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Shelby Rollins: Driven To Bring Out Your Best

Driven by a passion for teaching and learning, coupled with a love and reverence for all things artsy and musical, Shelby Rollins has a lot to offer anyone who wants to deliver his or her voice to its fullest potential.

Through her experience as a live performer in New York City, recording artist in Nashville, church choir coach, composer, and musician (piano, guitar), coupled with a B.A. in Theatre from Florida State University, this Brett Manning Associate brings a keen understanding and heightened perspective to her teaching that can bring out the best in anyone from the shiest, knee-shaking newbie to the confident seasoned performer looking to refine and enhance their skills.

“I really love every single voice I hear,” she said. “My goal is to make that unique voice of each of my students the very best it can be.”

She’s Been There

The native Floridian looks at each student with fresh eyes and ears, taking into account differences in personality, life experience, how they learn, and what they’ve learned about singing as Shelby engages her very first lesson. And, she understands issues faced by those that have studied methods that are so different from what Brett Manning teaches because she’s been there herself. She helps you piece things together because she has so many disciplines to draw from.

“I was classically trained for the most part; plus I did a lot of reading and research on my own,” she said. “Most of what I’d learned was the Alexander method. It deals a lot with breathing and lifting the soft palate. So, I developed a great deal of knowledge about anatomy, but it really wasn’t much help for me as a singer.”

From Classical To Magical

She’s found that many of her students with a background in classical training come in with preconceived notions that cause them to initially resist and judge what’s being taught with Brett’s method.

“What I teach flies in the face of classical training,” she said. “You make a strange sound or an ugly noise to get that perfect coordination, but there’s resistance because it doesn’t sound pretty. Judging hinders progress.”

She’s found a similar situation with some seasoned performers, especially those that have a strong sense of personal style. They may have a hard time with just letting go to find a coordination. But Shelby wins them over once they understand that her goal is not to change their style but to enhance what they already do. She works with them to make things more readily accessible so that they’re free to do whatever they want with their voice.

Another potential stumbling block she finds in students comes with shyness. That creates a resistance to letting go, getting aggressive, and just having fun exploring. But, Shelby’s been been there, too. She understands what it feels like to struggle with holding back and has even faced a few battles with confidence.

After moving to New York right after graduation from FSU, Shelby gained a lot of live performance experience as a singer-songwriter playing out on the lower East side, with a few gigs in Brooklyn. Shelby also has four albums to her credit as a performer, with two of those showcasing her singer-songwriter pop styling with a few cover tunes. It was in New York that she also met her soon to be husband, Tanner Rollins, at the church she attended.

The Brett Connection

While navigating the professional pressures and pleasures of the New York scene as a performer and teacher, Shelby personally struggled to find her mix, to understand how to relate to her students. So she still had issues with opening up as a singer and teacher. But that all changed once she was introduced to Brett Manning through Kevin Singleton, the Worship Leader at her church in New York City.

“Kevin would keep mentioning Brett to the worship team,” she said. “Six months before approaching Brett for certification, Kevin planted the bug that I meet with Brett since I was already teaching. So, Kevin and I came here to Nashville in July 08.”

That First Breakthrough Revelation

“I watched Brett teach for two days,” she said. “I thought, oh my gosh, I can’t believe he made that singer do that in an hour. I’d look at that and say it took me six months to get a student to do what he just did in fifty minutes. I realized I was making it harder than it is. What he’s teaching gets results so much faster.”

Certified To Make Big Changes

In March 2009, Shelby completed her BMA certification, after several trips to Nashville for intensive study and training. She returned to New York with a greater awareness and a determined focus on teaching. For Shelby, change became the natural order for each day. “I’d been taught in voice lessons from lots of different teachers to get rid of my break smoothly without having to flip into my head voice or whatever,” she said. “They’d just say things like, breathe from your diaphragm. Breathe better. And the comments usually had nothing to do with my vocal cords. It always had to do with air. And, yeah, that’s part of it. Breathing is a big deal because you have to breathe to even speak because you have to have air. But that’s not usually the problem with most people. One of the things I learned from Brett was how to transfer that idea of finding the mix. I knew how to tell somebody not to strain their voice, but I didn’t know how to help them find power without straining. Brett taught me how to transfer that information.”

