Graduate Vocal Pedagogy

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Ian Howell in his studio

NEC’s Vocal Pedagogy program, led by Ian Howell, creates a valuable space at the Conservatory in which students may study the history of their art form, consider the wisdom that comes down to us from the past, and think about the way in which they carry on the practice of classical and contemporary singing in the present.

Read more about Ian Howell's Research

Vocal Pedagogy students at NEC may choose from three possible courses of study:

  • Master of Music in Vocal Performance, vocal pedagogy concentration
  • Master of Music in Vocal Pedagogy
  • Doctor of Musical Arts in Vocal Performance and Pedagogy

Additionally, students who study contemporary and jazz styles of voice through our Contemporary Improvisation and Jazz degree programs, and those enrolled in our Choral Conducting program are welcome in the vocal pedagogy courses. 

About the program

Our approach to the study of vocal pedagogy begins with the idea that great teaching comes from both knowing and doing. Our teachers include those who have sung on the world's stages, those pursuing active research, and those who work to rehabilitate injured singers at the Massachusetts General Hospital Voice Center.

While immersed in the intense study of your own performance tradition at the conservatory, you will:

  • learn critical thinking skills
  • study the history and philosophy of your art form
  • learn how to use motor learning theory to maximize student progress
  • gain command of anatomy, physiology, voice acoustics, and psychoacoustics
  • learn how to listen to and train a voice functionally
  • pursue original research and share it with the professional community (our faculty and students present at the Voice Foundation, the National Opera Association, the National Association of Teachers of Singing Conference, the Pan American Vocology Association, and many more)
  • gain proficiency managing both in person and online lessons
  • craft an outward-facing, professional presence to market yourself as a teacher

Our students

Most of our students begin teaching professionally within the community by their second year in the program. While at NEC, our pedagogy students are active performers in the Opera and SongLab programs, the New Music Ensemble, and in our Chamber Music program.

Our graduates go on to pursue a variety of careers. Some are primarily performers. Others move into advanced degrees (current graduates of the program have matriculated at USC, McGill, Indiana University, and the Universität Mozarteum Salzburg). Many teach in a variety of settings, including with arts organizations in the greater Boston area and at the college level. Current and graduated students are on faculty at the Boston Conservatory, The Berklee College of Music, Dean College, Scripps College, and NEC Prep.

Our facilities

Students involved in the vocal pedagogy department have access to the Voice Pedagogy Studio housed in the historical Samuel Carr Memorial Room in Jordan Hall. Our resources include a full classroom appropriate for lectures, workshops, and seminars, and the NEC Voice and Sound Analysis Laboratory & Center. This lab, the first of its kind in Boston, offers NEC students the tools needed to explore and study the voice in house.

Students may:

  • Playfully explore the sound of their voice through advanced, real-time, acoustic analysis
  • Prepare high quality spectrograms for use in your class projects, allowing for quantitative and qualitative comparisons of your performances
  • Explore airflow and respiration
  • Explore timbre as an expressive device
  • Explore perception and psychoacoustics
  • Explore vibrotactile sensation while making or experiencing music
  • Explore gaze and other ocular measures
  • Explore additional biometrics, especially of the voice (e.g., airflow, subglottal pressure, vocal fold contact patterns)
  • Explore real-time, low latency audio and video transmission and collaboration over the commercial internet
  • Support more serious research for either special projects or academic classes

To learn more about the NEC Voice and Sound Analysis Laboratory & Center, click here.

Photo by Andrew Hurlbut