Though students tend to think teachers are one dimensional and don’t have lives outside their classrooms, English teacher Shayna Fuller is here to prove them wrong. As a singer, songwriter and musician, Fuller has a vibrant life outside of school. The Colt visited with Fuller to find out more about her second career as recording artist Elise Amara.
TC: First off, how do your students react when they find out you are a singer?
SF: They are a bit stunned. I think it’s because as an artist I look one way and as a teacher I look another way.
TC: You perform under the name Elise Amara which helps keep your teacher life separate, how did you come up with your stage name?
SF: Elise is my middle name and Amara means gift from God in an African tribal language. I wanted to be able to show people that you can use a gift to spread positivity in this world.
TC: What made you want to take singing serious?
SF: I have always been a writer since I was a kid and wanted to take music seriously when I started performing my original music in the Downtown Dallas area when I was about 18 years old and old enough to start making my own decisions.
TC: Do you play any instruments?
SF: I play piano, bass guitar, acoustic guitars and drums.
TC: Did you go to college for music?
SF: I did not go to school for music but I was formally trained in classical piano from ages 6 -12 with a private teacher. Once I turned 13, I started learning more informally from other musicians who had decades of experience.
TC: Since you’re an English teacher and musician, how are they similar to one another?
SF: Playing music requires a skill of understanding melody and harmony on a basic level and being able to build on it. I feel that music and writing are related because it is my job as a writer to paint a picture for the reader just like as an artist, it is my job to evoke feelings that connect to the listener.
TC: Have you thought about becoming a music teacher one day?
SF: I actually tried when I was a substitute teacher and it wasn’t for me. I love music but I think there is a level of passion and patience for teaching it that I do not quite have yet.
TC: How has music changed your life?
SF: Music is and has always been a source of therapy for me. I have experienced so much trauma in my life. Some people turn to drugs or alcohol to cope but luckily I had music as my safe space. Much of the music I write that I don’t necessarily perform for others is sad and depressing. It is just a channel for me to express myself and use music as a way to vent.
TC: They say music is a window to a person’s soul, how do you come up with your lyrics and melody?
SF: If I can remember a line or a melody that I wrote two days ago, that means I need to make it a song. Sometimes people send me music with no lyrics and I write to it based on what feelings I get from the music. Sometimes I sit at my piano and just think about the words and what my message is to the listener and start there. I don’t really have one set way that I write a song.
TC: What types of genres do you prefer and what do you have in mind for future music?
SF: I am currently working on a pop album and another Neo soul EP. Soul and Blues are at the core of my culture, so that’s always inside of me. When I dive into other genres, I still try to remain true to who I am as an artist by putting a little “soul” in it.
TC: Has your music ever been played on the radio? If so, how did you feel when you heard it?
SF: I have had small radio stations play my music. It feels good to get some exposure on the air waves every now and again.
TC: If you could sign a record deal would you?
SF: In today’s world, I am not sure how a record deal will help me considering that people aren’t buying albums any more but streaming everything, but I would definitely consider it, if the long term looked promising.
TC: Where can people find your music?
SF: I am on all streaming services but my music can be linked from www.eliseamara.com.