Final Comprehensive Examination Guidelines - DMA - Voice Performance

Final Qualifying Examinations Guidelines

Doctor of Musical Arts - Voice Performance


All DMA students are advised to read and consult the College of Music DMA handbook throughout the course of their program. The student has the sole responsibility for understanding and abiding by policy and procedures contained therein:

I.       Purpose

Students completing the Doctor of Musical Arts in Voice Performance must pass written and oral qualifyingexaminations toward the end of their degree administered by their designated Advisory Committee:


Both the oral  and written exams may be taken no more than three times, and students must pass all parts of the examinations within fourteen months. After passing these pivotal written and oral examinations and completing all coursework the student will be recommended to doctoral candidacy. In order to meet the faculty’s expectations regarding exam preparation, students are advised to establish, build and expand a database of knowledge both through gathering information during their course of lessons and coursework, as well as from individual preparation and self-initiated small group study. Candidates are encouraged to initiate a discussion about strategies to prepare for the qualifying examinations with the major professor at the outset of their degree program and related field professor when they declare their related field.


II.        Scheduling

The written qualifying exams are scheduled only at specific times during the semester and are published at the beginning of the semester. Consult the College of Music Graduate Studies Office for specific dates.


III.   Guidelines  

* The major professor will have the final say in passing the exam. NOTE: The exam will vary in specific content from professor to professor. It may consist of essays, short answer questions, score identification/analysis, I.P.A. transcription/rules of lyric diction, and creation of sample recitals.  A sample schedule for the written portion of the exam is outlined below. Major professors will provide to and confirm with the student the actual exam schedule no less than one month prior to the exam. Students are advised to budget their time in the exam to address each question as thoroughly as possible.


Day 1 – Major Field

Hour 1: Essay (Art Song)

Hour 2: Essay (Orchestral works for voice – opera, oratorio, etc.)

Hour 3: Short answer and identification (Terms and Personages)


Hour 4: Diction (transcription/rules)

Hour 5: Recital Building

Hour 6: Flexible Topic, e.g., course building, or pedagogy, terms, concepts, etc.

Day 2 – Related Field

* The related field professor will have the final say in passing the exam. Students are encouraged to consult with their related field professor regarding more specific details for this portion of the exam, ideally at the beginning of their degree program.


The Oral Exam

Some committee members will provide general information about the nature of their questions, but others may opt not to offer any details in advance of the examination. Candidates are responsible for scheduling the time and location for this exam directly with the committee members.

No less than a week before the exam the student must provide to the committee via e-mail a copy of their degree recital programs, program notes, and an accurate DMA degree plan. 

The student should schedule a 90-minute window of time for the entire exam. The examination portion may last up to 80 minutes, providing 10 minutes for the committee’s deliberations.

During the examination, candidates may ask the committee members for clarification of questions posed; one clarification request per question is allowed, after which the student will either attempt an answer or ask for a new question. If the student does not provide sufficiently detailed answers in the written exam, these omissions can and will be addressed in the oral exam.

At the conclusion of the exam, the faculty will deliberate and render their decision. The committee’s decision will be considered final.

For the oral exam a candidate must receive a minimum of 2 of 3 affirmative votes from the members of the committee to pass the exam. In the event that an exam is failed the examination may be attempted again after a period of time determined by the committee which may delay projected graduation; a third no-pass will result in failing the program.In the event that a portion of the exam is not passed, the committee has the discretion to determine next steps, and will inform the student in writing.


IV.    Scope of examinations

These qualifying examinations are designed to assess the student’s breadth and depth of knowledge within all areas of classical vocal performance, the student’s chosen related field, and the students coursework in music history and theory when relevant. The content is not limited to information covered in course work taken at UNT. In addition to degree recital repertoire and course work, topics may include:



1.   Standard art song literature, including composers and poets. This includes the historical development and representative repertoire for Art Song/Song Cycle including German Lied, French mélodie, Italian canzone, British and American song, as well as other national song literature, and contemporary compositions.

2.   The solo cantata.

3.   Opera, its significant composers, librettists, and standard works.  Representative repertoire should include roles performed by the student, but not be limited only to works appropriate to the student’s voice type.

4.   Oratorio and other large concert works, significant composers, and librettists.  Representative repertoire should include roles performed by the student, but not be limited only to works appropriate to the student’s voice type.

5.  Musical periods, e.g., understanding of musical periods of vocal art music from the 17th through early 21st century, and the ability to contextualize them within contemporaneous social, historical, and or philosophical movements.

6.   Reference materials and resources for translation, libretto synopses and selection of repertoire.

7.   The basics of vocal technique, as well as basic anatomy and physiology of the phonatory system, respiratory system, articulatory system, etc.; significant writers and theories on the topic of vocal pedagogy. A review of the student’s own pedagogical work to date may also be part of the exam.

