Voice Department

FAQ for Incoming Graduate Students

On this page you will find answers to:

Questions about visiting

 I'm interested in studying voice at IU.  When should I visit?

We would love to have you visit our campus and see for yourself all that IU offers.  Many students visit during the fall of the year they intend to apply for admission.  The School of Music offers very informative tours of our facilities and performing halls.  Click here to schedule one: http://www.music.indiana.edu/admissions/visit.shtml

We recommend that if at all possible, you schedule a visit on an opera weekend, so that you can see one of our amazing Indiana Opera Theater productions.  Click here to see what's in store for this season: http://music.indiana.edu/operaballet/.

If you want to observe lessons or classes, be sure your visit includes a weekday.

Can I have a lesson when I visit campus?

Many teachers will offer mini-lessons of about a half hour (including your questions) at no charge.  In most cases, lessons are not available on weekends, or during the winter semester break. 

Go to our faculty web page: http://music.indiana.edu/departments/academic/voice/faculty.php where you will find contact information for each teacher at the end of his or her biography.   When you have scheduled the date of your visit, contact those professors you would like to meet.  If they don't have time for a lesson, ask if you could observe a current student's lesson. Not all professors are in town during the summer, and most will not pick up the phone if they are teaching, so sending an email is the best way to begin. 

Questions about the application process

What should I put on my screening recording? 

Click here http://music.indiana.edu/admissions/auditions/voice.shtml for repertoire requirements for the various degrees.  Put your strongest piece first.  Do not add electronic effects such as artificial reverb to your recording.  These will distort the sound of your voice. Be sure to listen to your recording before you upload so that you can be sure that the volume is at a good level.  If we can't hear you clearly, we can't evaluate your performance. 

Who listens to my screening tape?

A committee of at least three voice faculty will evaluate your recording

What are you listening for?

We like to hear a clear, vibrant voice that has ring.  Good intonation and inner rhythm are essential.  We like an easy vocal production with no belting, pushing, or straining. We listen for musicality:  a good range of dynamics, legato, phrasing, and an involvement with the text.  At the graduate level we expect to hear good diction in all languages.    A variety of tempi is desirable, and repertoire from different periods will show a knowledge of style.    If you are offered the opportunity to audition live, carefully consider these criteria as you plan and select the repertoire that you will offer.

Questions about degree programs and curriculum

What are the different graduate degree and diploma options?

Please visit http://music.indiana.edu/departments/academic/voice/degrees.shtml to read about the various curricula in detail

The MM Degree in Vocal Performance is the course of study most often chosen by beginning graduate students in voice. 

The Performer Diploma, is designed for outstanding performers who intend to pursue a career in performance. The program provides the opportunity for concentrated study in the appropriate repertoire. Students earning the Performer Diploma give one recital, and the program can be completed in two to four semesters.  Singers pursuing this degree must audition at a post-Masters performance level. 

The Voice Department does not admit students directly to the Artist Diploma. Please apply to the PD.  To move from PD to the AD then requires a more lengthy audition for the voice faculty during the year, and then an audition before an all-school committee made up of full Professors from every department.  This degree is designed for the student who is already singing at a professional level, and who has had experience singing roles in summer programs etc.   Students give four recitals during their course of study, two of which may be replaced by singing lead roles in the IU Opera Theater.

The DM in voice is a comprehensive degree for those wishing to teach at the collegiate level.

Questions about entrance exams and requirements

What can you tell me about the Graduate Entrance Exams?

It is of the utmost importance that you arrive on campus in time to take these exams!!!  If you arrive late for any reason, and miss the exams, you have lost one of your two opportunities to take them!   Double check the date by clicking here:

For an out of state student, passing out of just one 3-hour course is  roughly equivalent (2015-16) to a $5,400 scholarship.  Therefore, if you spend 20 hours during the summer studying for one exam and pass, you have paid yourself roughly $270/hour to study! 

How should I study for the Music History entrance exam? 

Click here for information from the Musicology Department:


How should I study for the Theory entrance exam?

Click here for information from the Theory Department:

What do I have to do to pass piano proficiency?

See the links on this page about when and how to pass piano proficiency:

What happens in Diction Exams?  When do they  happen? Who must take them?

Here is another opportunity to save time and money!  Passing just one diction course will save an out of state student $1,800 (2015-16). Spend time over the summer reviewing the rules of lyric diction!

All incoming graduate students in voice and DM choral conductors must take all three diction exams during orientation week of their first semester on campus. You will be notified by email of the dates each semester. 

The Voice Department views these as diagnostic exams to see if you know the rules for singing diction in each language.   In each exam, you will be given a few minutes to look over a poem or a vocal score, then read that text aloud (not in rhythm).  You might be asked to re-read a portion of the text, or to explain why you made certain choices in your diction. 

How to review for the diction exams?  Go to a book of translations, or The Liedernet http://www.lieder.net/lieder/index.html and choose a few poems in each language. Read them aloud slowly.  If you find yourself hesitating, go to your undergrad diction textbooks and review the rules for the words that you were unsure how to pronounce.

Questions about teachers

I've been admitted to the Jacobs School of Music.  How do I get a teacher?

At IU, teachers and students match themselves for studio placement.  You may have met some teachers when you visited campus before your audition.  Perhaps you have friends in a studio here, or your teacher has recommendations.  Email those teachers and ask if they would have space for you in their studio.  Volunteer to send them a recording or link to a video.  If they are full, don't panic!   Different numbers of students graduate or leave each year, so some years a teacher may have many vacancies, some years very few.

