The Vocal Pedagogy Program at NEC

NEC’s revitalized vocal pedagogy program 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 singing in the present.

Vocal Pedagogy students at NEC may choose from several possible courses of study. The two most common are listed below.

These classes are also open to and popular with vocal performance majors and voice students in the Jazz and Contemporary Improvisation programs.

Firmly rooted in a historical study of Garcia, Marchesi, Lamperti, Bassini, and their like (pedagogues who knew how to build strong, flexible voices), the curriculum examines how a teacher may condition a singing body and bring it into a state of optimal coordination. This approach is blended with cutting edge research, voice science, anatomy, literature, history, comparative pedagogical studies, historical recordings, computer analysis, and voice synthesis to provide students with a comprehensive understanding of the function, resonance, registration, and potential of the human voice.

Ian Howell, NEC Vocal Pedagogy Director, and Celeste Godin, M.M. ('15) discuss a spectrogram of Renée Fleming's treatment of the secondo passaggio.

Ian Howell, NEC Vocal Pedagogy Director, and Celeste Godin, M.M. (’15) discuss a spectrogram of Renée Fleming’s treatment of the secondo passaggio.

The NEC Voice and Sound Analysis Laboratory is the first of its kind in Boston. Students are able to use this facility for real-time biofeedback, research projects, and to hone their ability to hear—first with, and later without computer assistance—the characteristic timbres of both successful and unsuccessful vocal registration. As a research resource, the lab allows us to take objective measurements of the often subjective act of singing. However, one of the greatest values of such a lab in a conservatory environment is to help cultivate—through ear training exercises—a more nuanced understanding of what to listen for in a singer. In a sense, we can use the technology to train our ears to not need the technology.

Highlights of the Vocal Pedagogy program at NEC

  • Up to four semesters of Vocal Pedagogy coursework
  • In-depth study of anatomy, acoustics, and the history of vocal pedagogy—with a classical emphasis, but inclusive of CCM
  • Practicum-based learning with opportunities to teach and observe voice lessons
  • The opportunity for an independent study with a student guided emphasis
  • Four semesters of studio instruction with NEC’s renowned voice faculty
  • Performance opportunities with NEC’s opera and choral programs


Contact NEC Admissions at or 617-585-1101 or visit to learn more about our program, schedule a visit, or apply to our

Vocal Pedagogy Degree Tracks

Vocal Pedagogy Concentration (added to M.M. in Vocal Performance)
Vocal Pedagogy Curriculum Credits
I. Intro to Vocal Ped: Process, Structure, and Function 2
II. Advanced Vocal Ped: Methods and Teaching Singing 2
Private Studio Teaching Practicum 1 Semester Required

M.M. in Vocal Pedagogy
Vocal Pedagogy Curriculum Credits
I. Intro to Vocal Ped: Process, Structure, and Function 2
II. Advanced Vocal Ped: Methods and Teaching Singing 2
III. Voice Science: Advanced Hearing and Analysis 2
IV. Writing about Singing: Research and Thesis 2
Private Studio Teaching Practicum 2 Semesters Required
Other Degree Requirements
Studio Voice (4 semesters) 12
Coaching 2
Lecture Recital 2
Ensemble (Opera 4, Choir 2) 2-4
Vocal Repertory 4
Diction (4), Foreign Languages (2), and Electives (2-4) 8-10
Music Theory 2
Music History 2


D.M.A. in Vocal Performance and Pedagogy
Vocal Pedagogy Curriculum Credits
I. Voice Science: Advanced Hearing and Analysis 2
II. Advanced Vocal Ped: Methods and Teaching Singing 2
III. Writing about Singing: Research Methods 2
Private Studio Teaching Practicum 3 Semesters Required (0 Credits)
Other Degree Requirements
Studio Voice (4 semesters) 16
Doctoral Seminars in Musicology and Theoretical Analysis (4 semesters) 8
Full Recital 3
Full Recital or Lecture Recital 3
Full Lecture (Original Research) 3
Electives 14
Research Project (Final Thesis)* 3
 *The Research Project is a two semester sequence:
Semester 1–Research Project Proposal (zero credits)
Semester 2–Research Project Completion (3 credits)
This final thesis should be on a topic related to vocal pedagogy, voice literature, or voice science. The DMA committee must approve all topics. The Vocal Pedagogy Director will provide any necessary technical advising.
All DMA students must pass comprehensive exams in Music History and Music Theory, an Oral Exam, and a Foreign Language Exam. See the DMA Handbook for more information. Additionally, Vocal Performance and Pedagogy majors must pass a keyboard proficiency exam prior to graduation.



