The Top 10 Colleges for Opera and Vocal Performance

10. Vanderbilt University Blair School of Music

Notable Faculty: Amy Jarman, Gayle Shay

Graduates of the vocal program at the Blair School of Music have performed in many of the world’s most well-renowned and successful opera and theater companies, including the Indianapolis Opera, the Central City Opera in Denver, and the Opera Theatre of Lucca, Italy, among many other groups. Undergraduates have advanced to nearly every single renowned graduate school for voice as well.

In addition to thorough training in opera, students are provided instruction in Alexander Technique, diction, improvisation, and even “stage combat.” Perhaps a less selective college than other schools on this list, the Vanderbilt University Blair School of Music’s opera program is an excellent choice for the aspiring young vocal artist.

9. Curtis Institute of Music – Philadelphia, PA

Notable FacultyMarlena Malas, Danielle Orlando

A faculty consisting of many of the most accomplished vocal coaches, accompanists, vocalists, and stage experts head the exclusive vocal studios at the Curtis Institute of Music. Notable faculty include Danielle Orlando, who was one of Luciano Pavarotti’s favorite accompanists. Students of Curtis are regularly named to the highest positions for voice in the world, including roles in the Metropolitan Opera, La Scala in Milan, Teatro Colon in Buenos Aires, the Sydney Opera House in Australia, and even the Vienna Staatsoper, among many other opera houses. As with all programs at the Curtis Institute of Music, since 1928, vocal majors are accepted to the program at no cost for tuition.

8. Eastman School of Music – Rochester, NY

Notable Faculty: Steven Daigle, Robert Swenson, Benton Hess

The Eastman School of Music is among the most selective and illustrious vocal performance programs in the US. Putting together full-scale opera productions at the school, students are provided the opportunity to have hands on experience singing and acting in time-tested operatic and musical theater masterpieces. Some of their recent productions include The Marriage of Figaro, Britten’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, and even Stephen Sondheim’s Passions, Assassins.

The Eastman School of Music voice faculty is among the most accomplished group at any conservatory. Benton Hess, a distinguished professor of voice at Eastman, has conducted with many of America’s most important opera companies, including Opera Orchestra of New York, Cleveland Lyric Opera, and the Minnesota Opera. He was once even a private vocal coach to Renee Fleming! Other faculty members include Robert Swenson, a widely regarded tenor, and Rita Shane, who was a prominent soprano with the Metropolitan Opera for 10 years.

As with many major conservatories, many of the prominent opera roles in the college productions are given to upper-undergraduates and graduate students. Although this should be a consideration for the prospective undergraduate student, there are certainly a plethora of performance opportunities available at the school for students vocalists even outside of the lead roles of full-scale opera and theater productions.

7. Oberlin College-Conservatory of Music – Oberlin, OH

oberlin photo
A Recital Hall at Oberlin: Photo by istolethetv

Notable Faculty: Daune Mahy, Lorraine Manz, Marlene Rosen

Oberlin’s college-conservatory has many attractive draws to it for the aspiring opera performer. Typically, a music college has both an undergraduate and a graduate program to it, however, Oberlin only has an undergraduate music program. So, there is a lot less competition for getting top roles in the college’s opera productions, even for freshmen and sophomores! Additionally, the college only takes on a small number of vocal students every incoming year, approximately 20-30. Most music colleges will take in close to 100 or more vocalists per year! Notable faculty include Daune Mahy, who has had students win Metropolitan Opera regional auditions, as well as mezzo-soprano Lorraine Manz, a notable soloist who is the director of the college’s Vocal Arts Center.


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