The WiMN’s Front and Center is a weekly column that showcases accomplished women who work in the music and audio industries. We spotlight successful female performers, manufacturers, retailers, educators, managers, publicists, and everyone else in between. Want to be featured? Learn how here.
Front and Center: Voice Instructor, Vocal Coach and Music Director, Cindy Shadrick
Cindy Shadrick, soprano, is a versatile vocalist, teacher, and music director based in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. She is also a role model and inspiration for a legion of students and aspiring singers.
Shadrick began her music studies at age eight, and has spent her life studying, performing, recording, and teaching music. She has toured in the United States and Europe both solo and with various big bands.
She has performed in numerous choirs and dramatic works, and has also appeared in leading roles in La Serva Padrona, The Medium, Le Nozze di Figaro, and musical theatre productions of The Wizard of Oz, Grease, Guys and Dolls, and many others.
Shadrick holds her Master of Music Degree in Vocal Performance from the University of Northern Iowa, and her Bachelor of Music Degree in Vocal Performance from Minnesota State University, Mankato.
To learn more about her, visit cindyshadrick.com.
WiMN: What’s the difference between a vocalist and a singer?
CS: First, everyone can sing, and therefore, everyone is a singer —even if it’s just in your car with the radio turned up. A vocalist is someone who really studies the voice and learns about the anatomy and how it works. It’s more than just a few voice lessons. They also get inside the music and learn the essential theory behind what they are performing. Every genre or style of music has specific nuances that must be learned in order to convey the music properly. For example, an opera singer’s technique many not work as well in a jazz or pop situation. But to be fair, I do use “singer” and “vocalist” interchangeably.
WiMN: Do you think singers are born, or can someone learn how to sing?
CS: I think everyone is born with the capability to sing, for the most part, but it takes a level of passion and dedication to excel at it. We all have the right tools, but the right voice instructor can teach you how to use those tools to the best of your ability. I do feel that natural ability is obviously important. For example, I have legs so I have the right tools to become a runner but lack all natural ability to do so. But if I had a great coach, I could progress to a much greater level.
WiMN: You help prepare your students for auditions and competitions. What are some of your students’ biggest success stories?
CS: I have several former students who have moved to L.A. and New York and are professional singers, actors, and models, and I am, of course, extremely proud of them. But, I have to say, my greatest success story is a student named Jared.
When he was three, he was diagnosed with autism and needed years of speech therapy. Jared’s parents noticed how he responded to music and singing during his therapy sessions. It actually took them a while to find a voice instructor that would take him on as a student. I’m thrilled to have Jared in my studio. He’s grown tremendously as a singer and loves discovering new types of music. His love of music exemplifies everything I try to exude as an educator.
WiMN: Which famous singer would you love to sing on stage with?
CS: I have to pick two: Julie Andrews and Dolly Parton. I adore them. I’m certain if I ever met them I would just completely melt into a puddle on the floor. I mean, I would sing with them first and then die. Am I being overly dramatic?
WiMN: Once singers reach a certain level of talent, do they have to keep honing their skills?
CS: Absolutely. The hardest part about being a singer is having an instrument that you can’t really see, so to speak. We’re entirely dependent on recordings and the physical sensations within our bodies when we sing. Also, anytime there’s a change in our body our instrument changes and we must constantly adapt. I think it’s extremely important to take lessons throughout your life to help adjust to those changes. We all need a tune up! Even professional opera singers and Broadway stars take lessons.
WiMN: How often should one practice?
CS: That’s like asking how often you should go to the gym. If you’re a professional athlete or a trainer then you should be in the gym all the time. Students ask me this question a lot. If you’re a professional singer you should be practicing every day. For students, I’ll say they should practice four or five times a week for at least 30 minutes—but that’s just a blanket statement. Every singer is unique and needs different amounts of practice time. And just like you can break up your workout into several 10-minute increments, you can break up your practicing. If you’ve only got 10 minutes to practice, make those 10 minutes count. And that’s better than nothing!
WiMN: Does the type of microphone a singer use make a difference?
CS: It depends on if you’re trying to use the microphone to enhance your sound or create your sound. In essence, a microphone should really only be needed to increase your volume to a higher level if you’re singing for a larger crowd or you’re singing with a band or something. Opera singers, for example, don’t use a microphone beyond what the sound engineers may need for full stage use. Individual microphones aren’t used. We train our voices to create resonance and color. We don’t need a microphone to create that.
WiMN: What are singers’ different options?
CS: I use a Shure SM58 for when I’m out performing. I like it because it does make the voice sound a little warmer (a lot of mics can sound brassier) plus it’s durable and fits in my purse!
WiMN: Tell us about measures singers should take to take care of their voice. What things should they do, and not do?
CS: Vocal health is one of my favorite topics. Keeping a healthy voice is extremely important. If you don’t have a healthy voice, you won’t have healthy sound. Beyond always making sure you’re singing with good technique (and you need to be working with an instructor to ensure that), you want to make sure you’re taking care of your speaking voice.
Women especially tend to speak too low and more “in their throats” for what their natural spoken pitch should be. You should never push your voice to make it louder, and if something hurts that’s your cue to stop. Singing should feel good and if you feel nothing, you’re probably doing it right. You should also make sure to keep your body healthy by getting plenty of sleep, eating right, and drinking lots of water. I’m also a HUGE fan of the Neti pot. It’s a singer’s best friend.
WiMN: Do you karaoke? If so, what’s your favorite song to sing along to?
CS: I have, although I don’t do it very often, but I like to pull out some Whitney Houston. Each of us has a little Whitney or Beyonce living inside us! I’m also a closet Britney Spears fan. I know all the moves to “Toxic!”
WiMN: Let’s close with one of your favorite quotes.
CS: For my husband, Jason. “A friend is someone who knows the song in your heart and can sing it back to you when you have forgotten the words.” – Unknown