If you arrive at registration without having been accepted into a studio, go back to the faculty bios online http://info.music.indiana.edu/group/page/normal/332.html and identify which teachers you would like to contact.  Email them, asking when they will be hearing new students during the week before classes begin and the first week of school, and request an appointment to sing for them.  Any student who has not found a studio by the middle of the first week of classes will be assigned to a studio by the Chair of the Voice Department.

Questions about the operas

What are "Cattle Calls", and when are they held?

"Cattle Calls" is the informal term for the auditions for the IU Opera Theatre. The first three operas of the season are cast in April, so that singers can work on  their roles over the summer. The remaining three operas are cast from the singers heard at auditions at the end of the second week of classes.

Arias can be no longer than 4 minutes.  If you wish to sing a longer aria, discuss cuts with your teacher well in advance of the auditions so that you are memorized and comfortable with the shorter version.  Be sure to mark the cuts clearly for your accompanist!!

Who listens to the cattle calls?

The entire voice faculty, coaches, conductors, director of the opera chorus, and the Dean adjudicate the cattle calls.  Each faculty member has a list of singers and all the roles available for the season. The faculty vote online for singers they would cast in each role.  Results are tabulated for the Casting Committee.  Although the faculty vote is weighted in the discussions, the Casting Committee may decide that a singer is needed ormore suitable for a role other than the one for which he or she received the most votes.

Who is on the Casting Committee? 

The Dean, the Artistic Administrator of the Opera Theatre, conductors, coaches, and the director of the opera chorus comprise the Casting Committee.  Before casts are approved, each teacher is given the opportunity to review his or her students' roles, and approve them, or decline if they think the role is vocally inappropriate for the student at that time.Students are cast on the basis of their audition, not their studio affiliation. Some studios may have a preponderance of singers who are vocally advanced and experienced. Those studios will likely have greater numbers of students cast.

Students are cast on the basis of their audition, not their studio affiliation. Some studios may have a preponderance of singers who are vocally advanced and experienced. Those studios will likely have greater numbers of students cast.

How can I get experience if I'm not cast?

Enroll in Opera Workshop.  Request Opera Chorus for your ensemble.  In those arenas, get to know the opera staff.  Always be prepared and on time.   Accept every small assignment as if it's a major role.  Be eager to learn - this will be noticed.  Be a good colleague.  Work on your vocal technique.  Make it your goal to have impeccable diction.  Review audition skills with your teacher in lessons and studio masterclasses.  With your teacher's permission, look into performing opportunities in the community. 

Attend cattle calls.  Attend dress rehearsals of all the Opera Theatre productions.  At these events, listen and observe.  Try to be objective as you compare the performance of other students to your own voice and acting ability.   In the interest of your own mental health, and for practice in being a good colleague, try to frame your evaluations in  constructive criticism.

The Casting Committee is fully aware of the difficulty of balancing the casting of experienced vs. new incoming students or singers previously unknown to them.  The Committee must consider how to balance the educational needs of the students with the responsibility of assembling the strongest cast possible for the ticketholders who pay to see productions that we believe to be comparable to productions of professional regional opera companies. 

Should I sing in cattle calls in my first semester at IU?

Yes. Your audition is  a very important way to introduce yourself to the voice faculty (who heard you at your audition), and also to the coaches and conductors who have never seen or heard you.  Discuss your aria choice with your teacher.  If you happen to be sick at the time of the auditions, it may be best to cancel and await the next opportunity.   At IU, as in the professional world, first impressions can be lasting. Consult your teacher if you are unsure about whether to proceed.

Is a pianist provided for cattle calls?

Yes, one of the opera coaches will be available to play for you.  Be sure that your music is legible, in a format that will stay open on the piano, that all the cuts are clearly marked, and all pages present and in the correct order. 

What is the appropriate dress for cattle calls? 

Women:  Some female students choose to wear evening gowns.  While acceptable, this is not necessary.  Professional looking daytime clothing is fine.  Avoid stoles or spaghetti straps that can fall down and distract.  Check form-fitting clothing in a mirror - we do not want to be able to tell what kind of undergarments you are wearing.

Men:  A well-cut suit is always appropriate.

Questions about Financial Aid

As a new student, how can I be considered for a GA or AI?

There is no application for GA or AI positions. 

The GA and AI are merit based (as opposed to financial need).  The audition score you receive from the voice faculty at your audition is the crucial factor in receiving a GA or AI award.  Only students with the very highest audition scores can be considered for these largest awards. The number of available awards can vary from year to year, depending on how many students have graduated. 

The admissions process takes into account special needs of the Voice Department in order to balance the different voice types.  Basses (for example) are usually in short supply, and the number of sopranos outbalances other voice types by a wide margin.  Therefore, sopranos seeking admission or merit scholarships must earn an even higher score than other voice parts as we seek to balance the need for all voice parts.

Other questions

How do I find an accompanist?

Piano majors at IU do accompanying as their ensemble credit.  Your teacher will be assigned some of these students.  The pianist must attend half of your weekly lesson, and rehearse with you each week.  You do not pay for this, but you do not get to choose the pianist, although your teacher can make requests.  There are not enough pianists for everyone to have one, but do ask your teacher if you could use one of the assigned pianists. 

Many singers prefer to work with a pianist friend, or with a student who freelances for a fee.  Your teacher will know some pianists, and should have some favorites to recommend.  Ask for recommendations before randomly contacting people who have put up signs.  Other students in your studio may have suggestions.  Word of mouth is always a good recommendation.  Freelance pianists set their own fees, so be certain that you are clear on what you want to pay for - half a lesson, rehearsal time, or a recital, etc.