You’ve Got This! Advice for Incoming Freshmen Voice Majors

You’ve Got This! Advice for Incoming Freshmen Voice Majors


You’ll soon be starting your freshman year as a voice performance major, which is equal parts thrilling and terrifying when there are so many unknown elements. Read on to see what advice current voice performance majors from around the country have for incoming freshmen.



Time Management

The overwhelming advice? “Organize yourself!” exclaims Lucas West, who is majoring in jazz studies in piano at SUNY Fredonia. “Being organized is a must. I am in four ensembles and numerous classes. I am diligent in my use of a calendar app and I have an ongoing list of daily and long-term tasks that keep me organized.” Rafaela Doser, a voice performance major at Carnegie Mellon University, concurs, “Make a to-do list on your phone or planner. There are so many things to juggle, so writing down your schedule with what ensembles you are in, what rehearsals you have, and what assignments are due is extremely helpful.”

Austin Peay State University voice performance major Talia Phillips adds, “Time management is key. Figure out your schedule and make sure you’re setting time aside for both academics and rest. I use a planner and check it every day.”

Bhodi Langford, who is pursuing a Bachelor of Music (BM) in Vocal Performance at the Moores School of Music, University of Houston, advises, “All assignments and due dates are typically posted in course syllabi. Purchase a calendar and notate all assignments and due dates at the start of the semester. I keep track of my daily class schedule so that I can easily see how much unoccupied time I have to work on assignments or destress.”

Langford continues, “Set weekly goals for yourself. I keep a list of all ongoing assignments and personal goals. I decide what to focus on so that I’m in control of my schedule rather than letting it consume me. One of the worst things you can do is to let everything pile up at the end of the semester. Inevitably, something will come up that prevents you from finishing your work on time, so if you can stay on track with your homework, assignments, and repertoire requirements, you will be in better shape.”


Organization and Time Management

Being organized and staying on top of your schedule will help you succeed, but voice performance major at Chapman University Payton McKinnis asserts, “Be prepared! Coming to lessons with your music and translations learned and to your classes with your homework completed goes a long way in making a good impression on your professors. They will remember this when making casting decisions or when finding singers for gigs.”

“I wish I knew how to properly practice,” West admits. “I was a good musician before college, but was vastly mediocre in the grand scheme of things. You must save time every day to practice.” Doser recommends, “Practice often, but in shorter increments.”

Another adjustment for incoming freshmen is the sheer number of classes. “I decided to study vocal performance at the last minute,” acknowledges Kassandra Martin, a voice performance major at DePaul University. “With the exception of voice lessons, I did not have much exposure to music in high school. Upon starting college, it was a shock to be dropped into music classes all day, every day. Eventually I adjusted, as all my classes connected to each other once I began to comprehend the concepts.”

Martin says, “It is important to take into account how many classes a music degree requires. My friends who are pursuing nonmusic degrees are enrolled in four classes a quarter whereas I am taking eight, in addition to private voice lessons and choir. I am also required to practice at least an hour a day.”

Kassandra Martin

Langford adds, “Choir can meet for over four hours each week and require you to rehearse outside of class, yet you only receive one credit hour. Many required music classes count as less than the standard three credit hours, and this is on top of your other academic courses. When you factor in how much time you spend practicing and focusing on your music outside of a practice room, you start to feel like you have no time for anything.”

“Be prepared to work hard, but make sure you’re passionate about the work you’re doing,” encourages Anna Freivogel, a voice performance major at the University of Nebraska, Omaha. “It’s hard work, but I’ve made lifelong friends and amazing memories.” 



Another crucial component of success is learning to communicate. Doser says, “Articulate precisely what you want out of your degree program with your professors. They are there to help you succeed, but your education is what you make of the opportunities given to you. Notify teachers in advance if you have to miss class; they are not going to hunt you down for work.”

“The best way to communicate with your professors is through email,” reveals Langford. “If you are going to send an email, grammar and spelling should be accurate, and always address them respectfully (i.e., never with their first name). Similarly, don’t be afraid to ask questions that pertain to your craft during your voice lessons. It shows a much-appreciated level of dedication.”

Chloe Phelps, who is earning a BM in Music Theatre at Oklahoma City University, shares, “My biggest life lesson was learning to advocate for myself. As a music student, you feel as though you need to always be giving 100%. In such a highly competitive field where your craft revolves around putting it all out there and being incredibly vulnerable, we feed into the narrative that anything less than everything you’ve got isn’t acceptable. Whether it’s a voice lesson, an audition, or a dance class, the expectations can feel daunting. 

