Studying Voice at Luther College

Voice study at Luther College is the largest area of concentration in the Music Department. Distinguished voice faculty teach more than 250 students every year in applied lessons, and Luther proudly supports five auditioned choral ensembles. Performance opportunities for vocalists include participating in the annual Christmas at Luther performance, an annual opera, opera scenes courses, and the biennial oratorio. In addition to the core music course requirements, students have the opportunity to take courses in diction, vocal literature, and vocal coaching. Vocalists at Luther also have the chance to explore through singing in student-led a cappella groups or performing in annual musical theatre productions.

Our alumni have appeared with opera houses and orchestras around the world, including the Metropolitan Opera, the Paris Opera, Opera Australia, the Royal Opera House, the Cleveland Orchestra, and the Minnesota Orchestra. They have performed in national touring productions of The Phantom of the Opera, Les Miserables, and Fiddler on the Roof and participated in young artist programs at the Metropolitan Opera, San Francisco Opera, Chicago Lyric Opera, Seattle Opera, and Santa Fe Opera. In addition to being noteworthy performers, many of these alumni also serve as outstanding voice teachers in colleges, universities, and private studios around the country.

Luther’s voice area is an established and dynamic program that prepares students of all backgrounds and interests to hone their craft for a lifetime of impact. Singers at Luther find a community like none other, and we’d love to be a part of your journey as a lifelong singer!

Applied voice study at Luther College is the largest area of concentration in the music department. Distinguished voice faculty in more than ten voice studios serve more than 250 students from across the campus. Prospective students may audition for music scholarships prior to attending Luther College. These scholarships, like course offerings and applied lessons, are available to non-music majors as well.  For the more than 100 music majors who elect vocal performance as their area of study, participation in one of the five choral ensembles is a requirement. A solo degree recital is required for the music major; a second elective or a non-major recital is possible with permission from the applied instructor and the voice faculty. In addition to the core music course requirements, students have the opportunity to take courses in diction, vocal literature, vocal coaching, acting, modern languages, and participate as soloists in oratorio and opera performances.

Oratorio performance is part of a long tradition at Luther College. In the spring semester of alternating years, the orchestra, choral, and vocal areas collaborate in the presentation of a major work. Students may audition for solos in many of these. Recent performances have included Bach’s Mass in B Minor, Walton’s Belshazzar’s Feast, Mozart’s Coronation Mass, Haydn’s Lord Nelson Mass, Handel’s Messiah, Brahms’ Requiem, Bach’s St. John Passion, and a commissioned work, Luther Mass, by Stephen Paulus.

Opera courses at Luther are designed to help students develop the craft of singing and acting in tandem. Each spring the music department presents a fully-staged and costumed opera production. Students not only participate as performers, but they also learn about technical aspects of opera as theater. Recent opera productions include Henry Purcell’s Dido and Aeneas; performance won 1st place (Division II) in the National Opera Association Production Competition (2021), J. Strauss’ Die Fledermaus (2022), and Humperdinck and Puccini’s Hansel and Gretel/Gianni Schicchi (2023). The spring opera productions are accompanied by orchestra in alternating years; most are sung in English or English translations. In addition, students study and perform staged scenes from opera, operetta, and musical theatre in the fall opera workshop course and the January-term first-year seminar. Any student studying applied voice, regardless of academic major, is eligible to audition for these courses.

Several substantial scholarship awards are available in the opera area.  The Alan R. and Sally J. Brudos Family Prize for Opera Performance is an auditioned scholarship award. It is presented each year to an outstanding junior voice student with the stated intent of pursuing opera as a career path. Coinciding with the Brudos auditions, The David Greedy Memorial Scholarship is also awarded to an outstanding junior singer with career aspirations. Additionally, the Darlene (Peterson) Jones and Robert Jones Scholarship is awarded annually to a student, selected by the voice faculty, who is cast in a leading role in the spring opera production.

Many Luther College alumni perform with major opera houses and other professional organizations, both internationally and domestically. Others attend distinguished graduate programs in music, and go on to teach in university, college, and public and private education positions. Current students are able to learn from these distinguished alumni and other leading professionals who present recitals, master classes, and clinics on campus. These visiting teachers and singers are associated with graduate schools, young artist programs, and opera companies. Their presence gives our students tangible contact to the wider singing world.

Voice students at Luther have the opportunity to work one on one with a vocal coach on a weekly basis, which is a unique offering in an undergraduate liberal arts music department. Through vocal coaching, students explore style, diction and language, text expression, character, and the aspects of good ensemble between singer and pianist. These weekly coaching sessions are a foundational element to a student’s experience at Luther, offering an opportunity for students to deepen their understanding and execution of the music they sing.

Vocal coaching traces its origins to the time of Monteverdi, or the beginning of opera. Unlike instrumentalists, who have the ability to put their instrument in a case at the end of the day, vocalists live with their instrument inside of them. What the audience hears and what the singer hears can be markedly different. Therefore, the singer must rely on trusted sources to get a sense of how their instrument sounds, and a vocal coach can help the artist navigate this.

The vocal coaching experience can resonate in different ways based on a vocalist’s individual goals or aspirations. However, every student who embraces this unique opportunity at Luther develops their own appreciation for their art. If you’re interested in taking the next step in voice study and want to learn more about vocal coaching, contact Professor Nicholas Shaneyfelt, Vocal Coach/Collaborative Pianist, at shanni01@luther.edu.