Vocal Studies

Students majoring in vocal performance have wonderful opportunities while completing their degree.  Students are strongly encouraged to participate in the annual competitions sponsored by the National Association of Teachers of Singing, held in late February.  In addition to taking part in weekly master classes and vocal divisional recitals, students may audition and perform in fully staged productions.   Opera/musical theatre produces a musical each fall and an opera each spring.


Northern Arizona University Opera provides a multitude of enriching operatic experiences for both graduate and undergraduate performers with operatic potential.  Professor Nando Schellen oversees and directs both opera scenes performances and full productions within the vocal area of the School of Music.  Our goal is to provide singers with the skills necessary to perform on the operatic stage with confidence and to prepare them for further study in the field of opera.  Singers have the opportunity to work with artist teachers and dedicated educators who bring a wealth of international professional experience into the academic setting.  Full opera productions and opera scenes programs are performed in the original language.  Foreign language coaching is available through the Modern Language Department in the College of Arts and Letters.

All roles to be performed within NAU Opera productions are double cast whenever possible, and students for smaller productions as well as scenes are selected from within the program in an opera studio format. The voice performance program also offers a number of classes related to opera including Movement and Acting for singers, Opera History, and an elective independent study in Opera directing. All productions are performed in the original language with projected super titles and are mounted in Ardrey Auditorium on campus, which seats 1500 patrons and has an orchestra pit capable of holding a full size Wagner Orchestra. For smaller sized productions Ashurst Auditorium on campus is also available.

For language coaching we receive highly valued help from the Modern Language Department in the College of Arts and Letters, such as Italian (Dr. Robert Johnston) and German (Dr. Marilya Reese).

Private vocal study

Students enrolled as vocal performance, choral music education, or bachelor of arts in music majors receive private voice instruction with one of our five highly qualified voice faculty members.  Weekly private lessons nurture the vocal development of our students and are a vital part of the course of study.  Each  studio teacher holds weekly master classes to give students an opportunity to perform for one another in a supportive environment.  Students in the studio share in the evaluative process and offer constructive and supportive feedback to their peers. 

General recitals in the newly-remodeled  Ashurst Auditorium are held two or three time each month to give students additional performing opportunities.  Choral music education majors are required to give a junior-year recital; a junior and a senior recital are required for students pursuing a degree in vocal performance.  Bachelor of Arts in Music majors are not required to give a recital, but must pass an upper division jury.

A well-rounded program and a caring faculty provide students with meaningful coursework and individual attention.  Music students at NAU receive their education from full-time faculty—not graduate assistants.  The music faculty strongly supports the central mission of the University—a commitment to excellence in teaching.

Guidelines for vocal studies

A handbook of guidelines have been adopted by the voice faculty and represent a minimum of what is required of each student who is enrolled in private vocal study at Northern Arizona University.  Individual studio teachers may distribute a syllabus that outlines policies set within that studio.  It is the responsibility of each student to adhere to the additional requirements set forth in any studio syllabus.

Vocal Studies Handbook 2014

General information

Jury examination

(Taken at the end of each semester of private study, 25% of final grade.)

Students may sing one selection of their choice; the voice faculty will select a second selection. Extended songs or lengthy arias may count as two songs (private teacher’s decision only.) All songs are to be memorized for the jury, with the exception of oratorio arias, or extended songs with instrumental obbligato. In addition, major operatic or musical theater roles may count toward the repertoire requirement, in consultation with the private teacher. Any jury grade resulting in an average of “C” or lower may result in a recommendation to drop or change the major.

Proficiency examination

Exit examination
(Taken at the end of four semesters of lower division voice study. Must be passed in order to move to upper division vocal study or to complete requirements for BA.)

During the fourth semester of private vocal instruction, students are required to sing a proficiency examination. Failure to pass the proficiency will prevent a student from moving to upper division vocal study or from completing requirements for completion of the BA degree. The repertoire will consist of songs assigned for the current semester of study. Songs will be chosen in advance by the individual voice teacher and should include repertoire in English, Italian, German and French. Selections must also represent at least three periods of music history (renaissance, baroque, classical, romantic, twentieth–century or contemporary.) The voice faculty will listen to and observe students in several areas: posture, breathing, correct diction, stage deportment, and musicality (including intonation, memorization and rhythmic accuracy). Inadequacy in ANY ONE of these areas may result in failure of the proficiency examination. A majority of the voice faculty must pass a student in order for that student to fulfill the proficiency requirement. A student may take the proficiency examination no more than two times. The voice faculty may advise a student to withdraw from the major if satisfactory progress is not evident. Failure on the second attempt will prevent the student from continuing lessons as a music major.

