Syllabus for Private Voice Instruction
Mus 123, 223, 323, 423
Peggy Sears, Instructor, x2168
Office: Mus 109, Lessons: Mus 124
Friday, Oct. 30, 2009, An Evening of Art Song and Aria in BDC 153 at 7 pm.
Participation in the voice recital is mandatory.
Master Class with Brent McMunn of the USC Opera Theatre, Thursday,
Jan. 21, 2010, 6-10 in Dore.
Saturday, Feb. 13, 2010, High School Solo Festival, all day, Music Building.
You will be the hosts on a volunteer basis.
Friday, February 22, 2010, An Evening of Art Song and Aria, Choir Room
127 Music Building, 7 pm.
Friday, May 14, 2010, An Evening of Art Song and Aria, Choir Room, 7 pm.
Juries: Monday, November 24, 2009, Wednesday, March 17, 2010, and Tues.
June 8, 2010 in the afternoon. (dates may change)
New Furlough Days for Spring Quarter---I will be gone from Friday, April 16-
Sunday, April 25. This week will be your furlough week.
Lessons: Lesson times are to be arranged with the instructor. Lessons are 30 minutes a
week for lower division, 45 for upper division. If you cannot come to your lesson
because of illness, please email me or call me at home (ask me) or at school (654-2168)
or on my cell (ask me) 24 hrs. ahead of time. Please avoid absences due to other causes
If a student has three unexcused or unprepared lessons, they will be dropped from
the studio and given an F for the studio grade. A lesson is considered unprepared if
the song worked on the week before still has unlearned notes or pronunciations and/or if
the new song is not well-enough learned to be worked on vocally. I may stop an
unprepared lesson and assign you practice room time for that session.The lesson will not
be made up if the student does not come or cancels too late to reschedule or with an
excuse unworthy of a rescheduling. Illness, tours, deaths in the family are worthy of
rescheduling. Any notice less than 24 hours may not be rescheduled. If you miss a lesson
with no prior communication, you must communicate with the instructor as soon as
possible or the next lesson time will not be saved for you.
As you learn to warm up your voice effectively, please be warmed up when you
come to your lesson. Have all your music with you at all time, with extra copies for the
teacher. Come find your teacher at your lesson time. You may enter the room at that
time, if you want, and begin organizing your music while the last student is finishing up.
Repertoire: Each student must learn four songs by memory each quarter. The songs
will be mutually agreed upon by student and teacher. We will try to cover songs in all
the major languages over the course of your four years of study: French, Italian, German,
Spanish and English. See the guidelines for vocal emphasis music majors. Songs in
other languages are also acceptable in special cases. If a student is in the opera theatre or
has a major solo in choir, they may get as much as two song credits for that music. Any
solo material you sing for school concerts should be run by the studio teacher,
whether you count it as repertoire or not.
Grades: Studio grades will take into account attendance, memorization, vocal
improvement, and performances at recitals and jury practices. Jury grades take into
account voice quality, performance skills, style, diction, etc. at the jury itself. The two
grades are averaged together for the final grade. The instructor is responsible for the
studio grade, while a jury of music faculty are responsible for the jury grade. To get an A
in the studio, learn a new song carefully and accurately each week for the first four
weeks, and memorize one of them a week for the next four weeks. You are expected to
practice at least an hour day, wisely and carefully. I also expect A students to
systematically conquer the technical issues we work on—diaphragmatic breathing,
tongue/jaw position, whispered breath, rib cage/framework stability, etc. (See Mus 227
syllabus for more information on technical matters.) Failure to do this will result in a
lower studio grade as will each unexcused absence. Consider each song learned
accurately and on time as worth 15 points each. That leaves 40 points for technique,
musicality, style, preparation, attendance, recital work, etc. (Please maintain a continuous
repertoire list for me to review each quarter. See below for format.)
Juries: The final exam is called a jury. You will sing your memorized repertoire for the
faculty. You may choose your first song and the jury will choose one or more after that.
You will sign up for a ten-minute time slot, and will need to bring copies of your music
and jury sheets already filled out to the exam time. Please dress as if you were going to a
job interview. To prepare for juries, you will need to rehearse with your accompanist
at least once outside of the lesson, one lesson with your teacher, and at the jury
practice or recital. The jury sheets with comments by the faculty will go in your
permanent file and can be viewed in the music office by the student a few days after
See guidelines below for information on the jury for upper division consideration.
