Classical Voice Programs

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Vocal Studies


Completion of this major prepares one for a career as a vocal performer (solo or ensemble), private voice teacher, or choral conductor. Continued study may include a master’s degree in vocal performance.


The degree program puts emphasis on the study and performance of all styles of Classical Voice. The culminating activities include a research paper and a full-length recital.


Undergraduate applicants must prepare two memorized songs, which may be performed from either the classical or Broadway repertoire. One item should be sung in a language foreign to the singer. Candidates may be required to sing only one of the prepared works. Operatic repertoire is not required. Some art song examples are listed below:

  • English: American folk songs or sacred songs or selections from beginners anthologies
  • Italian: Selections from 26 Italian songs and arias or other Italian collections of the 16th- 19th Centuries, single composer collections such as Donaudy, Tosti, Vivaldi, Scarlatti
  • German: Brief, simpler lieder selections of Schubert, Schumann, Brahms, Mendelssohn
  • French: Brief, accessible mélodie of Chausson, Chaminade, Faure, Hahn
  • Spanish: Folk song settings of Spanish songs, Granados, de Falla, Rodrigo

Graduate applicants must prepare three pieces in three languages, one of which must be an aria.



Adria Firestone, on the faculty in the Music, Dance & Theatre Department at New Jersey City University since 2003, teaches voice, movement for actors, speech for performance, acting, career development, and how to control stage fright. Adria designs and presents programs for, among others, Duke University, the National University of Singapore, Dubai English-speaking School and Northwestern University. As a clinician, Adria gives programs for NJMEA and NATS, and workshops and master classes at  universities and schools, including Arts High School in Newark and the Girls Career Institute at Rutgers  University. Adria is a regular contributor to Classical Singer & the Huffington Post.  She is a National Certified Trainer for  K-12 Time to Teach, an instructional designer and a business and career coach. Adria was an award-winning opera singer and actor for over 25 years. Her credits include her world-renowned Carmen in Bizet’s opera to Family Guy. Adria won a Carbonell Award for Best Actress in a Musical (Aldonza in Man of La Mancha) and was Woman of the Year at the Spoleto Festival in Italy. For our troops in Desert Storm, from Shanghai to the Pacific Rim, and from Cairo to Canada, Adria has performed throughout the world.


Born in Poland, soprano Justyna Giermola  brings a traditional European flavor to opera with a layered, luxuriant voice, and striking beauty. The critics called her a soprano with a “rich, velvety timbre” and her performances described as “sparkling and pristine”.

Coming up, the versatile soprano has several debuts of both new works and new roles. She will add the role of Rosalinda  in Strauss’s classic Die Fledermaus, the title role in Halka  by Moniuszko, the title role in Carmen  in Bizet’s beloved classic. She will also make her Zankel Hall debut at Carnegie Hall singing a concert of works by the Polish composer Stanislaw Moniuszko. Most recently, the soprano had the honor to debut three songs by Patricia Giannattasio in a concert dedicated to women composers and sang in the New York City debut of Five Haiku,  a beautiful chamber work composed by Tomas Peire Serrate. Additionally, she made her company debuts with Hudson Lyric Opera and NYC Productions singing Santuzza  in Cavalleria Rusticana  and First Witch  in Dido and Aeneas,  respectively.

Last season brought the soprano to The Cleveland Opera with a role debut in the U.S. premier of the Stanislaw Moniuszko opera The Haunted Manor (Straszny Dwor) as the “lovely and understated” Jadwiga. She started the season singing the solo in Poulenc’s Gloria  with the Rockland Choral Society and had the opportunity to sing the solo again later in the season with Masterwork Chorus. Other upcoming performances include reprising the roles of Nedda  in I Pagliacci and the title role in Manon Lescaut. Highlights of 2017-2018 included the world premiere of the new musical drama In Search of Desdemona in the role of Santa di Carlo / Desdemona at Lincoln Center. She added the title role in Manon Lescaut and had the opportunity to perform Mimi  in La Boheme. Ms. Giermola has sung the roles of Auretta in Mozart’s L’oca del Cairo  for Garden State Opera and Violetta in La Traviata at the Teatro Giuseppe Verdi (Pollenza, Italy). Later that season she added the role of Musetta in La Boheme  when she made her company debut with New Jersey Verismo Opera and reprised the role with Eastern Opera Company that same year. A regular at Eastern Opera Company she has sung the roles of Micaela in Carmen, Nedda in Pagliacci, Donna Elvira  in Don Giovanni, Santuzza in Cavalleria Rusticana and the title roles in Tosca and Suor Angelica with the company. Other roles include Mother in Hansel and Gretel Aldonza in Man of La Mancha and Mimi in La Boheme.

