e expert

Singin’ in the Brain


Wanna get happy? Try belting out your favorite song, says singing teacher Brian Manternach, an assistant professor (clinical) in the Department of Theatre and research associate at the Utah Center for Vocology in the U’s College of Fine Arts (where he won its 2021 Faculty Excellence in Research Award). “Studies show singing can help release tension, lower our heart rates, and calm us down,” he says. “Everybody loves music. It’s just fun to sing.”

Born into a musical family—singing in church and during car trips—Manternach earned advanced degrees in music and voice performance. In addition to teaching and performing around the country, he’s a sought-after lecturer on singing and musical theater and writes a column for Classical Singer magazine. He has been recognized with the Voice Pedagogy Award from the National Association of Teachers of Singing, and his TEDx Talk on the joys of singing is required viewing.

Due to neuroplasticity, our brains grow and reorganize as we learn new skills like singing, he notes. “Besides this, when singing, you often use your breath in a way that is similar to how it is used during yoga and meditation. In this way, singing can potentially be both a physical and a spiritual experience.”

A Few Notes for Wannabe Singers

○ Don’t compare yourself to others. If you’re just beginning to get your vocal cords going, don’t be discouraged by accomplished singers who easily hit the high notes. It’s okay to be a newbie. Remember: it took years for Stefani Germanotta to become Lady Gaga.

○ Sing with passion. Johnny Cash is a good example of someone who didn’t have the greatest voice but who communicated extremely effectively through music. Many people are afraid to sing because they think they’ll be judged by the quality of their voices, but much of the time when we listen to music, we value emotional connection way more than pretty sounds.

○ Seek instruction. Ready for the next step? A qualified teacher can help you build vocal skills in a way that better equips you to express yourself.

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