Concert attendance: You are expected to attend at least three CSUB concerts a
Accompanist: Each student is responsible for finding and paying an accompanist
for juries. (If a pianist is taking accompanying as a class they may need a few students
for that credit. These students might not have to pay.) Our piano faculty member will post
a list of acceptable accompanists each year. Any other accompanists must be clear by
either the piano faculty or myself. Please make sure your accompanist comes to at
least 2 lessons with your teacher, and is available for the recital and jury time.
Recitals: There is a mandatory recital each quarter in week 7 or 8. One or two
songs must be performance-ready by this time (memorized and automatic). Missing a
recital (without being excused for compelling reasons) or not having the music
memorized for it will lower your studio grade by one letter. And, of course, it is important
to stay for the whole recital to learn repertoire and support your colleagues. If you are
excused from the recital, but are healthy and available, you need to attend for the reasons
Two weeks before, email me the translations of your foreign text repertoire,
with original text and English translation.
Come dressy but not formal. You must check in with me and your
accompanist at least 15 minutes before start time. If it is your first recital, allow 30
minutes of lead time. If you need time to rehearse ahead of time in the venue on the day
of the recital, please schedule that time with me and your accompanist before-hand so that
all rehearsing is done with 20 minutes to spare before performance time.
Classical musical event behavior:
If you are the first in your family to sing in a classical format, please prepare
1. Children should be well-supervised and taken out of the concert when noisy.
2. No one should leave or enter during a performance.
3. Any filming or picture-taking should be done before or after the student sings, not
4. If at all possible, everyone should stay for the whole performance.
1. Stand in the crook of the piano.
2. Do not look at your accompanist after the piece has started.
3. The piece starts when either you or your accompanist begins and ends with the
last note of either you or your accompanist. Stay in the mood of the song the
4. Acknowledge your applause with a head bow or a full bow at the end.
Acknowledge your accompanist.
5. Do not let us see how you think you are doing. Only let us see the music.
6. If you need to stop or start over for any reason, please maintain appropriate recital
demeanor while doing so.
Please bring a recording device to at least one lesson a quarter or to all of them if
that helps you remember the corrections. This is an important record of exercises,
musical corrections and language pronunciation.
1. Be able to solfege the song.
2. Be able to vocalize song on a comfortable syllable (di or lu) without text and from
memory. Make sure placement and breath and phrasing are good.
3. Be able to recite the poem in speech rhythms in English and original language
without music and from memory.
4. Be able to recite poem in rhythm of piece without music from memory.
5. Be able to visualize an ongoing emotional event behind the music and text.
6. If necessary, be able to conduct the piece while you sing from memory.
Personal assessment of:
Abdominal breath—10 pts.
Diaphragmatic pump around bottom rib
Support muscles expanding and contracting
Rectus Abdominis muscle
Coura or shoelace muscles in back
Pelvic floor membrane
Whispered breath with mouth closed and on all vowels—10 pts.
Rib stability and flexibility—10 pts.
Slides on ee and oo vowels—10 pts.
Head alignment and jaw/tongue position—10 pts.
You should be working to acquire the following technical expertise:
Intake/outlet mechanism of thoracic diaphragm at tip of sternum—expanding
outward strongly as you breathe in? contracting inward as you exhale?
Vestibular system—ear drum to sphenoid bone behind the bridge of the nose,
how much of this do you feel?
Three conches of the nasopharynx area—nostrils, tip of nose, bridge of nose
Diaphragms—which ones you feel responding to breath and how complete?
1. Cranial—attaching around eyebrows, over ears, around base of skull
2. Top of the naso-pharynx area if you sense it more accurately
3. palatal—alveolar ridge behind upper teeth, hard palate at top, soft
palate at back
4. vocal—middle of throat, how cave-like is the whisper
5. thoracic—(how far up can you release it, how full is the pump of the
breath in it)
6. pelvic diaphragm—from tailbone to pubic bone, sitz bone to sitz
7. attachment from thoracic to pelvic down rectus abdominis in front—
8. Attachment from thoracic to pelvic down the coura in back—how
Ribs—which ones do you feel expanding on inhalation, which ones stay
expanded on exhalation? (1-12 from top to bottom, 11 and 12 are floaters).