Equally active on the concert stage her performances have led her to venues such as Carnegie Hall’s Weill Hall and Zankel Hall, St. Patrick’s Cathedral and Lincoln Center in NYC and internationally to Spain, Italy, Germany and Poland. Ms. Giermola recently made her company debut with the St. Peter of the Sea Orchestra in an all Puccini concert in collaboration with the New Jersey State Opera. After a successful world premier of Robert Butts’ Symphony #1, where she was the soprano soloist, Ms. Giermola was very excited to be asked back to sing with The Baroque Orchestra of New Jersey in their Czech Mates  concert where she debuted an original orchestration of Dvorak’s “Song to the Moon” from the opera Rusalka. Ms. Giermola has performed as the soprano soloist in Mozart’s Requiem, Coronation Mass and Missa Brevis, Haydn’s Lord Nelson Mass Faure’s Requiem, Brahm’s Requiem, Orff’s Carmina Burana and Handel’s Messiah. She was also the featured soloist with the Glens Falls Symphony in Mahler’s Lieder eines fahrenden Gesellen.


Critically acclaimed for his theatrical versatility and powerful yet refined vocalism, baritone John Hancock made his Metropolitan Opera debut as le Gendarme in Les Mamelles de Tirésias under the baton of James Levine. He has since appeared in a dozen roles with the company, including: Count Almaviva in Le Nozze di Figaro, Falke in Die Fledermaus, Albert in Werther, Brétigny in Manon, Capulet in Roméo et Juliette, Astley in Prokofiev’s The Gambler and both Marcello and Schaunard in La Bohème. With San Francisco Opera, he has sung the roles of Sharpless in Madama Butterfly, Yeletsky in Queen of Spades, and Lescaut in Manon Lescaut.

A gifted interpreter of contemporary opera, Hancock has created leading roles in several world premieres, notably: Lowell Liebermann’s The Picture of Dorian Gray at Opéra de Monte Carlo; Stephen Paulus’s Heloise and Abelard as an alumni artist at the Juilliard School; and Central Park, a trilogy of American operas, at Glimmerglass Opera (also broadcast on PBS Great Performances). Of his performance in the American premiere of Pascal Dusapin’s Faustus, the Last Night at Spoleto USA, The New York Times wrote, “John Hancock was particularly strong in the title role, seizing every opportunity to soar.”

In 2017, Hancock makes his debut at Teatro Colón in Buenos Aires as Faninal in Der Rosenkavalier. He also joins forces with the Hartford Symphony Orchestra for performances of Vaughan Williams's Five Mystical Songs. 2016 career highlights included debuts with Boston Lyric Opera as Albert in Werther, and with Nashville Opera as Don Alfonso in Così fan tutte, as well as performances in the Metropolitan Opera's production of Salome. Other recent debuts are with Opera Colorado as Sharpless in Madama Butterfly, and with the Royal Flemish Philharmonic under Edo de Waart in Elgar’s Dream of Gerontius, which was recorded for CD release on the Pentatone Classics label. Joining Central City Opera as Mr. Webb in Ned Rorem’s masterpiece Our Town, “John Hancock not only had a towering physical presence, but had a voice to match: a mellifluous, responsive baritone that rang out soundly in the house.” – Opera Today. At Spoleto USA, he assumed the title role in the American premiere of Philip Glass’ Kepler, in which “Hancock sang the title role with an appealing suppleness, admirable clarity and a necessary but never overstated touch of melancholy.” –New York Times. In 2011, Hancock sang the title role in Falstaff in a widely acclaimed new production by Patrice Caurier and Moshe Leiser at Angers Nantes Opera and Opéra de Rennes in France.

Other notable performances include Ramiro in l’Heure espagnole with Seiji Ozawa’s Veroza Opera Japan, the title role in Eugene Onegin at Opera Ireland, and John Buchanan in Lee Hoiby’s Summer and Smoke at Central City Opera. He has sung leading roles with companies including Washington National Opera, New Israeli Opera, Opéra du Rhin, Theater des Champs-Elysées, Portland Opera and Cincinnati Opera.