“Taking your passion from a hobby to your future career offers a whole new set of challenges, and learning to set boundaries is crucial. The sooner you are able to recognize and appreciate your unique qualities, the sooner you can take time to rest when you need it, to mark vocals in a long and strenuous rehearsal process without apology, and to insist on your needs as a human being. Telling a professor that you need a day of vocal rest can feel like you’re not giving it your all, but the vocal rest is just as important as the performance. Be your biggest fan, your greatest cheerleader, and advocate for yourself—no one knows what you need to grow and succeed better than you do!”

Chloe Phelps

That includes being your own advocate if you find yourself in an awkward roommate situation. “Living with another person for the first time was difficult,” confides Eastman School of Music vocal performance major Savannah White Heximer. “As an only child, sharing a tiny space with another person was very new. Talking to roommates about living expectations and setting boundaries is important. My roommate and I did not, so the year was a struggle. 

“Talk about what time each person prefers to wake up, to go to bed, or to study. Discuss what alarms you set—my roommate once hit snooze three times before my alarm even went off! Address preferred noise levels. Is it okay to blow-dry your hair every night? Can you play music without headphones? Do you need to study in silence? If you and your roommate have conflicting inclinations, explore options for studying outside of your dorm room.” 

Langford offers, “The easiest way to solve roommate issues is to address them as soon as you realize that there is a problem. The more frequently you can voice your concerns, the better your college experience will be.”

Imposter Syndrome

As you adjust to college life, doubt and insecurities about your own abilities often creep in. McKinnis stresses, “Be kind to yourself! Don’t beat yourself up over your vocal progress. Every voice is different. The only person you need to worry about being better than is yourself. Good technique takes time to develop, and new concepts might not immediately sink in. As long as you keep practicing and remain patient, you will be capable of things you never thought you could do.”

Langford agrees, “The voice faculty understands that you are a freshman and that your voice won’t be as developed. Focus on singing to the best of your ability and not on trying to create a sound that you think they want to hear. Voice professors want authenticity in performances, and the best way to show that is by acknowledging where you are currently.”

Bhodi Langford

“It’s easy to feel like an impostor,” confesses Freivogel, “especially when someone is further along in their vocal development than you are. Everyone evolves at a different pace. Your voice is unique to you, and no one can sing exactly like you can!” Doser corroborates, “Never compare yourself to others. Everyone’s skill set is different. As long as you feel you are improving and are working hard, that is all that matters.” And Phillips adds, “Don’t put too much pressure on yourself. Being a freshman is all about learning.”

“Going to college for music is both exciting and scary because you are around equals,” describes Heximer. “It is important to know that everyone is focused on their own progress. Initially, I was anxious and felt like I needed to have all my music learned perfectly. I thought teachers would frown upon unlearned music and other students would criticize mistakes because this is college and it was time to be extra serious. 

“It was the exact opposite! Although I was more serious about music and began to spend increasingly more time studying and practicing, near perfection was not expected. Your teachers are not there to make you feel inadequate, but are there to help you flourish. The same goes for your peers. Not every school is the same, but Eastman students support each other and focus on the positive. If you find that your colleagues are trying to tear each other down instead of building each other up, stop that cycle. Be the person who compliments everyone on something they did well. Make the community you want to see!”

Savannah Heximer



How do you balance the excitement of being a committed music major with the inevitable burnout? “Join as many clubs and ensembles as you can,” endorses Brooklyn Badenhuizen, a voice performance major at Northern Arizona University. “The more ensembles you’re in, the more performance experience you’ll gain. You’ll meet people who have similar interests, thereby creating unbreakable bonds. However, know that burnout is unavoidable. Singing all the time is incredibly exhilarating, but can also be incredibly exhausting. Your schedule will be overflowing with many 12-hour days. Sometimes your body just needs a break, and it’s acceptable to acknowledge that.”

Martin learned the importance of “balancing music schoolwork with outside life through being able to indulge in extracurricular activities. By the end of the week, I need to allow myself a brief respite from my music studies through participating in something social. Balance will help you get through the heavy workload and long hours spent consuming and creating music.”

“Find time to exercise or participate in an activity that helps you relieve stress,” says Doser. “It’s very easy to experience burnout. Exercise helps me feel like I’m making progress in another area of my life while also allowing me to decompress.”

Dr. Michelle Latour

Dr. Michelle Latour is a Las Vegas-based voice teacher, repertoire consultant, and writer. She is the creator of The LATOUR voice studios, LLC, and maintains a busy studio, teaching both classical and musical theatre genres. She has been on the full-time voice faculties of the University of Nevada-Las Vegas and Bluffton University. Latour earned a DMA from the University of Southern California and an MM from Boston University, both in Voice performance. To find out more and get in touch, visit