Transfer students

A student transferring from another music program must show evidence of studio work comparable to what is required of NAU music students during the freshman and sophomore years. A repertoire sheet of vocal selections memorized must be given to the private teacher and the vocal area coordinator before lessons at NAU begin. All transfer students in choral music education will be placed in MUP 129 until the voice faculty has determined comparable work has been completed at another institution. Transfer students in vocal performance will be placed into MUP 111 or MUP 211 until a proficiency hearing is passed or at jury time at the end of the semester 


Memorization is a major consideration for jury preparation. If a student is unsure of certain words in a song, he or she should still try to sing the entire song if a jury member asks to hear it. If a student stops during a song and cannot complete it, or other songs requested, the faculty may decide to consider the jury examination an automatic failure. The percentage of the final semester grade determined by the jury examination is 25%. Oratorio literature, chamber music works or literature that includes an obbligato instrument need not be memorized.

Studio assignments

Studio assignments will be made at the beginning of the fall semester, unless made by prior arrangement through the vocal area coordinator and the private instructor. All new undergraduate students will sing before the voice faculty prior to the first day of classes. At this time, each student will have the opportunity to meet with the entire voice faculty individually and will make choices based on those interviews. At the same time, the voice faculty will forward requests to the area coordinator as to which students they would prefer to have in their studios. If a student is not assigned to his or her first choice, every attempt will be made to place that student with his or her second or third choice. Once an assignment is made, it is understood that the student is expected to remain with that teacher for the duration of his or her vocal study at NAU.

Changing studios

Although it is understood that a student is expected to remain with the voice teacher to whom they have been assigned for the duration of vocal study at NAU, in the event a problem should arise there is a course of action for the student to follow:
  1. Make an appointment to talk with the Vocal Area Coordinator (Dr. Cloud)
  2. Make an appointment to talk with your teacher, if advised to do so by the coordinator
  3. Wait for the Vocal Area Coordinator (Dr. Cloud) to assign you to a new studio

Students should discuss any problems with their studio teacher after speaking with the coordinator. If the problem cannot be resolved, the vocal area coordinator will consult with the teacher and discuss the possibility of moving the student to another studio. It is not appropriate for any student to approach another vocal teacher with a request to take him or her as a student. If a student is dissatisfied with his or her present teacher, the integrity and wisdom of the vocal faculty must be relied upon to help decide what is best for that student's growth. If meeting with the teacher personally is uncomfortable, it is suggested that the student write a letter to the teacher and to the coordinator expressing his or her dissatisfaction. Studio changes may not take place during the semester, except in unusual circumstances.

Lesson times

Students are entitled to one hour or half–hour lesson per week, depending on the course and number of credit hours, for a total of twelve lessons per semester. Hour lessons may be given in two half–hour increments per week, if the studio teacher prefers that arrangement. It is the responsibility of the student to contact the studio teacher in order to arrange weekly lesson times. If the student fails to take care of this during the first or second week of classes, he or she runs the risk of being dropped from the course, or the lessons may not be made up. The studio teacher will provide make–up lessons if he or she cannot make the scheduled appointment. If, however, the student misses a lesson due to illness, the studio teacher will provide a sign–up sheet within two weeks for a make–up time. If the student fails to sign for a make–up lesson, that make–up time will be forfeited. If a student is frequently ill, the teacher may require that the student withdraw from the course. If a student feels he or she is not receiving lessons from their studio teacher in a timely manner, they should make an appointment to meet with the Vocal Area Coordinator.

Listening assignments

Every undergraduate student enrolled in vocal study at NAU is required to listen to recordings of singers on a regular basis. The individual teacher’s syllabus will determine the timeline for completion, and what effect the assignment has on the overall grade for the semester. You may obtain these forms from your studio teacher.

Recital attendance

The Vocal Division Faculty recommends that every vocal performance, choral education and BA music student attend twenty (20) performances per academic year. Any recital given by one of the voice faculty is a required attendance of students studying voice. This requirement may be reflected in a teacher’s private lesson syllabus with failure to comply resulting in a lowering of the final grade for the semester. Students are also required to attend any recital given by a member of the student’s private vocal studio. Attendance at all vocal recitals is encouraged.
Recital preparation 

Voice divisional recitals

Voice division recitals are required of all Bachelor of Arts, Choral Music Education and Vocal Performance majors and Music Minors. The individual studio teacher will take attendance. Announcements concerning recital dates and master classes will be posted on voice studio bulletin boards.


Judith Cloud, Vocal Studies Coordinator
Christine Graham, Voice
Ricardo Pereira, Voice
Deborah Raymond, Voice
Robert Allen Saunders, Voice
Eric Gibson, Director of Opera/Lyric Theatre