Using nerve pathways to support ribs, breathe from:
1. Thumb to back floater ribs
2. Forefinger to front bottom ribs
3. Middle finger to ribs 6-10
4. 4th finger to ribs 3-6
5. pinky finger to top ribs under collarbone
Whispered breath to identify vocal tract
1. Can you hear a clear ee, ay, ah, oh and oo?
2. Is there a deep whisper sound in the larynx with each vowel?
3. How open and relaxed is jaw with each vowel? How much space from top
back molar to bottom back molar on each side?
4. Is the tip of the tongue (first inch or so) relaxed, curled under and resting
against the back of the bottom front teeth with each vowel?
5. Are all diaphragms moving with the breath around this vowel?
6. Are all nasopharyngeal conches open over cave?
1. Tip of tongue at bottom of well behind bottom front teeth and relaxed
2. Jaw heavy at joint and responsive to breath and swinging backwards
Embodied anatomy exercises—
pelvic diaphragm, keeping rib cage and naso-pharynx areas open and stable while
inhaling and exhaling on a whispered breath; Tail bone as lower fulcrum in sitting or
standing position. Find space between sacrum and lowest vertebrae, inhale and
widen that space. Find leg joint (just outside of pubic bone) and make space around
the joint with yawn/stretch breath. Find sitz bones. Attach front of pelvic diaphragm
to bottom of rectus abdominus. Attach back of pelvic diaphragm to croura.
thoracic diaphragm, keeping rib cage and naso-pharynx areas open and stable
while inhaling and exhaling with a whispered breath; partner exercise with support on
back lower ribs and gentle touch at vertebrae T 10-12, lying on side with head on
arm to support ribs. Find complete perimeter by locating the circle created by the
bottom rib and pumping the diaphragm (like a cough) below that all the way around.
Feel back ribs lift which feeds front ribs, which lifts the breastbone or sternum. Feel
attachment of rectus abdominus at the xiphoid process or tip of sternum. Connect
yawn/stretch breath to T-10-12.
Thoracic and pelvic diaphragm connection, feel the strap-like rectus abdominis
connect from tip of sternum to pubic bone down front of the abdomen. Feel the
shoelace-like coura connect down back to tail bone. Let out all air, open ribs without
inhaling and feel the thoracic diaphragm tuck itself up inside the ribcage.
shoulder diaphragm, keeping rib cage and naso-pharynx areas open and stable
while inhaling and exhaling with the whispered breath; partner exercise with hands
on shoulders and upper back and at vertebrae T1-2 to increase awareness of air into
top lobe of the lungs. Find joint of collarbone with breast bone and inhale extra
space around that joint. Find triangle of collarbone meeting shoulder blade and
soften that triangle. Connect leg joint and arm joint with yawn/stretch breath.
vocal diaphragm, keeping rib cage and naso-pharynx areas open and stable while
inhaling and exhaling with the whispered breath, partner with gentle touch at
vertebrae C3-4. Connect the yawn/stretch breath to C 3-4. Widen space between
skull bones at bottom back of ears. Visualize the carotid arteries with a carotid body
in the fork on each side of the vocal diaphragm and allow space for that structure as
well. Feel esophagus behind and behind that 4 spinal ligaments and the spinal cord.
palate diaphragm, hands parallel to upper teeth, feel upper teeth lift from back top
molar to front incisors, alveolar ridge, hard palate and soft palate respond. Feel jaw
joint separate into three parts: the top is the side conncection of the palate
diaphragm framework, the middle is the joint itself and feels soft and transparent
with the breath, the bottom part is the jaw bone and it releases downward like a free
hinge. When the jaw joint fully relaxes, feel the release in muscles at the base of the
skull in the back. The nasopharynx area opens like a snore with no sound and the
top can feel like another diaphragm when you open up this area fully. Locate the
hard palate by directing breath into the space half-way between the tip of the nose
and the top of the 1st vertebra. Locate the soft palate by directing breath in the
bridge of the nose and out to the ears.Locate the perimeter of this diaphragm, the
alveolar ridge by feeling space and lift around every upper tooth as you breathe in.
cerebral diaphragm or sac, keeping rib cage and naso-pharynx areas open and
stable while inhaling and exhaling with the whispered breath; partner exercise with
fingers „haloing‟ the head (eyebrows, over ears, dropping to base of skull in back,
gentle touch at vertebrae C1-2). Trace the skull with fingers. Connect yawn/stretch
breath to jaw joint and Atlas or C-1. Feel the double “pony tail” inside the skull.
