spend on a piano!"  I'm totally with you!  But please don't fall into the belief that your musician doesn't need one, especially if said musician is a singer.  Can't afford a baby grand?  No problem!  Check out digital versions or better yet, ask family members if they have a piano they don't use.  Check Craigslist in your area, or other classified services.  Many people are selling their pianos, or giving them away if you pick it up.  The cost of minor repairs and a tuning isn't nearly the cost of buying a brand new piano.

7.  CD Spending Spree

This is quite possibly one of the greatest gifts EVER!  Musicians NEED to hear music, and a lot of it.  Don't know Coleman from Coltrane?  Take your musician to the store with you so they can pick out the discs. Gift cards are also great.  Have too many CDs in your house already?  Find a CD trade store where your musician can bring in 20 CDs of his own to trade for new ones!

8.  Tickets to a Live Show

Nothing speaks louder to a musician than seeing a live performance.  Broadway tickets, a Symphony concert, the latest singer-songwriter, etc.  And be sure to go WITH your loved one.  You might just love it too!

I Love My Job

Today I was reminded, yet again, of my love for teaching music.  One of my students auditioned for, and received, the lead role in her school musical.  She's been diligent in her music, acting, and dance practice leading up to the auditions, practiced her audition techniques (hopefully she read my latest blog post on how to nail your audition), and was able to accomplish her goal.  I think I might be more excited about it than she is...........

Not one single day goes by where I consider changing jobs.  I even made a list last week of all the reasons I love my job.  Yes, I am a self-diagnosed List-aholic.

1. I cherish my students.

2. I make a positive impact on people's lives.

3. I make a living singing songs and playing the piano.

4. Teaching music is not, and has never been, WORK.

5. At least once a day, one of my student's has an "A HA" moment.

6. I help to promote music education.

7. I see dreams come true for my students.

8. I hear progress every day.

Ok, the list actually goes on and on and there's no need to bore you.  I think self reflection, especially as musicians, actors, artist, teachers (the list goes on and on.  See, another list...) is extremely important to the job we do.  If I didn't love my job, would my students be as successful?  I don't think so.  If Bernadette Peters didn't love her job, would she be one of the most successful, entertaining, and talented women...well...ever?  Not a chance.

I'm going to take some time for self reflection today.  I hope you do too.


Ten Ways to Nail Your Audition

1. Do Your Homework

This is essential.  You will not have a successful audition unless you do your homework first.  That means picking the right music and monologue.  PRACTICE!!  Do not choose the song you're planning to sing that afternoon.  Memorizing in the corner before you go into the audition room is not chic.  Is it a dance heavy show?  Brush up on your tap.  If you are auditioning for a specific show, KNOW WHAT THE SHOW IS ABOUT!  Learn about the characters.  Who wrote it?  What time period does the show take place?  Nothing speaks more to a director than an auditioner who didn't care enough to know what they were auditioning for.

2. Dress the Part

No, I don't mean go to your audition in costume.  (Well, not unless drastic action is called for.)  I do mean dressing like a professional.  Please do not audition in jeans or sweat pants.  I don't care if you have a dance portion to the audition.  Bring dance clothes and shoes with you, but DO NOT sing or read in said attire.  Wear nice clothes and shoes.  Ladies, unless you are auditioning for a pants role, please wear a dress or skirt.  I don't expect you to show up ready to go to the prom, but show up like you're going to work (you are).  And don't forget to practice in your shoes.  The last thing you need is a blister!

3. Practice Your Pageant Moves

And I do mean walking and talking.  The very first impression the director receives from you is how you walk in the door.  Look them in the eye.  Smile.  Walk briskly but not like you're going to the races.  Appear confident but not a diva/o.  Do they look friendly?  Do not be afraid to shake their hands.  Say hello, introduce yourself, make yourself a human being! 

4. Have A Mock Interview....With Yourself

Most directors will have questions for you.  Some will be about roles you have played, classes you have taken, etc.  The two most used questions (and most terrifying answers) are: 'Tell me about yourself' and 'What role would you like to be considered for?'  It is very important to practice how you will answer these questions.  While you don't want to necessarily sound "rehearsed" you definitely don't want to say something weird, or worse, nothing at all.  For the first question, I suggest telling them where you are from, a little about your acting/singing/dancing experience, and a few hobbies.  No need to make it any longer than necessary.  In some cases, the director simply wants to get a sense of your personality and if you can speak clearly.

The later question is slightly more difficult.  If you have a role you wish to be considered for TELL THE DIRECTOR!  If you don't, they may think you aren't interested in a leading role.  With that said, do not lead the directors to assume, even if it's indirectly spoken, that you would not be in the ensemble if you were not cast in a role.  This is especially important if you are auditioning for a stage company.  I suggest something along these lines: "I am really interested in being considered for the role of ____, I think he/she is challenging and it's really something I would love to work on.  But I would be really excited just to be part of the production."  This gives the casting director a direct answer while remaining open and friendly.

5. Wear Something Memorable

This may sound silly, but I can't tell you the number of times I've spoken with other directors about actors and say, "what about the girl in the yellow sweater," "the guy with the green tie," "the lady with the chunky red necklace."  Anything that can help the directors remember you!

*Disclaimer.  This does not mean go into your audition in a red mini skirt and purple tube top.  Good remembering is good.  Bad remembering is bad......

6. Find a Focal Point

This is both for your benefit and the director's.  With all of your nervous energy, you need something to focus on.  Find a spot on the wall behind the director's head.  (And a little above).  Stare at it and send all of your energy to it.  You'll find yourself less anxious and it will give focus to your song/monologue.  This is also helpful to the director.  If you're shifting your eyes all over the place, I can't focus my attention on what you're trying to do. 

7. Be Flexible

If a director asks you to stand on your head, DO IT!  If the music director asks you to sing scales at turbo speed, DO IT!  Just as important as your preparation for your audition is your ability to prove how 'directable' you are.  TRUST ME: there are many talented people who do not get cast simply because they cannot be directed.

8. Ask Questions

This is imperative.  Have something to ask the directors.  Preferably not about pay or how much is expected of you.  But perhaps something regarding the directors vision of the set, will you be performing with an orchestra, etc.  Anything to show how interested you are in the production.

9. Reflect

It is important to reflect after leaving your audition.  Not every audition is going to be perfect, and even if it is, take time to think about how it went.  Was the song you chose appropriate for the role?  Did you feel more confident than the last time?  This reflection period will make you a stronger auditioner and will set your next audition up for even more success.

10. REPEAT AFTER ME: Auditioning is my job.

Let's face it.  You are going to audition many more times than you will actually perform.  Learn to enjoy it, or get out of the business.