Voice & Opera Program Information

Vocal Solo Class

Students registered for voice lessons must also concurrently register for VOICE 311 Vocal Solo Class in the same section as their studio teacher. This class will be graded [S] Satisfactory or [U] Unsatisfactory by their studio teacher based on attendance, fulfilling the class performance requirement, and required attendance and/or participation in the Tichio-Finnie Master Class Series. Students will be sent their scheduled performance date(s) for Vocal Solo Class for the entire academic year electronically. 

Students are expected to attend all classes. Up to two excused absences are allowed per quarter for the 1:00 p.m. Monday class time. The studio teacher must approve all absences. A request for an excused absence must also be emailed to Professor W. Stephen Smith, faculty of record for the Vocal Solo Class, prior to the absence. In exceptional circumstances, students may petition the coordinator of voice and opera to be excused from attending Vocal Solo Class due to required courses for another major. Students must fill out and have signed the conflict request form in order to be excused for a given quarter:

Vocal Solo Class Conflict Request Form


Bienen School of Music opera productions are cast by audition. Students chosen for a role or a chorus part are asked to sign an agreement to state their acceptance. Opera rehearsals and preparation can be very time consuming. Before committing, students need to communicate any possible conflicts for rehearsals or performances and check with the Director of Opera if their participation in the opera will be possible. 


Voice students perform for the faculty two times each year in either a voice jury or recital permission. The voice jury must include no fewer than three members of the voice faculty, including the student's teacher. In the case of a Junior Standing Jury, a make-up or a rehearing, the jury must be heard by at least 4 voice faculty including the studio teacher of the student and 3 others.

The sophomore year winter quarter jury determines whether the student qualifies for junior standing, 300-level VOICE. Students must present six selections for the jury. In cases where faculty determine a student should not continue to 300 level instruction, faculty comments will be submitted to support the consensus vote of the faculty present. The coordinator of voice and opera will contact the student with the results of the consensus following the jury.

Students who do not pass on to 300 level voice lessons may request one re-audition to take place within their sophomore year in which they may present the same six selections from their first jury, other selections or a combination of both. The faculty will evaluate the re-audition and a vote will follow. Only one re-audition for junior standing will be allowed. Students who are denied upper-class performance major standing at their jury should discuss plans for another major with the program coordinator or the assistant dean for student affairs.

Voice Juries Timeline and Repertoire

Students should review the information below to ensure they have prepared the appropriate repertoire in time for their designated juries. 

Repertoire Requirements for Voice Juries

First Years
3 selections (Winter Jury)
3 selections (Fall Jury)
Sophomores (Junior Standing)
Sophomores auditioning for junior standing: 6 selections in at least 3 foreign languages; Sophomores NOT auditioning for junior standing: 3 selections (Winter Jury)
3 selections (Winter Jury)
3 selections (Fall Jury)

Jury Procedures

  1. Sign-ups are posted electronically in advance of juries. Students will receive an email with information about jury sign-ups.
  2. Jury comment sheets are available on Canvas for a student’s perusal.
  3. At the discretion of the studio teacher, a student may be excused from presenting a jury during the quarter in which the student has performed or will perform a solo recital or a role in a Northwestern Opera Theater production. A student may not be excused from the junior standing jury.
  4. A student may ask to postpone his/her jury because of illness or other emergencies. It is understood that the student will receive an incomplete grade for voice lessons from his/her studio teacher for that quarter until the jury is made up the following quarter.

Jury Examination Make-up

A student who is unable to sing during the jury at the end of the quarter must make up the jury. The make-up jury must take place within the next quarter in which the student registers for applied voice. Make-up juries must be scheduled with the coordinator. All make-up juries will be heard on Mondays during the regular voice faculty meeting at 1:00 p.m. In the event a student cannot sing during that hour, the studio teacher will arrange for a make-up jury to be held at an alternate time. All voice faculty must be invited and at least 3 Voice Faculty must hear the make-up jury including the studio teacher of the student and 2 others. In the case of a Junior Standing Jury, a make-up or a rehearing, the jury must be heard by at least 4 voice faculty including the studio teacher of the student and 3 others. 

