Vocal performance is about as old as language itself. It is performed solo or in groups, accompanied by other musicians or simply a capella. In its deepest sense, singing is one of the most primal forms of human and cultural expression, with intimate connections to other performing arts, like orchestration, dance, and theater. From 16th century Italian opera and Christian gospel, to pagan African chants and modern day American beatboxing, vocal performance is both genre and geographically diverse. To study vocal performance abroad is to understand a culture from the perspective of ancient, and sometimes sacred, traditions.
Why Study Vocal Performance Abroad
Though music is generally culture-specific, thanks to increasingly accessible technology it is also a highly lucrative global industry. For those looking to specialize in vocal performance, studying music abroad can be an integral experience for understanding the history and nuances of your chosen genre. For example, students of Western opera or musical theater would benefit from more vocal program in Europe, while those interested in Latin folk or mariachi would gain more by considering study abroad in Mexico or in a South American nation. Studying vocal performance abroad allows for immersion in the theory and practice of your chosen discipline.
Europe is the most popular option for vocal studies abroad, particularly in Italy, Germany, and Ireland. However, those looking for an alternative to traditional Western genres and study abroad programs should consider studying vocal performance in India.
Italy. Some of the most historically classic musical and vocal innovations and techniques originate from Italy. This is evident in much of the terminology still used today, for instance, alto, soprano, falsetto, concerto, etc. Symphony and opera are vital components to Italian cultural identity. After all, this is the birthplace of Farinelli and Pavarotti, Vivaldi and Bellini – creative geniuses whose contributions to music echo through the centuries. Rome, Florence, and Milan are a few of the great cities offering the most opportunities for aspiring vocalists in Italy. Italy in general is a great location to capitalize on private, individualized vocal training in renowned studios, universities, and music schools too.
Germany. Like Italy, Germany is central to the historical development of traditional Western music, thanks to highly influential composers like Mozart, Bach, and Beethoven. Several hymns and early Christian music originated here, popularizing choirs and harmonization. More recently, Germany is one of the strongest consumers and producers of modern music, and a leader in genres like metal rock and techno, with rising artists such as Rammstein and Paul Van Dyk. Students should consider studying vocal performance in Germany in locations such as Bavaria, Frankfurt, and Freiburg.
Ireland. This gorgeous green nation has developed its fair share of music, including traditional folk and Irish dance, Celtic tunes, modern punk, rock and roll, or some fusion thereof. Several successful musicians, like U2, Van Morrison, and Sinead O’Connor, hail from these isles. Students can choose from a variety of vocal studies programs or enroll in a university, or even the Irish World Academy of Music and Dance. Popular locations for studying vocal performance in Ireland include Dublin, Belfast, Limerick, and Cork.
India. With the rise of Bollywood comes the popularization of everything Indian, including film, traditional dress, and of course, music. Classical, folk, and pop are just a few of the genres produced in India. Music has developed over the centuries as part of the socio-religious culture, especially Hindustani and Carnatic music, drawing on Hindu themes for inspiration. Students should consider study abroad programs and universities in Delhi, Mumbai (Bombay), and Calcutta (Kolkata), specifically.
Courses & Programs
Most vocal studies courses abroad do not require previous experience, however that may not be the case with some of the more advanced subjects. It’s more than just singing and performing on stage - it’s also about learning the foundations of music. A few of the more common courses offered through vocal performance study abroad programs are music history, theory, performance studies, and combinations of either music and drama, or music and dance.
Music History. Students generally start with the basics when studying vocal performance abroad, and that includes creating an informed context and foundation for the rest of their studies. These types of courses often combine general history on nation and culture, as well as detailed forays in the specific historical developments and transitions of the music throughout the centuries.
Music Theory. These courses allow students to really get into the nitty gritty details of musical and vocal technique and innovation. You will study various methods of successful predecessors, including analysis of things like form, rhythm, pitch, harmony, and musical themes. Other abstract concepts will also be explored, such as tonality, scales, and dissonance, as well as the more mathematical side of composition, including notation and statistics.
Performance Studies. Performing is perhaps one of the most challenging things a human can do. As most people are incredibly afraid to speak in public, you can imagine how nerve racking it can be to sing in public. These types of music courses delve into the practices and theories of performing itself, including use of body and lyrical language, elements of identity, and the connection among art, theater, and real life.
Music, Drama, & Dance. These courses are incredibly common, and focus on the fusion and relationship between music and theater or drama, or similarly, music and dance. They will challenge students to reflect on the impact each discipline has on the other, and how they contribute to the creation of a well-rounded, thematic performance. Students will often attend workshops and performances to witness firsthand how these separate, yet related art forms combine to create an entire artistic experience.
- Context. Whether you are studying Italian opera, Irish folk music, or Indian pop, studying vocal performance abroad in the country where that type/genre of music was developed is critical for expanding your historical context and understanding of the music. It allows you to see what has already been done, and where it can possibly go from there – the types of innovations and trends, and their failures and successes.
- Opportunity. Europe especially has some of the most renowned music and theater schools in the world for learning and performing. The opportunity to attend courses at some of these institutions is absolutely invaluable, and could lead to networking important connections, and get you thinking about the next step in your professional ladder.