March 29, 2011

inspire: melissa

Welcome to the very first installation of the inspire articles!  

I hope that by catching a glimpse into the lives of real, passionate, active women, you will begin to see your own value and uniqueness in this life.  Please share this with as many people as you can because I believe they will get something out of it as well.

And now, I would like to introduce you to my friend, Melissa Shriner!  Man, does she have a voice (and a super cute cottage home to boot!)  I'll let her tell you more in her own words...

Tell us a little bit about yourself...

I am compassionate, extremely patient, often distracted (!), good listener, at times I can be extremely fun to be around and super spontaneous, and other times, I just want to be quiet and not say a word.

I wear slippers all the time, and 95% of the time, you’ll find me wearing jeans!  I love to be comfortable.  I’m fortunate to have a job that has a very short commute; from my bedroom to the living room!  One day a week, I drive to Toronto to teach voice at Big Voice Studios.  

I like to have fun, talk about music and sing with my friends.  I don’t have a TV in my house, because I find that I don’t have a lot of time or interest in watching it.  I usually spend my time either teaching, rehearsing, or listening to music that I’m learning, or watching videos of my favorite singers on YouTube.  Occasionally, I’ll have a time where I just want to sit down and do nothing, and I’ll watch a few shows online.  I love my Mac Book!


What do you do?

I am a singer, currently studying Italian opera, and a vocal coach.

I have my own vocal studio called Melissa Shriner Vocal Studio, which I have operated for over 10 year now.  It is a home-based business, and I really love it.  I love working with exciting, interesting and musically motivated people, each with different goals in mind.  It’s so exciting to see my students surpass their own expectations and goals. 

What makes you happy?

My music, family and friends.  Knowing that I’m finally letting myself follow my singing dreams.  For the majority of my life, I stopped myself from walking in the fullness of my ability due to fear of failure, and fear of success, ironically.  I would never allow myself to walk through the difficult periods of a challenge (regarding making a singing career).  I stopped whenever it got too difficult, and this made me feel inadequate and unmotivated.  When I finally got the courage to move though and past the difficult times, I began to realize, hey, I can do this.  That knowledge keeps me motivated.  I also began to recognize that other people in my life were feeling inspired by my decision to pursue opera while making sacrifices in order to make that happen.  That made me feel great!

What draws you to do what you do? (what makes you passionate about what you do)

I’ve dreamed of having a singing career since I was a little girl. There is nothing else that I could possibly see myself doing.  It’s taken a little while for the wheels to start turning in the right direction, but I believe God knows exactly the right plan for me, so I’m just walking towards the goal, day by day. 

"I just don’t think it would be right to have a gift, and not use it to it’s fullest potential."  

I spent a large part of my life being scared of my gift.  I have now realized that it is my duty to use it.  God isn’t wrong.  I have the gift, and now, finally, I’m ready to accept it and nurture it and use it.

How did you get started in your music career?
I’ve always sung, but in terms of studying opera, this is what happened:  I studied singing in university, but never really felt very prepared or ready to sing classical music.  Since I grew up singing church music, pop and jazz, that is where I put my focus for many years, keeping classical music somewhat on the back burner.  It was something that always intimidated me and frightened me significantly. 

I went to see an opera coach, Dr. Mary-Lou Vetere, because I was preparing an aria for something, and she said, ‘Why in the world aren’t you singing opera???”  And I said, “I never felt prepared for it.”  She replied with, “You have a very important voice. It’s time to get prepared now.  If you don’t start singing, I’ll kill you!”  (And I quote!)

I always had this underlying assumption in my life that my voice, spoken or sung, was not important.  It really was the thing that crippled me in so many areas of my life.   Of all the words Dr. Vetere could have chosen, she chose the word “important” to describe my voice.  It really felt like some sort of awakening, and something about how she heard the potential in my voice, and offered a means for me to achieve something I’d always wanted, but never felt it was possible, lit a fire within me.  I’ve been taking opera coaching with Dr. Vetere several times a week for one year now.  I will be grateful to her forever.

What kind of tips can you offer someone who wants to be a better singer?

- If you wish to become a better singer, find a great singing teacher that you respect, who challenges you and forces you to move beyond your comfort zone.

- Perfect practice makes perfect.  It takes longer and is way more focused, but will produce better results.
- Sing from the text…  What is your song about?  What is the underlying emotion in the song?  Allow those things to motivate your singing, so that it comes from your guts.

What is your next step?
I have been accepted into the Lingua e Lyrica Italiana Opera Program in Urbania, Italy, this summer.  It’s a one-month intensive opera training program, and I’m so honoured to have been chosen to participate.  There was great competition, with singers from the great music schools of the US, like Julliard and the Manhattan School of Music. 

In order to raise funds for this program, I’m holding a concert called Opera Elegance on Saturday, April 2 at 7:30 pm at St. Marks Anglican Church.  Tickets are $20 and can be purchased online right here.  It will be an evening of Italian Art songs, German Lieder and Famous Opera Arias.  I’m excited to sing for friends, family and new audience members!  I am planning on holding another concert when I return from Italy, so stay tuned to my website for more info.

What is your "philosophy" in life - what keeps you motivated to pursue your passion in life?

I aim to create a happy and peaceful life, where I’m doing what I’m meant to do and what I love.  It’s filled with the people and things I love the most.  If I am with my family and friends, and I am singing, then I am happy.

When I first started opera coaching, it was really exciting, because there were big, noticeable changes in my voice.  Then it started to get really hard.  There were days when I would leave my lessons feeling like I was on top of the world, and other days when I would feel like completely packing it in.  I have a piece of paper with the quote “The prison and the palace are often the same place”.  It hangs taped to my shower wall, so I can look at it, and remind myself that those hard moments are normal, and to be expected if I want to get a result I’ve never had.
My goal is to keep moving forward, and keep pushing my own boundaries of what I think I’m capable of.

- Melissa

I hope you enjoyed this interview with the super talented, Melissa!  Please make it a priority to attend her fund raising concert this Saturday if you are in the local area.  

The next inspire article will go live in the next few weeks and feature one of my friends whose love for art has translated into photography!  Bet you can't guess who!



Melissa said...

Estelle- thank you for this wonderful opportunity. Best of luck with your blog! Melissa

Helene said...

What an inspiring article! So good to see that Melissa is doing well. Good luck for the concert. Helene, South Africa.

Anonymous said...

I >3 my wombmate! -Vanessa (Melissa's fraternal twin sister!)

StephMarconi said...

Melissa is an incredible teacher. Every lesson leaves me feeling inspired and challenged to grow more as a singer. I'm so proud to know her!

Christina Durksen said...

This is such an inspirational article! I love it!

Sprout said...


Julie said...

Really wonderful article. Now that I know about her event on Saturday, Peter and I hope to make it. Thanks for posting. It's really wonderful to see such talented people live right in our own backwards... all the best in Italy this summer Melissa!

Laila Blais said...

This article is very inspirational! Challenges people not to be afraid of their dreams, but to go for it !