A powerful presence on the concert stage, John Hancock made his Carnegie Hall debut in Carmina Burana with the Orchestra of St. Luke’s and the Collegiate Chorale. He received acclaim for his performances with the American Symphony Orchestra at Carnegie Hall of Schoeck’s tour de force for baritone and orchestra, Lebendig begraben, and with the Radio Kamer Filharmonie at Amsterdam’s Concertgebouw reprising the title role in Faustus, the Last Night. His concert repertoire includes Mahler’s Eighth Symphony, Des Knaben Wunderhorn and Kindertotenlieder; Zemlinksy’s Lyric Symphony; Schoeck’s Nachhall; Fauré’s Requiem; and Gounod’s Mors et Vita.

In 2012, Albany Records released Little Heaven, a CD recording of songs of Lowell Liebermann featuring soprano Brenda Rae and Mr. Hancock in the composer’s Appalachian Liebeslieder. Mr. Hancock’s discography also includes Les Mamelles de Tirésias with the Metropolitan Opera and James Levine, Lully’s Armide under the baton of Philippe Herreweghe, and Torke’s Strawberry Fields. His performances of Stravinsky’s Abraham and Isaac, Sibelius’s Kullervo, Zemlinsky’s Lyric Symphony and Schoeck’s Nachhall with Leon Botstein and the American Symphony Orchestra are available on iTunes and

Mr. Hancock is a graduate of the Juilliard Opera Center, where he was winner of the Richard F. Gold Grant presented by the Shoshana Foundation. He is the grateful recipient of grants and prizes from the Metropolitan Opera National Council, the Loren L. Zachary Society, and the Sullivan Foundation. Since 2012, he has served as an adjudicator for the Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions.


Hailed for her “excellent voice and spot-on performance” (Huffington Post), her “bright sound and affecting delivery”, and for delivering "captivating performance" (Voce di Meche), French native mezzo-soprano Emma Lavandier is a first place winner at the NJNATS Festival of Singing Competition, and a finalist in the Lyra NY 2018 International Vocal Competition (Opera Division). Highlights of past seasons include the Witch (Hansel and Gretel), Rosina (The Barber of Seville), Zerlina (Don Giovanni), Orlovsky (Die Fledermaus), Nicklausse (Les contes d’Hoffmann), Orfeo (Orfeo ed Euridice), Giovanna (Rigoletto), and Prince Charmant (Cendrillon). She has performed in venues such as Carnegie Hall (Weill recital hall), Symphony Space, the Sheen Center and the Cell Theatre. At ease with different genres, she appeared in a cabaret concert at the Cornelia Street Café, gave a solo recital of French art songs including Ravel’s “Shéhérazade”, and performed French chansons at St John’s in the Village. Ms. Lavandier holds a Diploma of Classical Voice and a First Prize "Superieur" in piano from the Conservatory Léo Delibes (Clichy, France) and a Master of Music in Classical Performance from NJCU. She is an active member of the Professional Women Singers Association.

David Mayfield headshot

David Mayfield started work in New York at the Actor’s Studio of the New School, at New Jersey City University he has taught undergraduate and graduate diction, graduate vocal literature, coached voice, and conducted The Magic Flute, The Medium/The Telephone, Trouble in Tahiti, Dido and Aeneas and evenings of Baroque opera scenes, in addition to curating surveys of French and American vocal music. He has coached at Manhattan School of Music since 2000, and is currently a recital coach there. His students have appeared with San Francisco Opera, Santa Fe Opera, Houson Grand Opera, Martina Arroyo’s Prelude to Performance, and been winners of the Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions.

His performance experience includes Lyric Opera of Chicago, Utah Festival Opera, The Dallas Opera, Wildwood Festival, Opera Illinois, New Orleans Opera, Opera El Paso, State Repertory Opera (NJ), Virginia Opera, Fort Worth Opera, and a tour with New York City Opera, among others; his repertoire ranges from Aïda and Tosca to Hin und Zurück and The Face on the Barroom Floor.  He has been conductor or assistant  for Le Nozze di Figaro, Die Entführung aus dem Serail, Don Giovanni, Il Barbiere di Siviglia, Carmen, Hansel and Gretel, Giulio Cesare, Dido and Aeneas, Les Contes d’Hoffmann, Die Fledermaus, The Mikado, H.M.S. Pinafore, Patience, The Student Prince, and Fiddler on the Roof, among others.  In addition he has played harpsichord continuo for Don Giovanni, Dido & Aeneas, Le Nozze di Figaro, L’Elisir d’Amore, and Il Barbiere di Siviglia, and acted as chorusmaster for operas including Otello, Boheme, Carmen, Mikado, and Les Contes d’Hoffmann.

