John Harger Stewart

Private vocal instruction, New York City

After a 25 year singing career, JOHN STEWART has been teaching for many years. In September of 1990 he joined the music department of Washington University in St. Louis, where he was Director of Vocal Activities for 21 years, heading the voice program, directing the Concert Choir of Washington University, and helping direct the opera program, as well as teaching private voice, vocal pedagogy, vocal repertoire, and music theater. He is the Director of the Friends of Music. He has conducted many operas including the world première of Harold Blumenfeld's Breakfast Waltzes, Britten's The Turn of the Screw and Albert Herring, Weill's The Threepenny Opera, Mozart's The Impresario and Lee Hoiby's Summer and Smoke, Menotti's The Medium, Argento's Miss Havisham's Wedding Night, Of Mice and Men by Carlyle Floyd, and Dialogues of the Carmelites by Poulenc. On the annual Chancellor's Concert at Washington University Mr. Stewart has conducted among other works the Mozart Requiem, Verdi's Quattro Pezzi Sacri, Stravinsky's Symphony of Psalms, The Rio Grande by Constant Lambert, The Poulenc Stabat Mater and the Polovetsian Dances of Borodin. In the spring of 2004 the Chancellor's concert included the world premiere of Harold Blumenfeld's For Sion, Oh Thee on texts by Lord Byron, soon to be released on Naxos Records.

In June of 1990 he directed the Yale Glee Club in its month-long tour of Eastern and Western Europe, appearing in such famed locales as the Gewandhaus and the Thomanerkirche in Leipzig, as well as the Kreuzkirche in Dresden. In February 1994 and 2004 the Concert Choir of Washington University was chosen to sing at the Missouri Music Educator's Annual Convention. The Concert Choir has sung in Chicago, Dallas, Tulsa, Nashville, Kansas City and in other venues.

Mr. Stewart is in frequent demand as clinician and judge, as well as for his inspiring master classes. In the summer months Mr. Stewart has taught at the University of Miami's Summer Program in Salzburg and for fourteen summers supervised and conducted at the Festival of the Arts in Spearfish, South Dakota.


  • We must acknowledge that the most pleasing esthetic sounds are achieved through functional means. Esthetic concepts are subjective: in order to transcend, to go beyond our present vocal state we must be willing to venture into the unknown.
  • How do we do this? If we divide vocal functioning into two parts: the head and chest register mechanisms, we learn to hear in what proportion of all sounds the chest and the head registers are present.
  • In each lesson or warmup we propose successions of a variety of vocal patterns designed to encourage the healthy partnership of the registers, exercises which strengthen one or the other, then combine them so that the chest register braces against the pull of the head.
  • The patterns consist of vowels, pitches, intensities and rhythms, and THIS IS ALL WE CHOOSE. In doing so we encourage the phonatory process to be spontaneous and reflexive.
  • The breathing action comes in response to the above choices. Standing well and breathing efficiently do not in themselves alone guarantee healthy functioning in the core, i.e. the vocal tract.

By following these procedures, consonants can become more easily formed, then words, then phrases which have musical shape. If the voice is free, the deep musicality of our thought is able to reveal itself. The breath becomes the servant of the voice, and the mind. As teacher, my challenge is to listen and watch, employ my intuition and experience as teacher and singer, in each lesson to suggest a series of patterns to which the voice responds by freeing itself. And to create an atmosphere of risk and trust in which the voice is encouraged to new and better functioning.


  • Argento: The Aspern Papers, Miss Havisham's Wedding Night
  • Beeson: Hello out there, Lizzie Borden
  • Bernstein: Trouble in Tahiti
  • Blumenfeld: Breakfast Waltzes
  • Britten: Albert Herring, The Turn of the Screw
  • Floyd: Of Mice and Men, Susannah
  • Giannini: Beauty and the Beast
  • Hoiby: A Month in the Country
  • Krenek: What Price Confidence
  • Lesser: The Most Happy Fella
  • Mechem: Tartuffe
  • Menotti: The Medium
  • Mozart: The Impresario
  • Paulus: The Village Singer
  • Poulenc: The Dialogues of the Carmelites
  • Strauss: Die Fledermaus
"A singer singing better becomes a better person, through the straightening out of emotional inhibitions."


John Stewart is more than just my voice teacher—he has become a mentor, colleague, and friend. He encourages each of his students to find their own individual sound while building a free, healthy and strong technique. Always supportive, but never a hand-holder, John gave me the technique to sustain a busy professional career. I am so proud to recommend John to any student, regardless of age or experience. He will push you where you need to go and you will joyfully discover what your voice is capable of!

— Mary Wilson, soprano

In my undergrad, I had been led to believe that I was a bass-baritone. After only one voice lesson with John, he said, "You know you're a tenor?" Boy, was he right! Without his correct diagnosis, I would still be searching for my true voice. Not only did John help me discover my tenor voice, but he also helped to mold me into a smart singer. In addition to guiding my performing path, he also gave me the tools to be an effective teacher. It was after I finished my master's degree in performance that I began my journey as a voice teacher. When I began studying with John, I had no idea that his pedagogical approach would carry into my own teaching.

— James Harr, tenor

I studied with John Stewart for eight years—the first two as a graduate student at Washington University. I entered his voice studio after five years of singing and vocal study as a light lyric Baritone. When John could sense an upward shift in range and a timbre change in my voice, we decided to work on a vocal transition to Tenor. Using the concepts and techniques of registral balance, John deftly and gradually eased my voice into functioning more freely and openly at the top of my range, while ensuring that my middle and lower registers remained connected to the whole voice. His years of experience as an opera singer and recitalist are an invaluable asset to the dramatic and interpretive side of performance. One of the best lessons I have taken from John when singing on the concert, recital or opera stage is to carefully consider and know, inside and out, the dramatic arc and focus of a song or aria's text, regardless of language or musical style. I have always marveled at his positive attitude and zest for singing, which always encourage me to work harder. I highly recommend John Stewart to serious, career-oriented singers looking to further build their vocal and dramatic talents.

— Philip Touchette, tenor

I've studied voice with John Stewart for nearly 10 years and his methodical and scientific pedagogy has been a constant—no matter how I'm feeling or what music I'm working on, I have a strong structure and technique to depend on. With his experience as a singer, conductor, and composer, he helps you prepare music from all angles, not just vocally. He's able to convey what a conductor may expect so that you can be extra prepared and also address the music analytically so that you can understand where the composer was coming from—especially helpful with 20th century music! John has also been extremely supportive as a colleague, teacher, and friend. I'm happy to call him a friend and mentor, and I highly recommend him as a teacher.

— Debra Hillabrand, mezzo-soprano

I studied with John for two years during my master's degree at Washington University in St. Louis. From him, I learned the importance of registral balance and the value of analyzing the voice using an objective approach, observing non-emotional criteria such as vibrato rate and spin, range, dynamic control, agility, etc., to lead the voice in an unbiased way toward healthy function. He is methodical and detailed in his approach and truly cares about his students' progress. I'm very grateful for what he taught me and I feel that my own teaching has improved because of it.

— Gregory S., baritone

John Stewart is one of the finest musicians I know. He inspired my love of classical singing, particularly the technical side. I looked forward to every lesson I had with him. He was always kind, encouraging and very knowledgeable about the inner workings of the voice. In other words, he is everything you want in a voice teacher, I highly recommend him.

— Jeremy Gerard, Chief Engineer
New York, NY