The UC Santa Barbara Voice Program prepares some of the brightest young stars of today for vibrant careers as performers and educators. Students enrolled in the UCSB Voice Program benefit from small studio sizes, frequent one-on-one instruction, and professional performance opportunities with institutions such as Opera Santa Barbara, the Santa Barbara Choral Society, and the Santa Barbara Symphony. With the expert guidance of internationally renowned faculty members Dr. John Ballerino, Dr. Isabel Bayrakdarian, Professor Benjamin Brecher, and  students of the program have won prestigious competitions and roles with major opera companies around the world, as well as faculty positions at some of the country’s leading universities. 

The Voice Program is committed to providing excellence in vocal training at the undergraduate and graduate levels, offering BA, BM, MM, DMA, and a combined MM/DMA degree in vocal performance. Vocal students have opportunities to perform as soloists, in operas, choirs, and contemporary music ensembles. Further, Opera Theatre is offered each year alternating between fully-staged productions and Opera Scenes with piano. The fundamentals of sound vocal technique are taught, along with a comprehensive study of operatic languages, exploration of art song literature from the Baroque to contemporary, all of which are meant to expand a student’s performance skills and viability in the 21st century.

Degrees Offered


Bachelor of Music (BM)

  • This is a pre-professional degree, preparing students for careers in performance, opera, or education.
  • It is open by entrance audition.
  • The majority of courses are in performance, theory, musicianship, and history with intense study in applied music, requiring a high level of proficiency in voice upon entrance.
  • Students study in the studio of a Voice Faculty.

Bachelor of Arts (BA) with an emphasis in Music Studies 

  • Designed to develop broadly-educated musicians and citizens.
  • No audition is required.
  • Courses balance musical studies in history, musicianship, theory, and performance with a broad general education.
  • Fewer applied music commitments than the BM, which can be beneficial for students with many time commitments. 
  • A year-long senior project is required.
  • Students may study with a Voice Faculty or with a TA under the supervision of a Voice Faculty.

Learn more about the BM and the BA with an emphasis in Music Studies degrees in the Music Department, Undergraduate Program section of UC Santa Barbara's General Catalog. Find more information on applying to the undergraduate program on the Undergraduate Degrees page.


  • Master of Music (MM)
  • Doctor of Musical Arts (DMA)
  • Combined Master of Music/Doctor of Musical Arts (MM/DMA)

The MM-only time-to-degree is two years. The DMA-only time-to-degree is three years (for applicants who have already completed a master's degree at an accredited university). If accepted into the MM/DMA combined program, the time to complete both degrees is five years (once your coursework and qualifying exams are complete, you receive the MM). Learn more about the MM and the DMA Voice emphases in the Music Department, Graduate Program section of UCSB's General Catalog. Find more information on applying to the graduate program on the Graduate Degrees page.


Isabel Bayrakdarian | Professor, Soprano (Area Head of Voice Program)

Benjamin Brecher | Professor, Tenor 

John Ballerino | Continuing Lecturer, Vocal Coach

Student Achievements (in the past 6 years)

  • First Place, National Opera Association Competition:  UCSB Opera Theatre's production of Joel Feigin's Twelfth Night
  • Cleveland Institute of Music’s inaugural Future of Music Faculty Fellowship
  • Performances with the Metropolitan Opera Guild
  • National and International mainstage operatic performances:
    • Chautauqua Opera Company
    • Italy: Teatro Grande di Brescia
    • Ljubljana: Slovene National Theatre Opera and Ballet
    • Spain: Opera Oviedo – Teatro Comproamor

Vocal Competitions Won/Placed:

  • Loren L. Zachary National Vocal Competition for Opera Singers
  • Music International Grand Prix Competition
  •  Catapult Opera Accelerate Competition
  •  Performing Arts Scholarship Foundation
  • Gwendolyn Roberts Song Competition
  • California Women’s Chorus Competition
  • Numerous LA-NATS winners

Young Artist Programs:

Mosher Young Artist, Opera Santa Barbara

Young Artist Program, Chautauqua Opera

Young Artist Program, Kansas City Lyric Opera

Summer Programs:

Chautauqua Institute Apprentice Artist

Central City Apprentice Artist Program

American Institute of Musical Studies in Austria (scholarships; performances with AIMS orchestra)

Songfest at Colburn (full-tuition scholarships)

First Alternates—Merola, Aspen, Santa Fe, Chautauqua

Vancouver International Song Institute (VISI)

Acceptances into Graduate Schools:

Peabody Conservatory

Northwestern University

University of Missouri—Kansas City Conservatory

Boston University

Florida State University

University of Minnesota

Syracuse University

Related Ensembles

Chamber Choir 


Gospel Choir

Lumina Choir

Middle East Ensemble Chorus

Opera Theatre

Opera Workshop

Singing Gauchos