Student Scholar Symposium Abstracts and Posters

Document Type


Publication Date

Fall 12-9-2015

Faculty Advisor(s)

Jessica Sternfeld


Hearing the term “opera singer” for many triggers an image of a German dramatic soprano bearing viking horns and powerfully bursting into a high C. Yet, what is it that perpetuates this stereotype that German singers possess weighty instruments with dark timbres? Why are classically trained North American vocal students told by their teachers to sing lightly and delicately when performing French mélodie, and not any other genre?

Research in vocal pedagogy has demonstrated that singers from particular regions have been typified by their vocal qualities in terms of size and color. These qualities by nation mainly stem from contrasting educational models. Language also plays a role in determining one’s resonance, as native speakers of more guttural languages tend to place their sounds in the throat cavity when they sing, whereas native speakers of languages which border on nasality are prone to focusing their sound in the mask of the face. With this project, I will examine the pedagogical techniques employed in the French, German, Italian, and, to a lesser extent, Slavic and Nordic schools of singing. I will further delve into the musical literature produced by each region, and the performance methodologies presumed to be applied to each. Lastly, I will address modern controversial theories of voice science and morphology in assessing regional vocal quality, ultimately concluding that the stereotypes underlying people’s voices are a result of the theoretical constructs of Western art music, and the ideals set in place by the German Fach system.


Presented at the Fall 2015 Student Research Day at Chapman University. Portions of this project were also presented at a senior vocal/lecture recital at Chapman University on November 15, 2015.