The Power of Song in Collegiate Music Curricula

Hilary Apfelstadt


This presentation focuses on ways that singing can be integrated throughout collegiate music curricula to enrich vocal students education. Typically, undergraduate voice majors study privately, sing in ensembles, and participate in opera workshop, scenes, or full-scale productions, especially if they are performance majors. Graduate curricula frequently couple opera studies and private lessons, and may include an ensemble requirement. Yet it is not uncommon to hear arguments that the choral ensemble is not a necessary component of the students education, especially at the masters degree level. It is a fact, however, that many of these singers will eventually earn part of their living by singing in ensembles as section leaders, for example. The author argues that an education that balances all three aspects of singing provides the most comprehensive experience for developing artistically competent singers. What students learn about technique and expression in the voice studio directly connects to their choral experience, where emphasis on reading and aural skills, among other things, enhances personal musicianship. Through opera study, the student learns to bring drama and depth to musical presentation as he or she moves on stage in the guise of a particular character or role. Transmitting that understanding both to solo and ensemble settings can enrich both. In the paper, I will examine in detail how the areas overlap and how the benefits of each, in combination, can mitigate concerns about solo singing vs. ensemble singing, for example, or about over-taxing singers. A tri-part vocal education, even at the graduate level, provides untold opportunities for unleashing the power of song. The presentation will also describe suggestions for integrating study, including sample performance (i.e. concert) programs.

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