Since its founding, Westminster Choir College has made a unique contribution to the world of music because of its emphasis upon vocal training. All undergraduates are required to study voice in order to become well grounded in the fundamentals of singing. Many graduate students also study voice as a major, primary, or elective.
Career Conversation-Advice for Young Singers (Podcast): Susan Shiplett Ashbaker, former director of artistic and music administration at the Opera Company of Philadelphia, discusses career planning and audition preparation with Kiera Duffy ’01, MM’03 and Dísella Làrusdóttir MM’05, finalists in 2007 Metropolitan Opera Council’s National Auditions, and Laura Brooks Rice, their teacher and a member of Westminster’s voice faculty.
The Voice Department seeks to develop the musician by establishing a sound vocal technique and a thorough understanding of the singing voice, its literature, and pedagogy. These tools are essential for the study and performance of vocal and choral literature and for training students as solo performers, or professional teachers, or choral conductors. Every undergraduate must satisfy departmental requirements for graduation. Juries and other tests are conducted periodically for the purpose of evaluating progress; details may be obtained from the Voice Department.
Undergraduate Voice Primary
Voice primary students majoring in Sacred Music, Music Education, Theory/Composition, Music Theater, or the Bachelor of Arts in Music receive instruction which includes private lessons, diction, vocal pedagogy, voice literature and recitals. Weekly studio and performance classes offer regular performing opportunities.
Undergraduate Voice Secondary
Organ and piano primary students are required to study voice as a secondary applied field until they pass the Voice Proficiency Test. The test may be passed at the end of any semester, but those who do not pass it after four semesters of instruction are required to continue study until the test is passed. If the test is passed in fewer than four semesters, further voice secondary study is not required. Instruction includes class and private lessons as well as optional diction and vocal pedagogy courses. Qualified students may sing in performance classes at the discretion of their teachers or may request departmental approval to present voice recitals.
Voice as an Elective
Undergraduate and graduate students may elect to study voice for credit toward their degrees if it is not otherwise a specific requirement. Instruction is in the form of private lessons and an extra tuition fee is assessed. There are no specific entrance or jury requirements.
Voice Performance Class
Attendance and participation at weekly studio and performance classes is required for all voice primary students. All Westminster students are invited to attend. The class functions primarily to provide performance opportunities, to acquaint students with a wide variety of vocal literature, and to equip them to teach voice to others.
Westminster Voice Laboratory
The Westminster Voice Laboratory and Resource Center supports our educational mission through state of the art technology that enables students to explore, understand, and research the human voice. Instrumentation includes a full suite of acoustic voice analysis tools from the CSL and Multi-Speech platforms (Kay-Pentax), electroglottography for non-invasive measurement of vocal fold movement (Glottal Enterprises, EGGs for Singers, and VoceVista Professional), and pulmonary measures through respirometry. Realtime acoustic feedback is available to all students to assist in the development of optimal voice production and vocal beauty.