8.   Competency in the rules of pronunciation and oral recitation, IPA and lyric diction in the major sung languages (English, French, German, Italian). A working knowledge of reference books/online sources in all 4 languages.

9.   Related topics such as artistic collaboration with other musicians; career plans and aspirations; musicianship; professionalism; terminology; and notable professional singers, both past and present, with their specific voice type.


V.     Sample Questions

Below are some sample questions to aid in the preparation for the oral exam. Students will not necessarily be asked any of these specific questions below.



  1. How do you go about selecting repertoire for yourself? For a student? What have you done over the course of your degree to become familiar with repertoire (both repertoire you sing and repertoire for other voice types)? What could you do after completing your studies? What references could you consult? How do you program a recital?
  2. What are some of the basic reference books on art song (history, performer’s guides, etc.), both in general, or for the repertory of a particular language/country?
  3. Trace the evolution of Lieder (cycles and songs) from Viennese classical composers to R. Strauss, and provide examples. Please discuss forms (include larger forms), style, involvement of the piano (or other collaborative partners), word painting, themes of poetry, etc.
  4. Compare the song cycles and styles of Schubert, Schumann, Brahms, Wolf, Mahler and Strauss.
  5. Why are Debussy's songs considered innovative? How do they compare to Fauré, Duparc or Ravel? Please discuss specific examples from repertoire.
  6. What are some major works in contemporary American art song? Name some contemporary composers writing significant works today?
  7. Discuss the fundamental differences in philosophy between Renaissance, Baroque, Classical, Romantic, Impressionist and Contemporary music. How do these differences manifest themselves in solo vocal music? How do composers in each area write for the voice? What demands (musical, technical, dramatic) are inherent in the repertoire?
  8. Construct several art song programs for yourself (traditional, chamber music, theme by nationality, time period, etc.). What are some ways to “modernize” or innovate the traditional song recital? Discuss ways musical theater and other popular song forms can be used in the studio and recital.
  9. What are the skills needed in preparing an opera role, scene or excerpt? How do these compare to skills needed in preparing a song? Are there preparation skills unique to opera?
  10. Give an overview of operatic history and literature from Monteverdi through contemporary works of (Glass, Previn, Heggie, etc.). What are some of the major roles for your voice?
  11. The operas of Mozart, Verdi, and Puccini contain some of the most commonly studied arias. What are some of these arias? Discuss time periods, plots, musical style, or other pertinent factors. What other operas (by these composers or others) feature arias that are standard repertoire for your voice category?
  12. Give an overview of major concert literature for your voice. Include choices from oratorios, cantatas, orchestral songs and concert arias.
  13. Discuss major aria forms and structures and how these differ through the 17th, 18th, 19th, 20th/21st centuries. What are some examples from the literature of these types of arias?



    1. In your opinion, what are the most essential elements of a healthy vocal technique? What have you done to develop these in your own singing?  If so, what can you do to cultivate them? How would you address them in teaching a student?
    2. Discuss vocal categories including your own.



  1. What is the importance of language skills? What are the essential languages to be familiar with, and what constitutes basic familiarity as opposed to fluency? Discuss articulation and inflection in English, Italian, German, and French. How does lyric diction differ from spoken language in these languages? What characteristics are found in the lyric pronunciation of all these languages, and what characteristics are unique to each? Which reference sources would you consult if you had a question regarding pronunciation? How does understanding poetry and its syllabification and meters aid in creating authentic linguistic flow in recitation?
  2. Is it really necessary to understand every word literally in any sung piece? Is it more important in certain vocal genres than in others? What are the different types of translation you can use to aid in your understanding of a text? Are there reference books or other sources that can aid in this understanding? (Give examples.) Besides written program notes, what are ways a translation can be incorporated into a performance (recital, concert or operatic)?


Performance, Preparation and Related Topics

    1. What are your goals as a singer? In what ways do you hope to see your skills evolve in the immediate future? What are your dream pieces or programs? Why? What are some tools and materials you can use to market yourself as a young professional? In your opinion, what is needed to establish a successful career as a singer?
    2. What is your self-assessment of your development as a performing artist since coming to UNT? What are your areas of strength? What areas need to be developed, in your opinion, to move more confidently into the professional world?

3.      What steps do you go through to learn/memorize a piece of music? How would you help a     student to improve these skills, or increase efficiency?

4.      Discuss your process to reach a committed interpretation of a piece of solo vocal repertoire.    What steps are involved? What resources do you turn to?

