Investigating voice classification protocols of higher education applied voice faculty and ensemble directors : a quantitative causal-comparative study.


Voice misclassification threatens the vocal longevity and long-term career success of voice students enrolled in higher education (HE) vocal programs. Not every singer possesses the musculature required to support the unique vocal fold density and sub-glottal pressure necessary to sing repertoire and roles associated with certain voice types (Cotton, 2012). Despite the risk of misclassification and vocal injury, there is no universally acknowledged system of voice classification (Davids & LaTour, 2012; Miller, 2004). Utilizing a nonexperimental causal-comparative quantitative study, I investigated how current HE voice faculty classify student singers. I used Boldrey’s six-category classification model (1994) as the theoretical model for this study. Wolverton (1985) and Gish et al. (2012) provided foundational instruments upon which I based my online cross-sectional survey. My sample consisted of ninety full-time voice faculty and ensemble directors (n = 90) who currently teach in higher education music programs. Data analysis revealed that voice faculty reported tessitura as the most valued (41%) and most used (64%) vocal parameter. Faculty indicated the frequency of classification testing of once a year (23%) for an average of 5–10 minutes in duration per test (30%). Some faculty indicated that they do not classify their students (14%). Mann Whitney U results revealed a statistically significant difference between applied voice faculty (59%) and ensemble directors (15%) in how often passaggi was used when classifying voice students. No statistical significance was found in the vocal exercises and remaining vocal parameters used by these two faculty groups. The results of this study impact HE voice faculty, undergraduate and graduate voice students, HE administrators responsible for the development and oversight of music performance and pedagogy programs, and future research on classification practices. Four implications emerged from these results and informed my recommendations for programmatic change: communication between applied voice faculty and ensemble directors, encouragement for voice students to take agency of their voice development, endorsement of an expanded vocal pedagogy curriculum, and additional investigation examining origins of learned classification methods through qualitative research methods.