Honoring the Masters. Sharing the Journey.

Barbara Doscher

American singing teacher, pedagogue, and author
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Biography

“Dr. Doscher’s studio is a direct reflection of her. When you approach her studio door, there is a sign which reads: “Please do not knock, just come in.” Just before you open the door, you stop and listen to the incredible sounds that emanate from her room. You search your memory for the face that goes with the voice, and generally you are surprised and pleased at the improvement in that voice. When you open the door, you are immediately greeted by eyes that flash “Shhh . . . this lesson is precious.” (These are not Barbara’s eyes). You find a chair if there is one, or most likely you wedge yourself between other knowledge seekers sitting on the floor. The onlookers are then treated to a teaching style which encourages, refines, nurtures and makes clear the intricacies and vagaries of the study of voice. – Mark Calkins

Barbara Doscher (1922-1996) was an American singing teacher, pedagogue, and author. She graduated from Grinnell College in 1944, where she earned a B.A. in French and History.  In 1965 she received a BM in Voice Performance and in 1967 she received a MM in Voice Performance, both from the University of Colorado. She completed a Doctor of Musical Arts degree in Voice Performance and Pedagogy in 1971. It was during this time that Doscher was mentored by the esteemed voice pedagogue Berton Coffin. 

Doscher then joined the faculty at University of Colorado, where she served as an Instructor (1971), Chair of the Vocal Area (1987) and Full Professor (1989).  She ended her teaching career at the University of Colorado as Professor Emerita.  

Perhaps Doscher is best known for her seminal book “The Functional Unity of the Singing Voice,” which is widely used as a text in voice and voice pedagogy classes. She also authored From Studio to Stage: Repertoire for the Voice (edited posthumously by John Nix), and wrote a number of articles for NATS, the Choral Journal and other voice and music journals. 

Doscher was a master teacher at the first two NATS Intern Programs in 1991 and 1992. Her students have gone on to perform in the world’s leading opera houses, win major voice competitions and have  become internationally recognized voice teachers, pedagogues and researchers.  

She passed away from cancer at her home in Arvada, Colorado on June 26, 1996. 

Quotes from Barbara’s students: 

Brian Gill (Professor of Voice and Voice Pedagogy at the Indiana University Jacobs School of Music)

“Barbara Doscher was a quintessential mentor in that she had a deep knowledge of voice as an instrument; a keen intellect and ear when discerning vocal imbalances; a unique and highly effective approach for voice building; and she used clever intuition in her treatment of each individual, catering to their distinctive personalities and needs – physiological, artistic, and psychological. Barbara also had a wonderful sense of humor! During my time with her, she faithfully delivered all of this while battling cancer – a battle she lost at the end of my masters degree. My life was forever changed by her guidance, and not a day goes by where I don’t think of her with tremendous love and gratitude.” 

Mark Calkins (Associate Professor of Voice at Berea (KY) College)

“Dr. Doscher’s studio is a direct reflection of her. When you approach her studio door, there is a sign which reads: “Please do not knock, just come in.” Just before you open the door, you stop and listen to the incredible sounds that emanate from her room. You search your memory for the face that goes with the voice, and generally you are surprised and pleased at the improvement in that voice. When you open the door, you are immediately greeted by eyes that flash “Shhh . . . this lesson is precious.” (These are not Barbara’s eyes). You find a chair if there is one, or most likely you wedge yourself between other knowledge seekers sitting on the floor. The onlookers are then treated to a teaching style which encourages, refines, nurtures and makes clear the intricacies and vagaries of the study of voice. 

Barbara Doscher Quotes: 

On Technique: 

“I base what I do on what Gauffin and Sundberg call “flow-phonation,” which is the optimum ratio of airflow to air pressure (subglottal pressure), for a given frequency and dynamic level. I don’t want people to leak a lot of air, but on the other hand, I’d rather have leaky air than not enough air. If you have not enough air, either you’re holding back air or you have a fluctuating air stream.” 

On assigning Repertoire: 

“A teacher can make or break a singer with the kind of literature assigned. Take your time and always keep in mind the vocal color, the tessitura, current technical problems, musical strengths, and (with beginning students) the personality of the student . . . “

Sources 

  • “Well, for God’s sake, don’t peep!”—Exploring the Pedagogic Legacy of Barbara Doscher
  • The Functional Unity of the Singing Voice (Barbara Doscher)
  • Blades-Zellar, Elizabeth (2017). A Spectrum of Voices: Prominent American Voice Teachers Discuss the Teaching of Singing. 2nd. edition. Lanham, MD: Scarecrow.
  • Mark Calkins, letter to the University of Colorado Women’s Club (February 29, 1996).
  • Elizabeth Croy, personal email with John Nix (February 9, 1998).
  • Doscher, Barbara (1992). “Teaching Singing.” Quarterly Journal of Music Teaching and Learning 3(2): 61-66. 
  • Doscher, Barbara (1994). The Functional Unity of the Singing Voice (2nd ed.). Metuchen, NJ: Scarecrow.
  • https://www.alexanderbrosseau.com/barbara-doscher

Additional Resources

  • Doscher, Barbara (2002). From Studio to Stage: Repertoire for the Voice (ed. John Nix). Lanham, MD: Scarecrow.[3] 
  • Doscher, Barbara (1975). “The Beginning Voice Class.” NATS Bulletin 32(1): 31-33, 45.
  • Doscher, Barbara, and Julie Fortney (1980). “A Mile High! 1980 National Convention.” NATS Bulletin 37(1): 26-30.
  • Doscher, Barbara, and others (1981). Point Counterpoint.” NATS Bulletin 37(3): 8-15.
  • Doscher, Barbara (1984). “Heads Up!” Choral Journal 24(10): 5-8.
  • Doscher, Barbara (1984). “Translate and Communicate.” American Music Teacher 34(2): 24-26.
  • Doscher, Barbara (1984). “Who’s Afraid of the Big, Bad, Wolf?” NATS Journal 41(1): 38-41.
  • Doscher, Barbara (1987). “Breathing: The Motor of the Singing Voice.” Choral Journal 27(8): 17-22.
  • Doscher, Barbara (1991). “Exploring the Whys of Intonation Problems.” Choral Journal 32(4): 25-30. Also published in The Journal of Research in Singing and Applied Vocal Pedagogy 15(2): 27-38. 
  • Doscher, Barbara (1995). “He Wrote for Specific Voices.” Journal of Singing 52(1): 33-36.
  • https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K6WeEEilzVc Video of Doscher teaching a portion of a graduate pedagogy class.  Recorded in 1984.
  • https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BQ3cEC5Q88I&t=21s Audio recording of a lecture on Vowel Modification, plus Q & A, given by Barbara Doscher at the 1994 NATS Intern Program.  Recorded June 22, 1994 in Boulder, Colorado. 
  • https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g-ARY33z5vE Audio recording of a lecture on Vowel Modification at the July 1992 NATS Intern Program (July 25-August 5, 1994). 

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