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Question for prospective vocal performance majors

VoiceTeacherVoiceTeacher Registered User Posts: 317 Member
What factors do you consider when picking vocal performance programs to audition for?

Do any of the following matter?
- Choral ensembles
- Faculty performing experience
- Faculty who are "famous"
- Reputation of the opera director
- Availability of vocal coaching
- Availability of acting and dance classes?

Would love to hear any and all thoughts regarding your search criteria.

Thank you!


Replies to: Question for prospective vocal performance majors

  • vistajayvistajay Registered User Posts: 1,246 Senior Member
    For my son, vocal coaching is a given. But otherwise the factors driving his decision thus far are serious academics, staging at least 2 full operas a year / multiple performance opportunities, and flexibility in curriculum allowing double majors. The other factors you list are great but are not his focus.
  • dramasopranomomdramasopranomom Registered User Posts: 316 Member
    Excellent questions, @VoiceTeacher ! We went through the Undergraduate search and audition process for my D last year and here is the low down on what she decided were the most important criteria:

    #1/#2 (in equal measure) Undergraduate focus/performance opportunities and teaching quality/reputation of vocal faculty. (Faculty performance experience plays into teacher quality/reputation.)

    #3 (a huge surprise that this became so important) Positive collegial “feel” within the Vocal Faculty as a whole. We encountered some very icy and almost unprofessional attitudes when finalizing her list during Junior year, and my D was absolutely, completely turned off by departments where there seemed to be stress or infighting. This extended to how students behaved and responded to each other within the VP department (by reputation and experience during visits and audition weekends).

    #4 Quality of Academic instruction; music and non music.

    #5 Availability of Vocal Coaching, masterclasses, Collaborative Pianists, etc.

    #6/#7 Access to acting/ dance classes AND, big for my D, access to audition for roles in Musical Theatre (generally a friendly feeling between Classical/MT as a department philosophy).

    #s 4-7 are pretty interchangeable in terms of importance....I think that quality of Choral Ensembles is of course important, but generally a given at the schools my D considered; her focus is definitely Opera Performance. A “famous” teacher ( I think you mean a teacher who is a famous performer?) was not nearly as important as a teacher with an excellent reputation for building stellar technique, and whose students are generally well respected in the industry.

    My D is a Freshman VP BM candidate at Oberlin this year, and so far she is very happy with her choice!

  • BearHouseBearHouse Registered User Posts: 460 Member
    If I only knew the mind of my 17 year old daughter. I am beginning to wonder if the audition will be similar to my wife falling in love with our kitchen. Will there be some ineffable quality that will make the price/admission/commitment worth it? If so, the decision to visit the "open house" seems to be based on location, location, location and a website that shows a college where she can "see herself" living/thriving/singing.

    She is too right brain for a delineation of criteria (no matter how hard I pry).

  • SpartanDrewSpartanDrew Registered User Posts: 923 Member
    An interesting question that I really wish I had a clear answer to! I like @BearHouse response! To start, for my D, she is a jazz vocalist and songwriter so we needed to find a program that offers both which narrows the field down quite a bit. Then I think location is the next biggest thing. D has pretty much eliminated the west coast and wants to be on the east coast, northeast, southeast but not midwest since that's where we are now. We do have a great jazz program that's more local to us that is added to her list because her current vocal coach is on adjunct faculty there but they don't have any commercial music, all jazz, so that's a bit of a minus. Then I think the faculty is extremely important to her. She spent the summer at Berklee and did NOT click with the head of the vocal jazz program there. At Frost, she clicked with the head of that program like they'd known each other forever. She didn't meet the jazz voice prof at Loyola when we visited but really liked the head of the jazz program (instrumental) and the vibrant music scene of New Orleans.

    I keep worrying about the fact that D only has 6 applications out there and has only visited 2 of the 6 she has applied to. Part of me wants to go see a couple of the schools now to get a feel for whether or not we should add more to the list. The other part of me wants to wait to see if she gets invitations for live auditions, but based on the thread from last year's prescreens I'm thinking it could be as late as January before we hear anything about invitations which would be too late to add another school. It's all very daunting and like Bearhouse, I am hoping she finds a great fit where she can thrive. I'm sure she will but it is a much different process than what we went through for my mechanical engineer son!
  • Parentof2014gradParentof2014grad Registered User Posts: 780 Member
    My son is a junior and has visited two colleges so far, both in-state public universities. He’s looking at vocal performance and music education (music ed would not be a fallback option for him—he’s serious about teaching, just undecided)
    As far as I can tell, he’s influenced by—in no particular order:

    What programs other people he knows have told him are “good”
    His impressions when he hears ensembles
    Face-to-face interactions with faculty
    How many of his musical interests he can keep on the table at once—he doesn’t want to give up voice or instrumental music
    What classes are available—how long are lessons, can he study more than one instrument

    Some of the other things mentioned—faculty prestige, performance experience of faculty, reputation—I feel are largely about making connections in the music world and networking possibilities—but they really aren’t on my son’s radar at the moment and he wouldn’t be swayed by name or fame if those face to face interactions weren’t positive.