Guidelines for the Voice Emphasis Music Major
Voice Class--Mus 227, 228 and 229
This class is open to majors and non-majors with no audition. Majors are
encouraged to take at least one quarter, which may be taken simultaneously with private
studio instruction. The repertoire will include one classical piece learned as a group and
performed separately and two other pieces in any style. Students are encouraged to
perform a song from their personal ethnic background. Majors enrolled in private studio
voice as well will have other repertoire requirements. Technically, the student should be
able to breathe properly, align the body well, know the jaw/tongue mechanism, and be
working on good rib stability by the end of the quarter.
Private Studio Voice--Mus 123
Entry level for voice emphasis music majors and minors who have enough basic
vocal skills to perform in front of the faculty for a grade at the end of the quarter.
Enrollment is dependent on the department’s approval. This level will be repeated for
one whole year, more or less, again dependent on the department’s approval. Basic
technique skills should be gained this year including a good understanding of breath,
support, alignment and vowel flow on the five basic pure vowels. Repertoire
requirements are four art songs a quarter, primarily in Italian and English or your native
language. An aria or songs in another language may be included. The student must have
proficiency in Italian before moving on to 223. Students with a good facility for
languages should think about taking Diction for Singers this year.
Private Studio Voice--Mus 223
This is basically the sophomore-level voice instruction for music majors and
minors. Repertoire requirements are four art songs a quarter. This level can be repeated
as long as necessary. Basic technique should be solidified this year adding vowel flow in
mixed vowels, placement of tone, consistency of sound. Either French and/or German
language and repertoire should be explored and one of those languages brought up to a
basic level of pronunciation proficiency. Diction for Singers is advisable this year and
necessary for any student planning to petition for upper division status.
Moving to Upper Division Voice Instruction
Before a student can move to Mus 323, he/she must present each member of the
tenured faculty with a repertoire list and petition for upper division voice. This should be
done the week before juries. Make sure you have successfully completed the Diction
for Singers series, Mus 241-243. The final jury at 223 level is typically the time when
the faculty decides whether a student is ready for upper division instruction. Sign up for 2
time slots at that point and be ready to sing all your repertoire for the faculty.
Repertoire list template:
Song, date used on jury sheet
Opera and Musical Theatre
Scene, date performed, piano or orchestra, language used (solo
Movement, language performed in, date performed, (solo work
Private Studio Voice--Mus 323
This is the year to explore composers and larger works in anticipation of picking
repertoire for a senior recital. The vocal technique should be at the place that a junior
recital would be feasible if one were required. Students should plan to spend more time
in the library or on-line researching interesting and less-performed repertoire. Italian,
French, Spanish, and German diction must now be proficient. Repertoire requirements
are still four songs and arias a quarter, but now they must be of greater challenge.
Private Studio Voice--Mus 423
This is senior project year. Students must decide with their instructor and major
advisor if they should do a full recital, a half recital and paper, or a larger paper for the
senior project. Before they sign up for the senior project class, their proposal for the
project must be approved by the faculty. While continuing to learn four songs a
quarter, the student must direct the repertoire towards filling out the recital. Consider
including a group of songs of a more personal ethnic nature, or of a less-performed ethnic
nature. Consider also using another instrument to add greater diversity of sound. By the
beginning of a student’s next-to-the last quarter, the recital repertoire should be settled
with the instructor. Then it must be presented to the tenured faculty for approval. This
must be done by pre-registration for the final quarter, so that any necessary changes can
be made. Then a sane schedule of permission and recital can be worked out to
accommodate both students and faculty.
At the permission, please bring a copy of your program, program notes (already edited by
at least one faculty member), and music for each faculty member attending. Dress nicely
but not formally. Feel free to leave the room in between groups for a rest or a drink of
water. At the end, you will leave the faculty alone for a few minutes to talk and then
return to discuss the permission with them.