Classical Vocal Performance

The Bard undergraduate vocal program is one of the most consistent vocal programs in the country, deeply committed to the development and nurturing of young singers while providing them with the tools they require for a professional career in music or vocational aspirations beyond college.

Employing techniques and performance skills used by world-class singers, including members of our own distinguished faculty, we educate our students in musical history, theory, languages, movement, and operatic stagecraft. Our voice faculty collaborate in teaching a consistent vocal technique in intensive private lessons, which ensures that all students are able to address their individual vocal needs, as well as guaranteeing a common approach to the voice in all classes and workshops.

Performance opportunities with professional musicians, directors, and conductors offer inspiration and serve as a liaison to the music world. In a supportive, creative environment that encourages our students to observe and learn from each other while building their confidence, we are able to develop our singers to their greatest vocal potential.


The requirements and recommendations for vocal majors (half these requirements are to be completed by time of Moderation):

  • Private lessons every semester for the duration of study with Rufus Müller, Ilka LoMonaco, or Teresa Buchholz
  • Individual coaching with Erika Switzer or David Sytkowski (sophomores with intent to moderate: second semester only, 30 minutes/week; juniors: 45 minutes/week; seniors: 60 minutes/week)
  • Performance class for each semester of private lessons (performance classes include Chamber Singers, Baroque Ensemble, Opera Workshop, Müller/Switzer performance Workshop. In some cases these courses may be audited, but private lessons require registration.)
  • Both semesters of Pronunciation and Diction for Singers (Music 254A/B)
  • Three semesters of music theory and music history (includes at least one course at the 300 level or above)
  • One class in composition, or 4 credits in an approved, equivalent creative course (one 4-credit class in composition or an approved alternative, such as Jazz Improvisation Workshop or Electronic Music Composition)

Juries: Two songs/arias, every semester (excluding final semester for graduating seniors or those preparing a Moderation or Senior Project)

Moderation project: For guidelines and information, click here.

Senior Project:For guidelines and information, click here.

Other suggested complimentary courses: Feldenkrais and the Voice; language courses such as French, German, or Italian; dance courses.

Bard College Chamber Singers

Formed in 2002 by Music Director James Bagwell, the Bard College Chamber Singers is an auditioned choir of Bard students and alumni/ae from all programs of the College. In the past few seasons, the Chamber Singers have performed Arvo Pärt’s Magnificat, Maurice Duruflé’s Requiem, and Mozart’s Requiem in concert at the Fisher Center’s Sosnoff Theater. During the spring of 2010, the group filled the role of the chorus in the Bard College Graduate Vocal Arts Program’s performances of two original operas, Vinkensport by David Little and Song from the Uproar: The Lives and Deaths of Isabelle Eberhardt by Missy Mazzoli, as well as in a production of Maurice Ravel’s L’Enfant et les Sortilèges. In October 2012, the Chamber Singers performed Mahler’s Eighth Symphony at Carnegie Hall with the American Symphony Orchestra. Recent performances include Verdi’s Requiem, Handel’s Messiah, and Haydn’s Creation. In spring 2018, the Chamber Singers join the Bard Festival Chorale in a performance of Stravinsky’s Symphony of Psalms and Requiem Canticles with The Orchestra Now.

The Opera Workshop

In the Fall Semester we prepare a themed program of operatic excerpts (choruses, ensembles, solos), which is performed in the Fisher Center, fully staged and with orchestra, in the early part of the Spring Semester. Typically this involves intensive rehearsals during the week before Spring Semester, and evening rehearsals in the first week of semester. Students enrolling in the Fall Semester for two credits thus commit themselves to the final rehearsals and performances in the Spring Semester, which earn them an additional two credits.  Enrollment is by audition. Please contact Professors Müller (, LoMonaco ( or Buchholz ( for details.  Class size: 20

Performance Workshop

Song recitals can often be boring, or even alienating.  In this class we explore ways to make the performance of art song moving and satisfying for performer and public alike.  For collaborative pianists as well as singers.  Class size: 15