He is a graduate of Beloit College (Performing Arts; Musical Directing for the Theater) and Universtiy of North Texas (M.M.); he also attended Northwestern University and won a scholarship to the Blossom Festival at Kent State University; he has been a guest artist for residencies at University of Minnesota-Duluth numerous years, giving recitals, masterclasses, opera workshop coaching (Il Mondo della Luna, Le Nozze di Figaro), and classes in ornamentation, and been a guest clinician at Song Festival at Grace University and University of Nebraska in Omaha and Waldorf College in Iowa; he has been a featured speaker for the New Jersey chapter of the National Association of Teachers of Singing.

His influences include Nicola Rescigno, founder of Lyric Opera of Chicago and The Dallas Opera; Roberto Benaglio, chorus master of La Scala, Milan, who knew Puccini and Toscanini; Fiora Contino, who studied with Nadia Boulanger, often played chamber music with Francis Poulenc and also knew Toscanini well, and  Donald Palumbo, chorusmaster of the MET Opera, Chicago Lyric and Salzburg Festival.

Recent years have seen his return to the Phoenicia International Festival of the Voice as assistant conductor/chorusmaster for a production of L’Elisir d’Amore set in Ghana, having previously served as chorusmaster (Otello, La Bohème) and music director (The Medium, La Cambiale di Matrimonio). He is currently writing a book on the relationship between singing diction and vocal technique.


American tenor, Mark Nicolson's career spans diverse areas of the operatic scene encompassing standard French, Italian and contemporary roles. He recently sang Radamès in Aida at Radio France with the Orchestra Philharmonique International, Verdi's Requiem with the New York Choral Society as well as  Rossini’s Stabat Mater at NJCU, where he maintains a voice studio. This season marks his first Calaf in Turandot with New Jersey’s Coro Lirico. Recent seasons included his first Lennie in Opera Grand Rapids’ Of Mice and Men, Bacchus in New Orleans Opera’s production of Ariadne auf Naxos, his first Mahler 8th Symphony with the Connecticut Symphony, Radamès  in Aida with Opera Illinois, Don Jose (Carmen) with both the Festival Cervantino and with the Mexican National Symphony, Cavaradossi (Tosca) with the Palacio de Belles Artes (Mexico City), the Atlanta Opera, and New Zealand’s Canterbury Opera, followed by Pinkerton (Madama Butterfly) with Mississippi Opera and with England’s Opera North in an extensive eight month tour throughout Great Britain.

He also sang the arduous role of Pirro in the American stage premiere of Rossini's Ermione with Opera Omaha, where he returned to sing Alfredo in La Traviata, Gernando in Rossini's Armida with Minnesota Opera, Gounod's Faust with the New Orleans Opera, Central City Opera, and the Mercury Theatre in New Zealand, Tamino in Mozart's Die Zauberflöte with the Hong Kong Arts Festival and the Dublin Grand Opera, Des Grieux in Massenet’s Manon in Seoul, Korea, Rodolfo (La Bohème) in Dallas and in Tampa Bay, where he also sang Eisenstein (Die Fledermaus) and Camille (The Merry Widow). He also sang some rarely performed repertoire including Gernando in both Rossini's Armida and Haydn's L'isola D'isabitata, Prince Gvidon in the American premiere of Rimsky Korsakov's Legend of the Tsar Saltan, Busby in the world premiere of Ulysses Kay's Frederick Douglas with the New Jersey State Opera, the Prince in Dvorák's Rusalka (in Czechoslovakian), Prince Ferdinand in Eaton's The Tempest, Tassilo in Gräfin Mariza at New York's Liederkranz, Tom Rakewell in Stravinsky's The Rake's Progress, and the Male Chorus in Britten's The Rape of Lucretia with the Wolf Trap Opera where he also sang the Prince in Prokofiev's L'amour des Trois Oranges.

