“A Parent’s Perspective. Great teachers are few and far between, and parents often struggle in finding the best private instruction for their children. We felt no uncertainty, however, in identifying Sheila Dugan as the right vocal teacher for our daughter. The past four years of Saturday morning voice lessons (I couldn’t help listening from the waiting room) have confirmed our faith in Sheila’s extraordinary abilities. She has had an enormous positive impact on our daughter’s life.
I first became aware of Sheila in the late 70’s/early 80’s while I was a student at the now-defunct St. Louis Conservatory of Music. At that time, Sheila was a Conservatory faculty member responsible for training a number of male and female vocalists. My vocalist friends would rave about Sheila and the progress they were making as a result of her instruction and guidance.
Twenty-five years later, my young daughter became serious about vocal training and I immediately thought of Sheila. I learned that she had continued to teach and was successfully training a whole new generation of singers (including the sons and daughters of a number of my music acquaintances).
During the course of her study with Sheila, my daughter has progressed from a girl with a “sweet little voice” (Sheila’s exact words on hearing my daughter for the first time) to a young woman with a well-developed instrument who is a consistent and healthy vocalist capable of emotionally-nuanced musical performance (granted, this is her father talking, but I think that is a fair assessment of her capabilities). That progress can be directly attributed to Sheila’s teaching and the working relationship she has developed with my daughter over the years.
My daughter has moved on to the next stage of her life, and is now a college student studying musical theatre in a highly-regarded conservatory program. All of that was made possible by the training, love and support (and audition prep!) Sheila provided during my daughter’s formative years.”
“I am a Musical Theatre performer. I had been studying voice privately for eight years in St. Louis and at college, but it wasn’t until I studied with Sheila Dugan that I fully understood a more organized and grounded way to produce my voice. It wasn’t that my other teachers were wrong exactly, but she used explanations based in the study of anatomy and her own creative guided imagery to explain how to better control my instrument, making me a far more versatile singer than I had ever been. All of the ill-explained techniques gave way to an entirely new way of singing, and in turn, I produced many new sounds that I had never heard or felt before, all without abuse! I learned how many more characters/roles I potentially had in me, using the new technologies that she taught me! I was only in town for few months, but after weekly hour lessons with Sheila, in that time, she completely changed the way I approach my craft, and for the better. I only wish we could have worked together longer before I moved to New York to begin my professional life. I learned so much from her.”
“Finally a voice teacher who knows what she’s doing and can communicate how to do it!
I’m a 54 year old university trained musician who has been singing publicly since I was 9 years old. I have been a classical professional church soloist, contemporary music worship leader, I’ve sung in professional classical music choirs, performed operas and oratorios, sung art song, performed professional musical theater summer stock, sung big band music and been featured soloist for orchestra pop concerts. Over the years I’ve studied with teachers who have taught people like Ben Heppner, Robert Goulet and Maureen Forrester and taken summer courses and master classes with opera and art song greats as well as Hollywood “phenoms” and I can tell you that without a doubt Sheila Dugan is by far the best voice teacher I have ever worked with. If early in my singing life I had the clarity on vocal production that Sheila provides I would have seriously pursued a career rather than giving up hope due to the lack of precise, scientifically based guidance most singing teachers were providing.
Be prepared to leave your “manufactured” voice and your ego attachment to it at the door. If you do, Sheila will help you find your real voice and you will be able to sing beautifully and with confidence for a very long time.”
J Fred Mac
“The Incredible Sheila Dugan – I started taking voice lessons with Sheila Dugan when I was 14-years-old. Up until that point, I had perfected the art of imitation when I sang. Like many young singers, I chose to imitate sounds as opposed to actually singing with my own authentic sound. After much training, Sheila Dugan helped me find my own authentic voice and artistic style.
Sheila uses concrete visual imagery, allowing her students to fully comprehend, and more importantly, feel how to correctly use their vocal instrument. Prior to my association with Sheila, I had developed some bad habits and Sheila helped me correct those. Along the way, she employed a number of very novel teaching techniques in order to help me succeed. Because she is such an extraordinary teacher, she continued to use multiple teaching devices in order to help me recreate my approach to singing.
In addition to excellent technical training, Sheila is an extraordinary mentor with regard to song interpretation and performance. She continually challenges you to think about the words that you are singing, honing your performance as well as technique. In the end, the songs you sing are uniquely yours, sung in your authentic voice, perfectly placed, and in harmony with your instrument.
These skills have been noticed by professionals here in St. Louis as well as New York. As I have participated in collegiate and professional programs, directors have repeatedly asked me where I received my training and have complimented it, often using my performance as an example of how to perform a song.
Sheila has always believed in and supported my dreams wholeheartedly. She invests her time, effort, and energy into her students so they can achieve their personal best. I have learned self-discipline with Sheila, as she expects her students to practice on their own, and I have also reaped the benefits of our hard work. Going into senior year in high school, I knew I wanted to go to NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts. Sheila did everything in her power to prepare me for the audition. Thanks to Sheila Dugan, I will be attending NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts in the fall and majoring in Musical Theater.
Sheila Dugan provides her students with tangible visualizations and techniques so that her work with them continues long after the lessons end. She has had a profound impact on my ability as a singer/performer. I am one of many that she has helped transform from a child who could sing to a polished vocal performer. I expected to find great training when I started lessons with Sheila, but I never expected to find such a great friend. Sheila has helped me grow as a person, and I appreciate and cherish all the advice she has given me over the years on life in general. Even though I am leaving St. Louis, I plan to continue to work and stay in contact with Sheila because she has so profoundly impacted my life.”
