Voice & Opera

Degrees Available

Bachelor of Music in Performance • Master of Music in Performance • Doctor of Musical Arts in Performance

  • For more information on degrees, ensembles, summer session, study abroad, and complete curricular handbooks, visit our Academics Page.
  • To apply to the Bienen School of Music, visit our Admission Page.

Voice and Opera at the Bienen School of Music

The voice and opera program at Northwestern University has a long and illustrious history. Today, program alumni fill the ranks of opera houses and university faculties worldwide. Recent graduates include Met Grand Finals Winner Paul Corona, (BM06), Tucker Foundation Grant Winner Amanda Majeski, (BM06), and Met Finalist and San Francisco Opera Merola participant, Matt Hanscom (BM05, MM07).

The voice and opera faculty collaborates to offer students a variety of course offerings that promote a strong technical and pedagogical foundation. Students receive weekly vocal instruction and, in addition, upperclassmen participate in weekly musical preparation sessions with the coaching staff. 

L'incoronazione di Poppea (2013)Students have access to a number of performing opportunities including opera, recital, vocal solo class, master classes, and studio classes. All students are welcome to audition for the operas, two of which are fully staged, subtitled, and accompanied by full orchestra. The thriving music scene in downtown Chicago, only twelve miles from campus, offers many other performance possibilities.

The Bienen School of Music offers a number of special programs. Undergraduates may pursue dual degrees or double majors (music plus an outside field) or an ad hoc (self-designed) major.  The faculty encourages and supports students interested in these opportunities. Select students may take advantage throughout the year of the many on-campus auditions offered by visiting opera companies and elite summer programs.

Doctor of Musical Arts

Applicants to the Doctor of Musical Arts (DMA) in Voice Performance must hold a Master’s degree in a music field.  Competitive applicants will have a resume that includes professional solo, concert, or operatic performance engagements outside of an academic setting, and will have the desire to actively pursue career options that advance instruction, performance practice and advocacy in the field of classical vocal arts.  Final doctoral projects and recitals seek to contribute original knowledge to the field, and candidates who are invited to the final round will be asked to discuss preliminary ideas for original research.  Those whose career objective is to teach voice at the collegiate level are expected to have experience in private instruction, and should be prepared to discuss their strengths and objectives for success in a competitive job market.

Dead Man WalkingThe DMA degree in Voice Performance is designed to maximize the resources of the Bienen School of Music, Northwestern University, and the City of Chicago.  This streamlined program requires only two years of resident doctoral coursework in our new state of the art lakeside facility, the Ryan Center for Musical Arts, on Northwestern’s Evanston campus.  All admitted doctoral candidates receive a full tuition scholarship during resident coursework, plus the offer of a work stipend for those who seek experience in teaching applied lessons, undergraduate practicum, or working with the Bienen School Voice Lab.  Upon completion of their coursework, candidates can maintain full-time student status but are not required to remain in residence, which allows them to pursue professional careers while finishing up their final DMA projects and recitals.

In addition to weekly applied voice lessons, students also have the option to work with one of our professional coaches each week during residency.  DMA candidates can choose from courses in Vocal Repertory, Vocal Pedagogy, Phonetics and Diction, Vocal Chamber Music, and Opera Workshop.  Additional courses offered in the Bienen School of Music include such topics as Bel Canto Opera, Music and Film, The Lied, Europop, Sound Design for New Media, Technology-Based Performance, Recording Techniques, Comparative Literature in Opera, and many more.  Graduate students also have access to take approved courses at Northwestern University, in such areas as Linguistics, Cultural Studies, Communication Sciences, Economics of Non-Profit Organizations, Integrated Marketing, Creative Enterprises, and Sound Design.  

Should you have questions about the voice and opera program, please feel free to contact any faculty member or the Office of Music Admission and Financial Aid.

Campus Visits

To learn more about voice and opera at Northwestern, please schedule a campus visit. Visitors may sit in on voice and opera classes, lessons with various voice teachers and vocal coaches, opera and choral rehearsals, and weekly vocal solo class.

2015-2016 Operas

November 19-22 2015 American Dreams: Three One-Act Operas

The Face on the Barroom Floor (Henry Mollicone)
A Hand of Bridge (Samuel Barber)
Trouble in Tahiti (Leonard Bernstein)

February 25-28 2016 Le nozze di Figaro (Mozart)
May 19-22 2016 Susannah (Carlisle Floyd)

Learn more about these and other opera events

Master Classes

Master classes will be announced throughout the academic year. Previous master clinicians have included: Thomas Hampson, Mignon Dunn, Renée Fleming, Elly Ameling, Regine Crespin, Ricky Ian Gordon, Grace Bumbry, Diana Soviero, Julius Rudel, Renata Scotto, Tito Capobianco, Tony Randall, Richard Pearlman, and Denyce Graves.

Through the Robert M. and Maya L. Tichio Vocal Master Class Series, established in 2014, students have worked directly with master clinicians Renée Fleming, Eric Owens, and Frederica von Stade.

Tichio Vocal Master Class Series 2015-2016 

The following videos of master classes are from our Davee Media Library, a video, audio, and photographic collection of performances, master classes, and documentaries.

Renée Fleming Master Class

Video: Vocal Master Class by Renée Fleming (August 2009)
The incomparable Renée Fleming coaches singers from the Bienen School of Music voice program in front of a full house at Pick-Staiger Concert Hall. Singers include Ashleigh Semkiw, soprano; Jessica Best, mezzo-soprano; John Eric Rutherford, tenor; and Nikolas Wenzel, bass.

Joyce DiDanto

Video: Vocal Master Class by Joyce DiDonato (March 2014)
Celebrated mezzo-soprano Joyce DiDonato, a 2012 Grammy Award Winner and Musical America's 2013 Vocalist of the Year, presents a master class featuring Bienen School of Music voice students Kelsey Park (mezzo-soprano) and Ethan Simpson (baritone) performing music by Mozart and Strauss.

Other Performing Outlets

  • Musical theater productions
  • Vocal solo class
  • Studio classes
  • Concerto competition
  • Oratorio and concert repertoire with various choral, orchestral, and other instrumental organizations who perform frequently
  • Freshman Musicale, organized by the freshman class

Experience music from the Voice and Opera program by searching our Davee Media Library for performances, master classes, and much more!


Request information from the Bienen School of Music.