Vocal Faculty Emerita
Mezzo-Soprano Jan Bickel was born and educated in the Midwest, earning a bachelor’s degree (B.A.) in music from St. Mary’s College at Notre Dame, a master of music in vocal performance (M.M.) from the Chicago Conservatory of Music under the mentorship of renowned contralto Madame Sonia Sharnova, and a doctor of musical arts (DMA) in vocal performance from the American Conservatory of Music in Chicago. She received awards for her singing from the National Federation of Music Clubs, the Musicians Club of Women and the Foundation for the Arts in Chicago; was a finalist in the National Opera Association Vocal Artist competition; and a regional finalist in the National Association of Teachers of Singing Artist competition. Dr. Bickel is professor emerita of music/director of vocal studies at Saint Xavier University in Chicago, where she taught in the Music Department for 32 years. She continues to teach studio voice and to give master classes and workshops on a variety of subjects, including vocal technique, keeping your voice healthy, stage presence and demeanor, interpretation of art song, and more.
As a faculty member at SXU, Dr. Bickel was awarded the Saint Xavier University Award, the Teaching Excellence Award, and the Excellence in Scholarship Award; was nominated and listed in Who’s Who Among American Teachers in the USA during consecutive years; and received several faculty research and creative production grants for her work as a singer and researcher. Her continuing research project, in collaboration with Professor Emerita, Martha M. Morris, is Enhancing Wind and Brass Tone Quality Through Vocal Tract Resonance, and she and Professor Morris presented workshops and conference presentations nationally on this subject.
As a professional singer, Dr. Bickel has been heard frequently as a recitalist in Chicago, at the Chicago Cultural Center, the Xavier Classics at Noon Concert Series, Cantigny Gardens and for a variety of other organizations. She has appeared as soloist with the Chicago Symphony, Chicago Philharmonic and Chicago Chamber orchestras, as well as the Mid-Columbia, Southwest, Wheaton and Kankakee Valley Symphony Orchestras among others.
She has sung leading and supporting roles with Chicago Opera Theater, Chamber Opera Chicago, Chicago Opera Players, Opera Racine, Inspiration Point Opera, Des Moines Metro Opera and others. She has performed the title role in Rossini’s La Cenerentola, Suzuki in Madama Butterfly, Marcellina in Le Nozze di Figaro, Maddalena in Rigoletto, Hänsel in Hänsel und Gretel, Orlofsky in Die Fledermaus, and both the 2nd and 3rd Ladies in Mozart’s Die Zauberflöte. She performed a supporting role in the Chicago Opera Theater premiere of Daron Hagen’s Shining Brow in 1997. Dr. Bickel has also been heard as soloist in many oratorios; including Rossini’s Stabat Mater, the Bach, Rutter, and Raminsh Magnificat, the Saint-Saëns Christmas Oratorio and others.
Dr. Bickel published Vocal Technique, A Physiologic Approach for Voice Class for Plural Publishing, which is currently in use in the United States, South America and Europe, and is available from Plural Publishing – www.pluralpublishing.com. During a sabbatical, she recorded a compact disc with Dr. Dana Brown, collaborative pianist, entitled: An Art Song Excursion, and including works by Robert Schumann, Francis Poulenc, Serge Rachmaninoff, Alberto Ginastera, and Camille Saint-Saëns. Her voice students have taken top positions at vocal competitions, including the Nicholas Raimondi Scholarship from the Italian Cultural Center and the Chicago NATS competition. She has adjudicated competitions for the National Association of Teachers of Singing (NATS) organization as well as for the Illinois Music Educators Association, the Union League Civic and Arts Foundation and the Musicians Club of Women’s annual vocal scholarship competitions.
Dr. Bickel is also a well-known choral director, and her University Chamber Singers recorded two professional compact discs under her baton. Under her direction, SXU choral ensembles gained recognition for presenting a wide variety of musical styles and languages from the chants of Hildegard von Bingen to the music of living composers such as Gwyneth Walker, Imant Raminsh and a variety of non-west composers. The compact disc Of Wind and Voice is a recording of music arranged or composed specifically for the Saint Xavier University Chamber Singers and the Flutes LTD choir of the Chicago flute choir organization Flutes Unlimited. Dr. Bickel is available to adjudicate at choral festivals, solo and ensemble competitions, and during her tenure at SXU, conducted choral festivals at both the college and high school level in that capacity. She was an annual choral clinician for the Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College Women’s Choral festival.
Dr. Bickel is a long-standing member of the National Association of Teachers of Singing (NATS) at both the local and national levels, and the Chicago Musicians Club of Women.
Courses taught during her tenure at SXU include:
- University Chorale
- Chamber Singers
- Women of Distinction
- Applied Voice
- Vocal Technique
- Opera Worskshop
- Italian/English Diction
- German/French Diction
- Music (Art Song) Literature
- Vocal Pedagogy
- Writing and Speaking About Music