“Professional training unlike anything else in st. louis – As a former MUNY kid and MUNY teen who has gone on to perform professionally throughout the country including three Broadway shows to date and attend one of the three major training programs for musical theater (CCM), I assure you that the ONLY person in St. Louis offering the proper vocal training forvthe MUSICAL THEATER performer is Sheila Dugan. She trains the vocal instrument to be both healthy and vibrant, while incorporating savvy techniques and her own contemporary sensibility. She offers the musical theater singer versatility and longevity. I would not be the performer I am today without her.”
“I’m a musical theatre performer and have been studying with Sheila for a year and a half. After a recommendation from a friend, I called Sheila to schedule a lesson. I was first struck by her physiological knowledge of the body. Questions I had about the structure and use of the lungs, vocal folds, and other aspects of vocal production were answered clearly and simply. This basic structural knowledge gave me a foundation to begin understanding and building my instrument. Then, as we began working together, I was amazed at how quickly she could diagnose my vocal issues and how simple and direct her instruction was. The imagery that she uses to help you understand her technique cuts straight to the point. There is no fluff. There is no guessing at what she wants. This no-nonsense approach saves time (and your sanity), which allows you to progress greatly in a short amount of time.
In the past, other voice teachers I have worked with were concerned mostly with the beauty of the voice. Your voice will certainly become stronger and freer under her instruction. However, all of this work is in service of the intention of what you are singing. As a musical theatre actor, I’ve learned how to safely shift the sound of my voice to embody a character’s vocalism. Whether a character is breathy, nasal, prim and proper, or down and dirty, I have a much clearer view of my voice as an expressive instrument. Since I’ve started working with her, I’ve found facets of my voice that I didn’t know were there.
Sheila says she runs a full service voice studio, and she isn’t kidding. I implicitly trust her advice and have gone to her many times regarding matters in my career and my life. Every time I left feeling lighter and clearer in my situation. She has also pointed me in the direction of an excellent dance teacher, acting coach, and allergist. She’s more than just a voice teacher. She really cares about her students and their growth in all aspects of their lives, not just as vocalists. She has truly impacted my life in a deep and meaningful way.
I cannot recommend Sheila enough (and have done so to many of my friends). She is a lovely woman who really knows the voice. I guarantee that whatever your vocal need is, she can help you.”
“As I begin to close a successful freshman year at CCM for musical theatre, I have very few people to thank in helping me get this far. I am so thankful for all the work Sheila did to make me the person and performer I am today. I was so prepared for school here and only continue to get better using many of the techniques we used in our past lessons. I thank her so much for all she has done. She is a true blessing to the vocal world and I owe so much to her.”
“Sheila Dugan made an immense difference in the vocal production of many of the actors who have worked with METRO THEATER COMPANY. She managed to assess each person’s needs, and build the individual skills that gave each actor confidence and versatility. I owe a huge debt of gratitude to Sheila for the ways in which she inspired my own vocal development. Our lessons were always a joy.”
Carol North, Former Artistic Director
METRO THEATRE COMPANY
St. Louis, Missouri
“Sheila Dugan has been a friend and colleague for more that 30 years. I first heard her name when I served as auditions accompanist for the St. Louis Symphony Chorus, then directed by Thomas Peck. It was customary that if the applicant sang well, Ms. Dugan was the teacher, or if the applicant needed a teacher, or a transformation, her name topped the suggestion list. Mr. Peck felt Ms. Dugan was the one teacher whose students knew how to use their voices correctly, intelligently and musically. Those following Maestro Peck’s advice invariably sang with incredible improvement at subsequent auditions.”
“Former Florence G. and Morton J. May Principal Keyboard Instruments”
St. Louis Symphony Orchestra
“Sheila Dugan studied singing with me at Southern Illinois University-Edwardsville, earning both the Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees. In 48 years of teaching, Sheila is without question the most outstanding teacher of the hundreds of students I have had. Her students are consistently admitted to major music schools and those specializing in Music Theatre have had great success on Broadway and other professional venues. Sheila’s success stems from her being a real artist and fantastic musician and from a thorough knowledge of the singing voice.”
Dale Moore, Retired
Visiting Professor, Indiana University School of Music
Professor Emeritus, Eastman School of Music
Past President, National Association of Teachers of Singing
American Academy of Teachers of Singing
“It has been my pleasure to know Ms. Sheila Dugan for the past 20 years. During that time, I have had the privilege of observing her students in performance as well as the Master Class that she taught for the dancers in my dance company. The workshop that she put together for my dancers was exceptional. She was able to impart immense information and understanding of the physical nature of singing. That she can bring the physicality of singing to a dancer’s understanding is amazing!”
Former COCA DANCE Artistic Director
St. Louis, Missouri
“As the Former Director of Theatre Arts at Ladue Horton Watkins High School, I have had the good fortune to work with many talented students. Many of these students have gone on to major college theatre programs and even careers in the performing arts. One of the common factors among these students is their relationship with Sheila Dugan. I am frequently asked to recommend vocal coaches. Sheila Dugan is the only name I ever offer. What she provides, students can rely on forever.”
Kurt H. Knoedelseder
Former Director of Theatre Arts
Ladue Horton Watkins High School
“I have had the pleasure to know and work with Sheila Dugan for the last eighteen years. Many of my students have studied with Sheila. As the choral director at Parkway North High School, I have witnessed tremendous development in their vocal technique, musicianship, and professionalism. I also studied with her for the five years. She literally saved my voice from the daily abuse of teaching. I have been singing better than ever, thanks to Sheila.”
Director of Choirs, Parkway North
Past Asst. Director, St. Louis Chamber Chorus
Baritone soloist, St. Peter’s Episcopal Church
Baritone soloist, Shaare Emeth Congregation