- January 19, 2017 at 10:35 am #534041
I graduated with a BM in vocal education in 2010 and have since been putting my husband through his masters and doctoral degrees. He graduated last spring and was lucky enough to immediately find an assistant professor position in his field. Now it’s my turn to go back to school, if I choose.
My career goals are to sing with the top professional choirs in the country and perhaps do some work as a concert soloist. I currently sing with three professional chamber choirs, have a paid position in a local community choir, and frequently sing with the opera chorus.
My question is: is a masters degree necessary to get into high caliber professional ensembles? And, how much difference does it make whether it is obtained from a very prestigious school of music or not?
We live right in between two schools that both offer a masters in voice performance, University of Michigan and Eastern Michigan University. Obviously, UM has a more prestigious school of music than EMU. Unfortunately, when I started thinking seriously about this UM’s application deadline for 2017-18 had already passed. However, it is not too late to apply at EMU for the upcoming school year.
Finances also factor into the equation. We have plenty of student loan debt from my husband’s degrees, so the availability of a GA position or similar to cover my tuition is very important. I assume it would be significantly easier to both get into the program at EMU and obtain a GA position there. But I feel that it might be a better experience and boost my resume to go to UM. Of course, then I would have wait until the next academic year to start and there’s no guarantee that I would get a GA position or even be accepted at all.
What are your thoughts, as professional singers, choir directors, or alumni of either of these programs? Any advice at all is appreciated!January 20, 2017 at 9:11 am #534070
Hello Karen, If you live between UM and EMU, you’re also not too far from Bowling Green State University in NW Ohio and you might want to consider auditioning there. Best wishes!January 21, 2017 at 2:50 am #534075
I have yet to find an auditioned ensemble that cares much what your paper credentials are. In my experience it’s entirely up to what you sound like and if your style of musicality and musicianship meets or exceeds their expectations. Would getting a Masters help you improve your skills? Probably. Would it make you more marketable as a choir singer? No, probably not.
Now, all that being said, what professional ensembles have gotten you so excited? There are virtually zero *full time* jobs in choir for singers, and those that do exist require extensive travel, often 6-8 months a year. And, for whatever reason, the full time ensembles that do exist in the USA are men only (Cantus, Chanticleer, etc.).
If you are already getting paid to sing, and can pay your bills singing at least partly, you’re already doing better than the vast majority of people who graduate with degrees in singing at any level. Your best move to create a more satisfying career as a gigging singer would be to relocate to a large metro area in a top 10 market–New York, Chicago, LA–where you will find many more opportunities for paid gigs that are close to home.
You may want to go back to school entirely for your own edification
That’s fine! After you living support of your partner, you very likely deserve it and learning is its own reward. However, practically speaking since degrees are expensive, you might consider rather than a Masters in voice getting a degree in conducting or a related field. There are many many more established, long term and full time position for choir leaders than for choir singers.
PhD Choral Music Education Student, UNC Greensboro
Artisticic Director, Triad Pride Men’s and Women’s ChorusesJanuary 21, 2017 at 2:51 am #534086
Hi Karen —
There are a couple considerations that come to mind. It certainly doesn’t hurt to have an advanced degree in one’s profession. If you think that you would eventually teach voice yourself, it would be particularly useful. But given your career goals, your focus should probably be on taking your singing skills, both technique and artistry to a higher level. With that in mind, I’d suggest identifying teachers you’d most like to study with, then evaluating the music programs at their schools. The relative prestige of the institution is secondary compared to how well you do at auditions. Your current activities, singing in every opportunity available, is a big plus. Conductors and impresarios like dealing with untemperamental artists whmo are willing and eager to perform. I’d love to have a choir full of people like you. Best wishes!February 2, 2017 at 7:55 pm #534586
William – thanks for your input! I am aware that the only full time professional choir gigs here are unfortunately just for men. I’m most interested in ensembles along the lines of Consiprare, Seraphic Fire, Santa Fe Desert Chorale, etc, which do indeed require travel. It would be great if we lived somewhere with extensive singing opportunities, but wherever my husband can find employment as a college professor is the primary consideration (although I have told him to keep an eye out in the job listings for cities like that). Thanks for the confidence boost about already doing better than most people with a singing degree!February 2, 2017 at 7:55 pm #534585
Mark – I have a few colleagues who work at Bowling Green! If it was a little closer I would consider it too, but I’m not up for driving over a hour to school every day. I’ve heard great things about their program though.February 2, 2017 at 9:32 pm #534587
Anthony – thanks for the advice! I have done some teaching in the past, but it’s not really for me, so that’s something to keep in consideration. And you’re right – furthering my singing skills and making sure I have solid technique is one of my primary goals. If I decide not to get the MM I will most likely find a private teacher to study with. It’s nice to know that I’ve been doing something right in snatching up all the singing gigs I can get! You don’t happen to conduct a professional choir in the the Detroit metro area, do you…
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