Dr. Ian Howell, Voice Faculty & Vocal Pedagogy Director
_H7S6822Praised by the New York Daily News for his “rich voice, capable of great dramatic force,” and San Francisco Classical Voice for the “heart at the core of his soulful sound,” Dr. Ian Howell sings with a warm and seamless tone rarely heard from countertenors. He has sung with Florentine Opera, New York City Opera, and Opera London, and with most major North American baroque orchestras. Dr. Howell has recorded for the American Bach Soloists, Warner Classics, Rhino, and Gothic labels. He can also be heard with the all male chamber choir Chanticleer on multiple albums, including the Grammy award winning “Lamentations and Praises.” Dr. Howell teaches voice and vocal pedagogy at the New England Conservatory of Music where he directs research in the NEC Voice and Sound Analysis Lab. He was educated at Capital University, the Yale School of Music, and the New England Conservatory of Music and has taught at Yale, Swarthmore, and Rutgers Camden, and was a 2013 NATS Teaching Intern. He was the founding editor of, an online journal covering career and technique issues for singers.  His research focuses on practical applications of psychoacoustics and timbre perception in the voice teaching studio. He has presented his original research at the Pan American Vocology Association’s Symposium (2015 & 2016) and The NATS National Convention (2016). In 2017, Dr. Howell will present for the New York Singing Teachers Association (February 2017) and join the faculty of Kenneth Bozeman’s Practical Vocal Acoustics workshop (July 2017).


Which track is right for you?

Interested in a Master of Music Degree?

What do you imagine your terminal training experience will be?

If you plan to get an Artist Diploma, or perhaps pursue young artist programs at a high level, yet are interested in either teaching on the side or protecting space in your degree to think deeply about singing in a general sense, you should likely apply to the Vocal Performance, Concentration in Vocal Pedagogy degree.

If you plan to get a DMA or PhD, or see yourself opening a teaching studio (private or affiliated with an institution) while performing on the side, you should probably apply to the Vocal Pedagogy degree. If you want to do research of any kind, work on your writing, and become proficient with modern voice analysis technology, you should definitely consider the Vocal Pedagogy degree.

Another way to think about it is that the Vocal Pedagogy Master of Music degree is more academic in focus than either performance track. If you are interested in the Vocal Pedagogy degree and you do not currently read at least the voice science and vocal pedagogy articles—and everything that Dr. Steven Austin writes—in every edition of the NATS journal, you should begin doing that now. This will give you a sense of the level of critical thinking required to succeed here. Please do keep in mind that the classes are taught in English and that the M.M. in Vocal Pedagogy students will have regular reading and writing assignments culminating in a well-researched, concise master’s thesis. If this would be a challenge because of your proficiency with written English, you may want to consider the Vocal Performance, Concentration in Vocal Pedagogy degree.

Interested in a Doctor of Musical Arts Degree?

NEC offers one of the most rigorous and exclusive DMA degrees in North America. Each year we admit a small class across all departments in the Conservatory. No one major has a quota to fill, which insures that our students have a diverse and challenging experience. While command over your instrument is crucial in gaining admission, please keep in mind that you will be tested on your broad knowledge of musicology and theoretical analysis, and you must have potential to succeed equally as a performer and scholar. The DMA in Vocal Performance and Pedagogy is designed to admit 0-2 students per year, to challenge them both vocally and academically, and to turn out graduates capable of stepping onto both the performance stage and a college faculty.