Thursday, January 15, 2009

Undergraduate Programs for Voice in Canada: University of Manitoba

Ah Winnipeg - the cold butt of Canadian jokes. But what a city of arts and culture! The Faculty of Music at the University of Manitoba seems to be the hotbed for great Canadian Singers including colouratura soprano Tracy Dahl. This combined with the $20 million dollar donation given last year by Marcel A. Desautels for which the faculty is now named has allowed the school to leverage itself into the jazz world. According to the website they offer a "small conservatory atmosphere within a large university setting". I take this to mean individualized attention and training.

Here is a list of necessary information for admissions and completion to their undergraduate programs in music:

  1. Admission: Singers must prepare three contrasting pieces including one in English and perform a live audition (DVD will be accepted if you live FAR away). Additionally you may be required to do some sight singing, a short interview, and a written theory test. They suggest that one must be singing at a minimum Grade 7 RCM level.

  2. Degrees: UofM offers a general Bachelor of Music which options for performance after the 2nd year jury. Additionally they offer an "Integrated" Bachelor of Music/Education. Again, once must be admitted after 2 years in the BMUS program. This is different than the Concurrent Education programs (at Queens for example) that admit the student directly to both the Music and Education departments.

  3. Faculty: The voice department is coordinated by well known baritone and Associate Professor Mel Braun who is also the director of the opera workshop program (more on that later). Additional full time staff include Dr. Karen Jensen who is currently serving as Dean of Graduate Studies, and vocal coach Dr. Laura Loewen. There are a whopping 8 part time faculty members of whom many have graduated from the UofM program. Those include Tracy Dahl, Valdine Anderson and Monica Huisman all former student prodigies of voice guru Mary Morrison.

  4. Degree Requirements: The four year performance degree requirements require the standard courses in music history, theory and music skills as well as applied voice lessons. and third and fourth year recitals. Additionally, all voice majors are required to take the Vocal Pedagogy course to graduate. Electives specific to voice study include Opera Repertoire, French Diction, Italian Diction and German Diction courses.

  5. Opera: The University of Manitoba has created a one year Opera Apprenticeship Program targeted at the post graduate singer. This program includes lessons and coaching and puts on two semi-staged productions per year as well as a school tour. Additionally the school offers a four week summer Com temporary Opera Lab run my Mel Braun.

  6. Ensembles: Of the almost 20 ensembles offered, there are 9 that include singers including Vocal Master Classes, Opera Workshop, a Contemporary Ensemble, and early music Collegium and various choirs.

  7. Scholarships: The Faculty offers a large number or grants and scholarships of which 11 are designated for voice studies. In September 2007, there were 75 Music Students awarded a total of $93,285.00, including 14 students who received $22,200.00 in Entrance Scholarships.

For a small school, the University of Manitoba`s Faculty of Music packs a big punch. High profile performers combined with a small student body, excellent course offerings and an opera workshop make for a great training ground for young singers. Many of my friends have come from UofM and have gone on to great things and still speak fondly of their days of personal instruction and personable faculty.

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