Voice Student Recitals

One full-length recital is required of each undergraduate student majoring in Vocal Performance. The recital takes place during the senior year and should represent a variety of styles in at least 3 languages. Recitals prepared pursuant to the Vocal Honors Program are also considered “required.” Students must register for VOICE 380 (0 credit) in the quarter the recital is given. Recital repertoire must be approved by the studio professor. Upon the recommendation of the studio professor and the granting of recital permission by the voice faculty, any student majoring in Vocal Performance may present a voice recital on campus. (2021 Winter and Spring Quarter exceptions only - The recital may be in a venue off campus with faculty approval, but must be streamed for the studio teacher and others to view. All other 2021 rules and adjustments by the Concerts@Bienen office must be followed.) The recital must be presented within 4 to 8 weeks following the granting of permission. Non-required recitals do not require recital permission. Students performing non-required recitals are also required to follow proper protocol for the campus venue for these recitals. 

A recital permission audition must take place 4-8 weeks before the recital. The student must prepare from memory at least 75% of the recital for presentation at the recital permission. Individual studio policies and/or preparation requirements for those pursuing the Vocal Honors Program requiring more than 75% take precedence over this requirement. Representation from each section of the planned recital is required during the recital permission. Full-length recitals should consist of at least 45, but no more than 60, minutes of music. (2021 Winter and Spring Quarter exceptions only - Full-length recitals should consist of 30 to 45 minutes of music.) The student may have two hearings for recital permission as deemed necessary by the faculty. 

The faculty of record may approve that a student use music for a work from oratorio, cantata, or chamber music when performed with multiple instruments and/or musicians. (2021 Winter and Spring Quarter exceptions only - No chamber music is allowed in Bienen performance venues: only the singer, pianist, studio teacher, and one person from the Concert Office may be in the performance hall.) That repertoire may not exceed 50% of the total recital time, and it should be noted at the time of the recital permission that the remaining repertoire must be 75% memorized unless individual studio policies apply, as stated above. Those students pursuing Vocal Honors may also use music from the same range of repertoire, but 100% of the Honors Recital must be offered at the recital permission. (2021 exceptions only - Junior Honors Recitals must be planned for Winter Quarter 2021, if it is planned that the recital will be in one of the performance halls in Bienen School of Music. If the Junior Honors Recital is planned for off campus, it must be streamed for the studio teacher and others to view. Junior Honors Recitals performed off campus, can be scheduled either Winter or Spring Quarters. All other 2021 adjustments by the Concerts@Bienen office must be followed.)

Students may petition the voice faculty for an exception to the repertoire requirement by gaining the support of her or his studio professor and emailing the request for exception to the Coordinator. The Voice Faculty will vote on the exception. A good example would be a major cycle like Die schöne Müllerin occupying the entire program or a non-traditional recital format. 

Recital Permission

Read and follow the procedures outlined on the Student Recital Scheduling page. All spellings (including all diacritical markings, i.e. accents and umlauts, etc.) and information on the program must be accurate.

  1. Audition for recital permission. (Schedule with the Coordinator of Voice and Opera.)
  2. Complete all required recital permission and program forms.
  3. Program notes are required of students completing the Vocal Honors Program.

At the recital permission, students must provide 7 paper copies of their recital program together with the exact timing of each selection, and the total time of all selections at the bottom of the page, as well as the date, time, name of the pianist and any other collaborative artists, and location of the proposed recital. All spellings (including accents and umlauts) and information on the program must be accurate. (2021 Winter and Spring Quarter exceptions only - students should have their program prepared following the above requirements and be ready to share it on their Zoom screen during the recital permission.)

A correctly formatted program for the recital permission as a guide is available below:

Template for Recital Permission (PDF)  Template for Recital Permission (Word)

Undergraduate Vocal Honors Program

Requests to pursue the Vocal Honors Program must be made in writing, with the permission of the student’s voice teacher, to the designated faculty supervisor, Professor Karen Brunssen, and approved by the assistant dean. Professor Brunssen will keep a record of each student’s progress. It is the responsibility of the individual student to stay in contact with Professor Brunssen regarding the Vocal Honors requirements being completed and recorded.

In order to graduate in the Honors Program, students must show the designated faculty supervisor proof of satisfactory completion for each of the categories listed below. It is the student’s responsibility to regularly track their progress and to inform the faculty supervisor of each completion in writing. Students will graduate in the Honors Program only if all categories are satisfactorily completed and initialed by the faculty supervisor.

Vocal Honors Program Checklist

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