Equally at home on the concert stage, Mr. Nicolson debuted at Carnegie Hall in Mozart's Requiem under the baton of Joseph Flummerfelt, and in Verdi's Requiem with the Philharmonia Orchestra in the closing concert of the England's prestigious Chichester Festival (which was recorded for future release). He has performed with the Connecticut, Pittsburgh, Portland, Evansville and Omaha symphonies as well as the Blossom Festival Orchestra, the New Haven and Connecticut Choral Societies, in works including Händel's Messiah, Beethoven's 9th Symphony, Tchaikovsky's Romeo et Juliette, and Orff's Carmina Burana, and Mahler's 8th Symphony (Symphony of a Thousand). He has also appeared in a series of Verdi/Mozart concerts at the Festival Monterrey in Mexico. After studying at Bradley University, the University of North Texas, and at Indiana University, Mr. Nicolson won the Liederkranz Competition, received a Citation of Excellence from the Birgit Nilsson Prize Competition, won five study grants from the New York Wagner Society, and received a fellowship from Jerome Hines' Opera Music Theater International. Mark is the co-founder/president of Stephens Nicolson Artists Management.


William Riley is a world-renowned voice trainer, a singer, a stage director, a minister of music and has been a consultant or served on faculties of the Voice Foundation Symposia, The American Academy of Otolaryngology (24Years), The Actors Studio, The New School University, Westminster Choir College; He has been consultant in Voice to Grabscheid Voice Center (Mt. Sinai Hospital New York), Lenox Hill Hospital, The Royal Medical Hospital in Amman Jordan, The White House, and The Metropolitan Opera.

Professor Riley first studied horn and then turned to voice at Southern Methodist University and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. The winner of numerous prizes and competitions, including the NATSAA Award, Berton Coffin Award, NFMC Young Artist Award, Merle-Montgomery New York City Opera Award, and Rosanna M. Enlow Vocal Competition, he was also a regional finalist in the Metropolitan Opera Auditions and was awarded a 1988 career development grant by the Brahmsgesellschaft (Baden-Baden, West Germany). He has performed throughout the USA and internationally, and has recorded for Arabesque, Koch-Schwann Austria and Musical Heritage Society Records. “Mellow baritone, effortlessly produced” (The Times, Trenton). “A hall-filling super-legato” (Daily Chautauquan). “A ringing baritone voice” (Morning Advocate, Baton Rouge). “Top-notch” (The Times, Shreveport Louisiana).

Teaching at the University level for over twenty-five years, he has been invited to teach on the subjects of voice, vocal health and opera at over a dozen institutions in the U.S. and abroad, including Yale University, and the Universities of Iowa, New Hampshire, Maine, Groningen (Holland), Turku (Finland), and Tulsa, Oklahoma. He has been an invited speaker at the Second World Voice Congress Brazil, the World Voice Congress 3 in Turkey, the joint meeting of the Acoustical Society of America/Japanese Acoustical Society, and the Congress of the South African Society of Otorhinolaryngology Head and Neck Surgery. In 2002 he was a featured Master Class teacher at the Austrian Voice Institute during the Salzburg Festival. For the past several years, he has served with the United Nations initiative “Music as a Global Resource” and is Artistic Director for the NGO “Destination Peace.” In 2013, Professor Riley was featured speaker on The Kennedy Center “American Voices”, curated by Renee Fleming. He has been co-instructor of the course “The Actor and Singer as Patient of the Laryngologist” at the American Academy of Otolaryngology for 28 years. It is the longest-running instruction course at the Academy. In 2017 and again in 2018 Riley delivered the Vocal Pedagogy Tutorial for the opening of the Voice Foundation Symposia.

Riley’s voice apps for smartphones and tablets are available from eXQuisite Software.

Riley is a Voting Member of the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences (The Grammy Awards). In 2019, his studio family received 19 Grammy nominations in numerous genres, from classical to jazz to folk. In 2018 six of his clients won the coveted Grammy Award. He is also a member of The International Horn Society.

Over 100 of Riley’s clients have won contracts at the Metropolitan Opera. His considerable list of clients include Alan Bergman, President Bill Clinton, Paula Cole, Cy Coleman, Bradley Cooper, Celine Dion, Eliane Elias, Lara Fabian, Connie Francis, Hiromi Go, David Hasselhoff, Faith Hill, Whitney Houston, Angelique Kidjo, Liza Minnelli, Jessica Simpson, Thalia, Teresa Stratas, Ben Vereen, Usher, Deborah Voigt, Leehom Wang, Stevie Wonder, and numerous other professional voice users in all areas of voice use.

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