The Swole Soprano Strengthens Singers

The Swole Soprano Strengthens Singers

In the singing world of today, artists are asked to do more than simply “park and bark.” We are asked to run, jump, spin, climb twelve flights of stairs and then sing the showstopper. Singers must be prepared for whatever is thrown at them, and that is the goal of The Swole Soprano.

As a sophomore Voice Performance Major at Baldwin Wallace University, Anissa Clay Zelaya was introduced to the world of weightlifting through a wellness class. Never much of a sports person, Anissa was dubious of what she could accomplish in such a class. “I hated sports,” Zelaya says. “I went to a performing arts high school where it didn’t matter if I could play ball or not. I could sing. Weightlifting seemed fun to me at the time and allowed me to not have to run after a ball.” Once she completed the class, Anissa was hooked on how strong she felt and wanted to share her discovery with others. 

For her independent study for a Vocal Pedagogy emphasis, Anissa set her sights on the world of weightlifting for singers. “I didn’t know what was out there,” she states, “but I wanted to see if I wasn’t alone. I was stronger from lifting but what if I was the only one?” She wasn’t, as it turned out, and she found several individuals with the same interests as her, like Claudia Friedlander, Annie Calvaneso, and The Musical Athlete. Using what she learned from these individuals and with the guidance of her voice teacher, Dr. J.R. Fralick, Anissa created a singer-specific weightlifting program for her fellow students. “My clients for my independent study were the best,” Anissa remembers. “They all came to me with different vocal setbacks that they wanted to fix. It was my job to help them and by the end those setbacks were fixed. It was an amazing experience to see that I was able to help my fellow singers be better singers and performers.” Zelaya used the results of her study to create the foundation of The Swole Soprano.

The Swole Soprano is a fitness-for-singers company. Founded by Zelaya, the goal of the company is to empower singers to be at their best physically and mentally. There are several options The Swole Soprano offers to clients, including 1:1 in person personal training, online personal training, and online coaching. Each client receives a customized workout regimen designed to the client’s distinct goals. “Weightlifting, cardio, and stretching are a crucial part of any singer’s routine,” Anissa explains. “They should all be done together to create a well-balanced singer. Withholding one of the three will place the rest out of balance. It’s like a triangle. All three sides must be in line with one another. If you remove stretching from your routine, you will find that your muscles may be too tight to take a relaxed breath. If you remove weightlifting, you may not be physically strong enough to sing more technically challenging repertoire. If you remove cardio, you may not be able to sing with full cardiovascular capacity.” As a client with The Swole Soprano, a singer should expect to utilize all three aspects in their training regimen. 

Along with working with individuals, The Swole Soprano offers The Swole Singer Seminar, a presentation/masterclass on viewing singers as vocal athletes and the benefits of a whole-body approach to singing. “The Swole Singer Seminar is one of my favorite things we offer at The Swole Soprano,” Anissa states. “I feel that if I had learned about being a vocal athlete sooner in my career, I would have found my passion for fitness sooner and reaped the technical rewards sooner as well.” The Swole Soprano offers The Swole Singer Seminar to any group who wished to discover the joys of fitness and changing the narrative on what “athlete” means. 

“As singers, we are athletes. We use our entire bodies with every note that we produce. It is critical that we can endure whatever is asked of us, whether it be to run across stage one hundred times before the show is over, to stand on a moving table as you the high note or fighting the urge to lock your knees while standing to sing. Using weightlifting, cardio, and stretching in a singer’s routine, I am sure that they will find more confidence and strength in themselves and their art.”

To learn more about individual training or The Swole Singer Seminar, visit You can also find Anissa Clay Zelaya and The Swole Soprano on Instagram, Facebook, Youtube, and TikTok @anissaclayzelaya.


Co-Authors: Cydney Washington and Anissa Clay Zelaya

Cydney Washington is a versatile singer with a passion for performing and music.  Some of her recent credits include: 1st place winner of the 2022 Classical Singers Competition in the Musical Theatre Univ/Pre Pro division. “Madame de la Haltière”  Cendrillon (Chicago Summer Opera), ‘Marcellina’ in Le Nozze di Figaro (Baldwin Wallace Uni.), ‘Frances in ‘The Men I am not Married to’ (new work), Ruth in “The Pirates of Penzance” (Millikin Uni.) Ensemble in the world premiere of “The Flower of Hawaii” (Folks Operetta), Ronny in “Hair” (Millikin Uni.), Little Inez in “Hairspray” (Brightside Theater), and a participant of the Hawaii Performing arts festival as a young artist.  Under the careful voice instruction of JR Fralick, she is a rising Senior at Baldwin Wallace University where she studies Vocal Performance with an Emphasis in Vocal Pedagogy. When not performing, she spends time cultivating her voice studio CMW Sounds Voice Studio.

Annisa Clay Zelaya

Anissa Clay Zelaya is a recent graduate from Baldwin Wallace University receiving a BM in Voice Performance with an emphasis in Vocal Pedagogy. She portrayed the role of Contessa in Le Nozze di Figaro with Baldwin Wallace Opera in March of 2022. She performed Zelda ‘18 in The Ghosts of Gatsby, a partnership with Baldwin Wallace and Cleveland Opera Theater as a part of the National Opera Association (NOA) conference in January 2020.  She was an apprentice with Pittsburgh Festival Opera during the Summer of 2020, performing Contessa. Anissa is also the owner and founder of The Swole Soprano, a fitness-for-singers company dedicated to helping singers grow stronger and more confident in themselves and their art.