Classical Vocal Performance Faculty

James Bagwell

James BagwellJames Bagwell maintains an active international schedule as a conductor of choral, operatic, and orchestral music. He was recently named associate conductor of The Orchestra Now (TŌN) and was appointed principal guest conductor of the American Symphony Orchestra in 2009. He has led both ensembles in concerts at Carnegie Hall and Lincoln Center. He served as music director of The Collegiate Chorale from 2009 to 2015. Highlights included conducting rarely performed operas at Carnegie Hall, including Bellini’s Beatrice di Tenda, Rossini’s Möise et Pharaon, and Boito’s Mefistofele. He conducted the New York premiere of Philip Glass’s Toltec Symphony and Osvaldo Golijov’s Oceana at Carnegie Hall. His performance of Kurt Weill’s Knickerbocker Holiday at Alice Tully Hall was recorded live for Gaslight Records and is the only complete recording of the work. He has collaborated since 2011 with singer and composer Natalie Merchant, conducting orchestras across the country, including the San Francisco and Seattle Symphonies. Other recent performances include Glass’s Another Look at Harmony at the Park Avenue Armory and leading the Little Opera Theatre of New York’s production of Rossini’s Opportunity Makes the Thief. Bagwell has trained choruses for American and international orchestras, including the New York Philharmonic, Boston Symphony Orchestra, San Francisco Symphony, Los Angeles Philharmonic, NHK Symphony (Japan), St. Petersburg Symphony, Budapest Festival Orchestra, Mostly Mozart Festival Orchestra, American Symphony Orchestra, Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra, Cincinnati Pops Orchestra, and Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra. He has worked with such noted conductors as Charles Dutoit, Andris Nelsons, Alan Gilbert, Leonard Slatkin, Gianandrea Noseda, Valery Gergiev, Yannik Nézet-Séguin, Zubin Mehta, Riccardo Muti, Lorin Maazel, Esa-Pekka Salonen, Michael Tilson Thomas, Louis Langrée, Leon Botstein, Ivan Fischer, Vladimir Ashkenazy, Raymond Leppard, James Conlon, Jesús López-Cobos, Erich Kunzel, Leon Fleischer, and Robert Shaw. Bagwell prepared The Collegiate Chorale for numerous concerts at the Verbier Festival in Switzerland and for programs with the Israel Philharmonic in Israel and the Salzburg Festival. He has also prepared the Concert Chorale of New York for performances with the New York Philharmonic, American Symphony Orchestra, Los Angeles Philharmonic, and Mostly Mozart Festival (broadcast nationally on Live from Lincoln Center)—all in David Geffen Hall at Lincoln Center. Since 2003 he has been director of choruses for the Bard Music Festival, conducting and preparing choral works during the summer festival at The Richard B. Fisher Center for the Performing Arts at Bard College. In 2011 and 2012 he conducted the Amici New York Orchestra at the OK Mozart Festival, and in December 2014 made his second appearance with the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra in a highly acclaimed performance of Messiah. Bagwell conducted some 25 productions as music director of Light Opera Oklahoma, including Bernstein’s Candide, Sondheim’s Sweeney Todd, and Lehár’s The Merry Widow, among others. At Bard SummerScape he has lead various theatrical works, most notably Copland’s The Tender Land, which received glowing praise from the New York Times, the New Yorker, and Opera News. He frequently appears as guest conductor for orchestras around the country and abroad, including the Jerusalem Symphony, Tulsa Symphony, the Interlochen Music Festival, and the Indianapolis Chamber Orchestra. From 2005 to 2010 he was music director of the Dessoff Choirs in New York, which under his leadership made numerous appearances at Carnegie Hall in addition to their regular season. He holds degrees from Birmingham-Southern College, Florida State University, and Indiana University. Bagwell is professor of music at Bard College and director of performance studies in the Bard College Conservatory of Music. In addition, he codirects the Graduate Conducting Program in the Conservatory.

Teresa Buchholz

Teresa BuchholzVersatile mezzo-soprano Teresa Buchholz enjoys success in the realms of opera, art song, and oratorio. She was recently heard in the role of Anne in Virgil Thomson’s The Mother of Us All in a highly acclaimed production that took place in Hudson, N.Y. This fall she was also heard in Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9 with The Orchestra Now at Bard College and performed the role of Berta in a New York City concert version of the rarely heard opera Il Grillo del Focolare by Riccardo Zandonai. Other recent performances include the role of Zofia in Monuiskzo’s opera Halka at the Bard Music Festival, the mezzo soloist in Verdi’s Requiem at the Lake Como Music Festival and with the Spokane Symphony, Bach’s Christmas Oratorio with the Rhode Island Civic Chorale and Orchestra, Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9 at Lincoln Center with the National Chorale, a staged version of Bach’s St. Matthew Passion with Gulfshore Opera, Vivaldi’s Gloria with the Berkshire Bach Society and the Stamford Symphony, and Bach’s Magnificat with Voices of Ascension. Some other recent performances have included the role of Mrs. Lovett in Sweeney Todd with Opera Roanoke; Orlofsky in Die Fledermaus with the Asheville Lyric Opera; the title role in Giulio Cesare in Egitto with Opera Roanoke; Verdi’s Requiem with the New Jersey Choral Society; Mozart’s Requiem with the Tulsa Symphony, the Stamford Symphony, and Voices of Ascension; Brahms’s Alto Rhapsody at the Bard Music Festival; Berio’s Folk Songs at the Gateway Chamber Orchestra, where she had previously performed Mahler’s Das Lied von der Erde; and Handel’s Messiah at Lincoln Center with Distinguished Concerts International New York. In 2013 she was the winner of the female division in the Nico Castel International Master Singer Competition. Buccholz holds a bachelor’s degree in vocal performance from the University of Northern Iowa, a master’s degree in vocal performance from Indiana University, and an Artist Diploma from Yale University.