  • bridgenailbridgenail Registered User Posts: 883 Member
    edited October 2017
    We picked "reputable" music schools where, to some extent, all your items were covered. So she never focused on your items individually.

    The only exception would be acting and dance classes. For some VP students that can be an issue...but all my D's schools had some sort of access to those resources.

    What determined my D's final decision was really a personal mix of what felt right to her. Music reputation/resources mattered as did academics, size of school and community, social outlets AND teacher/program enthusiasm which corresponded in part to MONEY. My D had several good offers but, in the end, they all had good reputations and resources but teacher enthusiasm (a personal touch) won her over, I think. She told me last week that she was texting with her old teacher about her "career". They are still in contact.

    I've told this story before but my D asked her teacher why she chose her and her teacher said something like "I don't know. I just liked you. I could see a little of me in you." To some extent, it's personal.
  • coloraturadadcoloraturadad Registered User Posts: 143 Junior Member
    Living abroad, we rolled the dice in pairing reputable schools for each traveling weekend for audition and sample lessons in the hope of finding a teacher match. My D knew various teachers from previous summer programs and trips. She ended up with what she thought was the best student-teacher match mixed with the best financial aid.

    So far she is ecstatic with her choice as a freshman VP major at Oberlin.
  • stillHerastillHera Registered User Posts: 16 Junior Member
    edited December 2017
    My kid is solidly opera, not choral, popular, jazz, or oratorio.

    She chose schools based on her voice teacher’s recommendation. The voice teacher vetoed Eastman, for example, because it apparently does not have as strong an opera focus. We also weeded schools out if they were too far from any extended family or friends.

    Now that she has applied, decisions will be made based on:

    Price- this is the undergrad degree, so getting through it with as little debt as possible is very important.

    Faculty- she’s looking for opera performance, so she needs teachers who are comfortable teaching opera soloist voices. Performance experience is good, but not strictly necessary.

    A supportive Community- she’s tired of being the only kid in school with such a weird interest. Even the other choir and drama kids don’t really get it. She wants peers and friends.

    Undergraduate performance opportunities- if undergrads get non-Chorus parts, that is a plus.

    Dance/ acting training. It’s important for drama, and she started in ballet and gymnastics, and continues to do circus arts training.

    Ease of traveling home. Even if it’s in another state, she’ll feel better if it isn’t too hard to come home.

  • dramasopranomomdramasopranomom Registered User Posts: 316 Member
    @stillHera “circus arts training “? lol! You’re definitely going to have to go visit Oberlin!
  • stillHerastillHera Registered User Posts: 16 Junior Member
    @dramasopranomom we will if she passes prescreening... I did, in 1993...
  • stillHerastillHera Registered User Posts: 16 Junior Member
    @dramasopranomom I did visit, I mean. I quit piano lessons when I was 12.

  • dramasopranomomdramasopranomom Registered User Posts: 316 Member
    Haha @stillHera ! It’s just that Oberlin, in addition to some pretty spectacular singing, has an active circus arts group! Both in Ex CO and Winter Term (usually), I believe!
  • stillHerastillHera Registered User Posts: 16 Junior Member
    Wow, really? That’s very cool. I think dd was resigned to finding a circus gym off campus, wherever she winds up.
  • Mezzo'sMamaMezzo'sMama Forum Champion Music Major Posts: 3,557 Forum Champion
    In all honesty, it's not important for an undergrad to focus on "opera" since they will/should be singing art song for at least the first three years of good undergrad programs anyway. And their recitals are song-based, with an aria allowed in senior year. The same goes for the operas- chorus roles are a way of getting familiar with rep, the conductor and the stage. They shouldn't be singing full roles with orchestra yet- the voice is a living instrument and if damaged, can be difficult or impossible to "repair".

    Remember, if your daughter goes to a good school, everyone there is going to be at least as good as she is, so she'll find it involving and challenging. The operas and the big roles will come later on!
  • stillHerastillHera Registered User Posts: 16 Junior Member
    @Mezzo'sMama re: opera, I understand. The kiddo is not ready. Her teacher says 5-7 years of steady practice to be close to physically ready...but some schools are wonderful for choral and oratorio, but do less with theater and stage production. She knows she wants to aim for opera performance eventually, so she’s taking that into consideration. That’s all I’m saying. :)
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