5.      If you are learning a song cycle vs an aria vs a chamber work, how does the preparation                       process differ, if it does? If so, how? Does knowledge of the background of a piece         influence your interpretation of it (i.e. how much and what kind of research is necessary)?

6.      As a singer, what are the most important keyboard skills for you to have? Why? Do you         have them? What can you do to “grow” them if you’re not where you want to be?

7.      "Vocal coach" and "rehearsal pianist" are two of the many hats collaborative pianists wear.      What differentiates these roles (skills, attitude, etc.), and in which situations would you     work with either one? Who are some of the major collaborative pianists specializing in         vocal repertoire? Who are some collaborative pianists with whom you have worked outside     of UNT? Where would you find them, if you wanted to coach with them? What are some     basic rules of “how-to-treat-your-pianist etiquette” which you would instill in a student?

8.      What are some ways that technology can be successfully used in your career?


VI.       Bibliography (Not exhaustive. UNT Music Library call numbers follow the citation.)


Adams, David. A handbook of diction for singers: Italian, German, French, Oxford            University Press, 1999. MT883 .A23.



Smithers, Howard. A History of the Oratorio, Vol. 1-3, University of North Carolina Press,             1977. ML3201 .S6.

Steinberg, Michael. Choral Masterworks, A Listeners Guide, Oxford University Press, 2005.        MT110 .S74 2005.




McCoy, Scott. The Basics of Voice Science & Pedagogy, Inside View Press, 2020. (No library copy at this time.)

Miller, Richard. The Structure of Singing, Schirmer Books, 1986. MT825 .M646 1986.

Austin, Stephen. Provenence, Inside View Press, 2017. ML1460 .A97 2017.

Garcia, Manuel. Hints on Singing, Patelson’s Music House, 1982. MT820 .G218 1982.



Castel, Nico. Opera Aria Synopsis, Poetic, and Word for Word Translation, Leyerle.

        French Opera                                                       ML48.F875 Vol. 1-3  

        German Miscellaneous                                        ML48.G47

        Händel ML49.H13 K4

        Italian Bel Canto                                                  ML48.I82 2000  Vol. 1-3

        Italian Verismo                                                    ML48.I88                   

        Mozart ML49.M83 C377                                   

        Puccini                                                                 ML49.P75 C37. Vol. 1-2

        Strauss                                                                 ML49.S87 C3

        Verdi                                                                    ML49.V45 C372


Sadie, Stanley., editor. The New Grove Book of Operas, St. Martin Press, 1997.

         ML102.O6 N5.





Gerhart, Martha. Italian song texts from the 17th through the 20th centuries, Leyerle           Publications, 2002. ML54.6 .182.


LeVan, Timothy. Masters of the Italian art song, Scarecrow Press, 1990.

         ML54.6 .M34.



Cheek, Timothy. Singing in Czech, Scarecrow Press, 2001.

         MT883 .C44.



Glass, Beaumont. Brahms' complete song texts, Leyerle Publications, 1999.

         ML54.6.B72 G62.


Glass, Beaumont. Schubert's complete song texts, Leyerle Publications, 1996.

         ML54.6.S39 G5.


Glass, Beaumont. Schumann's complete song texts, Leyerle Publications, 2002.

         ML54.6.S4 G63.


Glass, Beaumont. Wolf's complete song texts, Leyerle Publications, 2000. ML54.6.W62 G6.

Johnson, Graham. Franz Schubert: the complete songs, Yale University Press, 2014.          

         ML 134.S38 J65.


Reed, John. The Schubert Song Companion, Universe Books, 1985. ML410.S3 R265.


Reinhard, Thilo. The Singer’s Schumann, Pelion Press, 1989. ML54.6.S4 R413.



Bernac, Pierre. The Interpretation of French Song, Norton, 1978. MT892 .B4


Gartside, Robert. Interpreting the Songs of Gabriel Faure, Leyerle Publications, 1996. ML410.F27 G37.


Johnson, Graham et al. The French Song Companion, Oxford University Press, 2000. ML54.6.J76 F74.


LeVan, Timothy. Masters of the French art song, Scarecrow Press, 1991. ML54.6 .M33.

Rohinskly, Marie. The Singer’s Debussy, Pelion Press, 1987. ML54.6.D42 R62.   



Challis, Natalia. The Singer's Rachmaninoff, Pelion Press, 1989. ML54.6 .R18 S52


Avrashov, Regina et al. Russian songs & arias, Pst…Inc., 1991. ML54.6 .P58.



Cockburn, Jacqueline et al. The Spanish Song Companion, Scarecrow Press, 2006. ML54.6 .S595.


Sobrer, Josep et al. The Singer’s Anthology of 20th Century Spanish Songs, Pelion Press, 1987. ML54.6.S57 1987.