From Breaths To Cords Of Confidence

Shelby admits she quickly went from talking a lot about breathing to talking a lot about vocal cords. And, the more she learned from Brett, the stronger she became as a teacher and performer, and with that comes more confidence. “It’s given me more confidence to promote myself as a teacher because I can back it up,” she said. “I’m wired to teach. I did it in college and in NY. I was teaching parts and harmonies by ear with groups in classes or the church choir. But I didn’t have confidence in my voice then. But now, I can teach someone that’s brand new, somebody I know nothing about, and I know I’ll get results. I know there will be some measure of progress in just one lesson.”

Impact On Songwriting

She’s found that the confidence that comes with Brett’s method has also had a positive impact on her songwriting, making her a lot bolder in her approach. “I think what happens with most people is that they write in the range that they’re most comfortable singing in,” she said. “So when I knew what my belt was-my belting range- I would live in that. I wouldn’t push it harder. After Brett, I knew the mix would give me more dynamic interest in my own music. It gave me a bigger range. I’m able to sing higher and louder. Lyrically, my writing is mostly autobiographical. But stylistically, because of how Brett’s method has opened me up, I’m more commercial in my writing. Plus, I now try new things. My husband has noticed the change because of the confidence.”

First Memories Of Singing

A little latent confidence possibly played a role in Shelby’s first memory of singing. She remembers being jealous of her older brother getting to be in the youth choir at church. That fit of jealously set her on an amazing journey of self-discovery. “I was too young, but I learned the songs anyway, and I found out I enjoyed singing,” she said. “Once I finally got in the choir at age 9 or 10, I discovered that I loved melody, and the meter and the rhyme of the lyric, and how the phrase would end. I just learned to sing along.”

Fake Voice – Real Voice

“But I remember thinking I had a fake voice and a real voice,” she laughed. “My fake voice was when I used vibrato and had nice tone, and I felt like I was imitating another singer. And then, my real voice was when I was just kind of singing notes, matching pitch, and just kind of dully singing along. But I didn’t really have any kind of quality or style to it. Then, I realized one time when I was singing vibrato, that if I can sing this way, then maybe this is my real voice. That’s when I realized singing was something I had an ear for. We draw from imitation. So I listened to other singers, and I’d do it like them – trying to sound like a diva or messing around.”

With Passion + Commitment Anyone Can Learn

Shelby firmly believes that absolutely anyone can learn to sing if they really want to and they stay committed to doing it. “It has less to do with me as a teacher in the sense that if you don’t practice what I teach, it’s not gonna stick,” she said. “It all has so much more to do with muscle memory. If you’ve trained your muscles to do something that keeps straining your voice, they’re not going to do anything else unless you train them to do something else. You need to ask yourself, do I have the passion to do this? If you don’t really want to, then don’t waste your time.” Shelby is committed to constantly learning and growing and admits to learning from her students as she explores solutions for issues and problems with each individual. She points out that the same exercise will not necessarily work for each individual, or it may work in a different way. She discovers how they learn and at what pace. They teach her to hear textures in the voice and discover where to start first with the teaching.

Shelby’s BMA Goals

“I want my voice to be the best it can be because I can only teach as good as I can be,” she said. “What I mean by that is I have to know technique better than my students know it; so I can communicate it effectively. I know that I have to be always practicing and improving my voice so that I keep having consistent revelation and improvement. So it stays fresh for me. There’s a responsibility I have to my students to maintain my own growth. I also want to teach more and have more of an online presence. I want to go out from here at the studio and work with groups that would bring me in to coach, like at a worship conference, for example. And also, I don’t want to lose who I am as an artist. So I need to pursue those goals as well.”

The Perks Of The Method

Finally, she feels that anyone who makes a living with their voice can benefit from Brett’s method. It helps with projection so that there’s no yelling or screaming that can damage the voice. She adds that air texture will help train the vocal cords and that the speaking voice will find more dynamic in range with new highs and lows. She also believes that engaging in the study of a variety of creative and artistic disciplines, such as acting and songwriting, makes you better as a singer and performer. Some Final Wise Words She cites getting plenty of sleep and drinking lots of water as two often neglected keys to optimum vocal health. She also highly recommends listening to music as much as possible and watching YouTube performances. “There’s a world of music on the Internet,” she said. “The more artists and new music you expose yourself to, the better artist and singer you will become.” To learn more about Brett Manning Associate and vocal coach Shelby Rollins, visit Shelby Rollins is now available for vocal lessons either in-studio in Nashville, TN, over the phone or via SKYPE. Please email or call 615.866.1099 to inquire about or schedule a lesson!