The American soprano, Lucy Shelton, began her musical training early with the study of both piano and flute. After graduating from Pomona College (1965) she pursued singing at the New England Conservatory (M.M., 1968) under Gladys Miller, and at the Aspen Music School where she studied with Jan DeGaetani. In her mid-thirties, Shelton was twice recipient of top prize at the prestigious International Walter W. Naumburg Competition - first, in 1977, as part of the Jubal Trio, and then in 1980 as a soloist.
The Naumburg success threw Lucy Shelton's career into high gear, and she kept herself busy both as an ensemble singer (perhaps most significantly with the Waverly Consort) and as an increasingly in-demand solo vocalist with a rare passion for new music. She has performed repertoire from J.S. Bach to Pierre Boulez in major recital, chamber and orchestral venues throughout the world. Even though she is best known for her high-flying, passionate performances of contemporary music, she has never restricted her musical air space to a single century or just a handful of styles; she is as comfortable in the works of George Frideric Handel as in those of Wolfgang Rihm.
Highly acclaimed as an interpreter of new music, Lucy Shelton continues to bring new audiences into the sound world of new works, often composed for her. Notable among numerous world premieres are Elliott Carter's Of Challenge and Of Love and his Tempo e Tempi; Oliver Knussen's Whitman Settings; Stephen Albert's Flower of the Mountain; Joseph Schwantner's Sparrows and his Two Poems of Agueda Pizarro and Magabunda; Alexander Goehr's Sing, Ariel and The Mouse Metamorphosed Into a Maid; David Del Tredici's Quaint Events; Poul Ruder's The Bells; Gerard Grisey's L'Icone Paradoxiale; Ned Rorem's Schuyller Songs; Sally Beamish's Monster; James Yannatos's Trinity Mass; Lewis Spratlan's Of Time and the Seasons; and Rob Zuidam's Johanna's Lament. Lucy Shelton is also active, though less prominently so, in the world of opera.
Since her return to the USA from England in 1997, Lucy Shelton has had five recordings released on Deutsche Grammophon and KOCH International with repertoire of Carter, Igor Stravinsky, Crawford Seeger and Messiaen. Five additional CD's are in the works, with repertoire of David Del Tredici, Rands, Adolphe, Kim, and Carter. She also has recordings on Bridge Records, Unicorn-Kanchana and Virgin Classics with music of Goehr, Knussen and Arnold Schoenberg.
Some highlights of previous seasons include staged performances of L. Berio's Passaggio with the Ensemble Intercontemporain, A. Schoenberg's Pierrot Lunaire with Da Camera of Houston and the role of Jenifer in Tippett's The Midsummer Marriage for Thames Television. Lucy Shelton made her BBC Proms debut in Luigi Dallapiccola's Il Prigioniero and her Vienna and Berlin debuts singing György Kurtág's The Sayings of Peter Bornemissza with András Schiff. Among notable conductors with whom Shelton has worked are Daniel Barenboim, Pierre Boulez, De Leeuw, Knussen, Metzmacher, David Nott, Oetvos, Simon Rattle, Helmuth Rilling, Rostropovich, Esa-Pekka Salonen, Leonard Slatkin, and Wolff.
In the season 2001-2002 abroad, Lucy Shelton premiered Rob Zuidam's Johanna's Lament at the Concertgebouw in Amsterdam, and gave the Dutch and UK premieres of Zuidam's McGonagall Lieder. In the USA she gave the world premieres of Lewis Spratlan's Of Time and the Seasons in Boston and a work by Gheorghe Costinescu in New York. In the city she also sings Ferneyhough's Fourth String Quartet, joined Da Capo for a recording of Shatin and a concert of Kernis, Previn and Birtwistle. The season also included some of her "standard" repertoire: Luciano Berio's Folk Songs, Babbitt's Philomel, Knussen's Hums and Songs of Winnie the Pooh, Carter's Of Challenge and Of Love and Tempo e Tempi, Druckman's Lamia and A. Schoenberg's Pierrot Lunaire.
Lucy Shelton has taught at the Cleveland Institute of Music, the New England Conservatory of Music, the Eastman School of Music, and at Tanglewood. She is currently on the faculty of the Tanglewood Music Center and coaches privately at her studio in New York City. From the 1990’s on, she has brought this appreciation of non-standard song literature to a large class of students.