McNally Smith College of Music

Discover your life in music

Earn Your Degree in Vocal Performance
1, 2 and 4 year programs available

Vocal Performance

The Vocal Performance program is designed to develop your unique voice and artistic identity while building your confidence as a vocalist. You’ll gain essential musical skills by singing in a variety of ensembles and taking private lessons tailored to your interests and personal goals. Whether you’re into rock, pop, R&B, jazz or musical theater, you’ll have the freedom to explore a variety of styles — and the support of experienced faculty to help you master the music you’re most passionate about.

By building a solid foundation in music theory, sight-reading, ear training, vocal control, microphone technique and stage presence, you’ll graduate ready to excel as an artist and professional musician.

Ready For The Real World

As a Vocal Performance major you’ll receive a hands-on education that prepares you for the real world. You’ll collaborate with fellow performance, songwriting, business, and production majors on real projects. You’ll perform in concerts and theater productions in our on-campus venues, and get to write and record original material in our state-of-the-art studios. You’ll learn tour management, how to book your own shows, and how to market and promote yourself as an artist. And through our extensive job board, you’ll find singing opportunities with both area bands and commercial projects.

You’ll get a head start on your music career by building your professional network while you’re still in school. With access to guest artists, internships and the thriving Twin Cities music and arts scene, you’ll be connected to the industry before you graduate.

Teaching For Tomorrow

To succeed as a professional vocalist, you need a well-rounded education that prepares you for the dynamic future of the music business. That’s why our vocal performance degree program focuses on fostering your creativity and musicianship while giving you the necessary technology skills to adapt and compete in the industry. You’ll also graduate equipped with the entrepreneurial concepts and business savvy you’ll need to reach your goals and establish your career.

With a comprehensive education that blends artistry, technology and entrepreneurship, you’ll be ready to make and sustain a life in music.

Your Career Path

Graduates of the Vocal Performance program are prepared for a variety of career options, including:

  • Professional Singer
  • Band Leader
  • Songwriter
  • Touring Musician
  • Choir or Music Director
  • Theater Performer
  • Vocal Coach
  • Clinician
  • Music Teacher
  • Private Lesson Studio

 Studios & Facilities

Our campus features 3 performance venues, 6 technology labs, and 11 recording studios where students learn to record, edit and mix music and audio.

Student Life

There’s a lot to explore outside of class, including student organizations, free concerts, music ensembles, and the diverse music and art scene of Minneapolis-St. Paul.

The Auditorium hosts student recitals, guest artist concerts and music industry seminars year round. MIDI Lab. Students learn to write and produce music using hardware and software, including Logic Pro. Pro Tools Lab. Students learn editing, mixing and production techniques using the latest software. One of the multipurpose classrooms used for rehearsing bands, teaching music theory and songwriting. The Sound Bite Café features an intimate performance setting for small ensembles, guest artists and workshops. The 48-input SSL Duality console in Studio 1, with a view into the main performance area. Studio 1. 48-input SSL Duality hybrid analog-digital console; Barefoot MicroMain 27 monitors. Studio 4 features a Digidesign ICON D-Command Work surface and 5.1 surround mixing system. Studio 5. Trident 80B analog console; Otari MTR-90 24-track analog recorder; Pro Tools HD2 system. Studio 10 main performance area. Studio 10 features three racks of outboard mic preamplifiers, compressors, equalizers, and limiters.
Many artists have launched their careers at First Avenue, Minnesota’s quintessential music venue. The Theater Ensemble performs rock musical RENT at the History Theatre located on campus. At The Sessions master class, industry pros like Dom Famularo help artists sharpen their business skills. EDM artist/producer Francis Preve demonstrates remix techniques using Ableton Live during a master class. The X-Tet Ensemble studies traditional cajón technique in Lima, Peru during their South American tour. Concertgoers get the full Flaming Lips experience at River’s Edge Music Festival, downtown St. Paul. The NOLA Ensemble performs authentic New Orleans-style jazz at an Open House event. The Contemporary Vocal Ensemble performs onstage in McNally Smith’s Auditorium. Music Business students plan, promote and execute a SXSW day party in Austin, TX. Students pause for a photo-op while guiding campus tours at Open House. Taking a break during the McNally Smith kickball tournament at nearby Harriet Island, St. Paul.

FacultyView All Faculty >>

Charlie Christenson

Charlie Christenson has spent the last decade working closely with many of the country’s most well respected jazz educators and performers, including Fred Strum (Lawrence University), Christine Salerno (UW–Green Bay), Peter Eldridge (New York Voices), Theo Bleckmann (Meredith Monk Ensemble) and Kate McGarry (Grammy Nominated Jazz Vocalist). He holds a Bachelor’s of Music in Choral and General Music Education from Lawrence University and a Master’s of Music in Jazz Performance from the Manhattan School of Music.

During his time on the East Coast, Christenson had the honor of performing in many of New York’s finest jazz clubs, including Jazz at Lincoln Center and Birdland. Before moving back to the Midwest in the Summer of 2011, he spent two years teaching and developing training strategies for Apple Inc. in Southern California. Christenson is an active educator, clinician and performer in the Twin Cities area—as a soloist, with his trio and with the newly formed McNally Smith Faculty Vocal Quartet.

Rachel Holder

Rachel Holder has been singing professionally in the Twin Cities since she was 19 years old. Her unique voice has a sensitivity and expressiveness far beyond her years. In 2007, Holder graduated from McNally Smith College of Music with a Bachelor’s degree in vocal performance. Currently, she performs at several venues in the Twin Cities, including The Dakota Jazz Club, Hell’s Kitchen, Honey, The Townhouse and The Artists’ Quarter.

Holder is an extremely versatile singer and performs many genres of music, including jazz, Latin, R&B, and pop. She performs with the Wolverines, the George Maurer Group and Vital Organ, as well as fronting her own groups. Holder’s debut album, “Save Your Love For Me,” recorded with jazz pianist Dan Musselman, was released in February of 2009. She has been a guest artist and clinician at several Minnesota and Wisconsin high schools and has been teaching voice and piano privately since 2007.


We offer 1, 2 and 4-year degrees in Vocal Performance, giving you options for a degree that fits with your plans and budget.

$12,870 per semester for full-time attendance (13-17 credits)

  • Bachelor’s degree: 120 credits
  • Associate of Applied Science (A.A.S.) degree: 60 credits
  • Diploma: 45 credits

$990 per credit for part-time attendance More info >>

Financial Aid

On average, more than $1 million in College-funded aid is awarded annually in the form of merit-based scholarships and need-based grants. More than 85% of our students receive financial assistance to help cover their educational costs.

Click here to learn about the many resources available to help pay for college.

Gainful Employment Statistics


McNally Smith College of Music is institutionally and programmatically accredited by the National Association of Schools of Music (NASM) and is registered with the Minnesota Office of Higher Education. More info >>

Applied Theory I

Students examine how essential elements of music theory (melody, rhythm, scales, form, improvisation) are represented in contemporary music and directly apply classroom lessons on the bass, gaining deeper understanding of a variety of popular styles and standard works.

Contemporary Literature

Students across the Music Performance program form ensembles to study, rehearse and perform contemporary music. The unique roles of the various members of an ensemble are examined and experienced through active participation. Students learn to read charts, take solos and play songs by ear. Emphasis is placed on hands-on execution of the diverse musical styles practiced in the industry today.

Music Interpretation

Students learn to reproduce and interpret songs in a variety of styles. Performance concepts are examined and implemented on the guitar through intensive listening, analysis and performance. Emphasis is placed on practice routines and habits, memorization strategies and overcoming technical and stylistic challenges.