Ilka LoMonaco

Ilka LoMonaco was born in Germany and studied at the Hochschule für Hochschule für Musik und Darstellende Kunst in Hamburg, where she won first prize in one of Germany’s most important voice competitions: the VdMK Wettbewerb. During that time she established a flourishing career in oratorio, and also began her pedagogic career by teaching at two music schools in Hamburg. In 1991 she moved to New York to continue studying with renowned teacher Thomas LoMonaco and expanded her repertoire to include more opera. Some of the roles she has performed are Composer (Ariadne auf Naxos), Amelia (Un Ballo in Maschera), and Elvira (Don Giovanni). While running a thriving private vocal studio in Manhattan, in 2000 LoMonaco began teaching at the Lee Strasberg Institute as well as New York University. In 2006 she completed her training as a certified Feldenkrais practitioner, and the method has been informing her vocal teaching ever since. In 2007 LoMonaco joined the vocal faculty at Bard College and moved to the Hudson Valley, while maintaining her vocal studio in Manhattan. At Bard, besides individual voice lessons, she coproduces the Opera Workshop, which is taught jointly with the other vocal faculty and culminates annually in a fully staged production with orchestra. Her other classes include Feldenkrais and the Voice, and Vocal Pedagogy, for undergraduate students and graduate choral conductors.

Rufus Müller

Rufus MullerThe British/German tenor Rufus Müller was acclaimed by the New York Times following a performance in Carnegie Hall as “easily the best tenor I have heard in a live Messiah.” He is celebrated as the Evangelist in Bach’s Passions, his unique dramatic interpretation of this role confirming his status as one of the world’s most sought-after performers. He gave the world premiere of Jonathan Miller’s acclaimed production of the St. Matthew Passion in London, which was broadcast on BBC TV and which he also recorded for the United label; he repeated the role in three revivals of the production at the Brooklyn Academy of Music in New York (“a sensational Evangelist” —New York Times). Müller is also a leading recitalist, performing worldwide with pianist Maria João Pires, notably in an extended Schubertiade in the Wigmore Hall, and on tour in Spain, Germany, and Japan with Schubert’s Winterreise; they are to perform together again in Spain in the summer of 2018. Müller’s 2017/18 season includes Bach’s Passions and Handel’s Messiah in New York, Princeton, Toronto, Montreal, Washington, D.C., the Carmel Bach Festival, the Royal Albert Hall, and Canterbury Cathdedral; Monteverdi’s Vespers, Schubert’s Winterreise, and Mozart’s Don Giovanni (Ottavio) in Tokyo; Beethoven’s Choral Symphony in Pennsylvania; the title role in Monteverdi’s L’Orfeo in St. Petersburg, Russia; and Haydn’s Creation in London, as well as recitals and master classes in Japan, Germany, and the United States.

Müller was born in Kent and was a choral scholar at New College, Oxford. He studied in New York with the late Thomas LoMonaco and now with Ilka LoMonaco. In 1985 he won first prize in the English Song Award in Brighton, and in 1999 was a prize winner in the Oratorio Society of New York Competition. He is associate professor of music at Bard College.

Erika Switzer

“Erika Switzer is one of the best collaborative pianists I have ever heard; her sound is deep, her interpretation intelligent, refined, and captivating.” – Le Monde

“… precise and lucid” – New York Times

” Switzer is an extremely expressive pianist with a face that emotes just as often and as effectively as the vocalists. I was sitting there this evening thinking that she is the epitome of the term “collaborative pianist”. She contributed to every performance in such a way that the evening would be dramatically altered had she not been there encouraging, supporting, and listening to each performer at every note. Switzer was an absolute star, albeit a humble star, on the stage this evening.” – Chamberfest Blog
“Erika Switzer definitely doesn’t believe Song Interpretation to be a decorative accompaniment; rather, as an independent, commentating voice, which she plays with specificity and well-accentuated phrasing. Musically on one wavelength, the duo produced captivating and addictive music.” – Westfalen-Blatt

Follow on Twitter: @ErikaSwitzer

David Sytkowski

BM, University of Wisconsin–Madison. David Sytkowski is a New York–based vocal coach and pianist who has taught workshops and master classes at the University of Wisconsin campuses in Madison and Milwaukee and at Opera America in New York. His operatic experience, as a rehearsal pianist, music coach, and arranger, includes productions by the Syracuse Opera, American Symphony Orchestra, Prototype Festival, Bard Music Festival, Berkshire Opera Festival, and Bard SummerScape, where he served as principal music coach for the 2018 production of Anton Rubinstein’s The Demon and for previous productions of Dimitrij (Dvorák), Iris (Mascagni), The Wreckers (Smyth), and Euryanthe (Weber). He has also performed with The Orchestra Now at Bard’s Fisher Center for the Performing Arts, Metropolitan Museum of Art, Jazz at Lincoln Center, and Carnegie Hall. Additional recent recitals and performances at the Ukrainian Institute of New York, Bard Music Festival, Madison Opera Center, and Manhattan School of Music, among other venues. At Bard since 2018.

vocal performance
vocal performance
opera workshop
James Bagel conducting vocal rehearsal