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Artist Diploma in Early Music

The Artist Diploma in Early Music is a post-baccalaureate, performance-oriented program designed for students already performing at a high level who desire additional intensive private instruction, coaching, and performance experience in early music performance practices.

Designed to be completed in two semesters over the course of either one or two years, enrollment in the Artist Diploma in Early Music program is highly selective and limited to twelve students per year. Both singers and instrumentalists (violin, viola, viola da gamba, cello, harpsichord, lute, guitar, harp, recorder, flute, oboe, bassoon, trumpet, and cornetto) are encouraged to apply.


Stephen Stubbs, Early Music faculty. Photo by Michelle Smith-Lewis.

Cornish Opera Theater, La Liberazione di Ruggiero dall’Isola d’Alcina.
Photo by Michelle Smith-Lewis.

Admission Requirements

You must have already completed a Bachelor of Music degree or its equivalent prior to applying for admission to the Artist Diploma in Early Music program. You should have also obtained proficiency (defined as one year of college-level language training) in at least one of the following four languages: Italian, French, German, or Latin. Vocal students must demonstrate proficiency in any three of these languages.


Applicants to the Artist Diploma program should indicate a primary Cornish early music faculty member with whom they would like to study; please view our complete list of current early music faculty.

Your primary instructor serves as your advisor and provides individual instruction to you on a weekly basis. You may request up to two other members of the Cornish early music faculty to serve as supporting faculty. Supporting faculty function as ensemble coaches and provide individual instruction on an occasional, as needed, basis. We will make every effort to fulfill your requests for your primary and secondary instructors. However, the faculty reserves the right to assign supporting faculty as deemed appropriate.


Students enrolled in the Artist Diploma in Early Music program follow a curriculum comprised of individual Private Instruction with their primary instructor, Individual Coaching Sessions with their two secondary instructors, weekly Performance Studio and Chamber Ensemble rehearsals, a weekly class in Renaissance or Baroque dance, and a weekly Topics in Performance Practices Seminar led by a series of Cornish faculty lecturers and discussants.

Altogether the Artist Diploma curriculum looks like this:

Fall Semester
16 Credits
Spring Semester
16 Credits
Private Instruction 3 credits Private Instruction 3 credits
Two Individual Coaching Sessions 4 credits Two Individual Coaching Sessions 4 credits
Performance Studio 2 credits Performance Studio 2 credits
Chamber Ensemble 2 credits Chamber Ensemble 2 credits
Renaissance Dance 1 credit Baroque Dance 1 credit
Performance Practices Seminar 2 credits Performance Practices Seminar 2 credits
Opera Production 2 credits Recital 1 credit
Recital 1 credit


Public recitals comprise an essential component of the Artist Diploma in Early Music program. You must complete a total of three recitals while in residence: one solo, one ensemble, and one lecture-recital. At least one of these recitals will be a professionally produced, off-campus recital co-presented in association with the Early Music Guild‘s First Tuesday or Early Music Friday concert series.

Baroque Opera

Each fall, Cornish Opera Theater stages a baroque opera production. Artist Diploma students are encouraged to participate in the opera, whenever possible. Participation in the opera may be in lieu of one of the three required recitals. Artist Diploma students, early music faculty, and undergraduate classical voice majors comprise the cast for the opera, with a continuo ensemble consisting of Artist Diploma students and early music faculty.

In fall 2011 Cornish Opera Theater performed Francesca Caccini’s La Liberazione di Ruggiero dall’Isola d’Alcina (1625). In fall 2012 Cornish Opera Theater staged John Blow’s Venus and Adonis (1683) in a new production directed by James Darrah with musical direction by Stephen Stubbs. Fall 2013 will bring a new production of the classic Jean-Baptiste Lully/Moliere French baroque opera Le Bourgeois Gentilhomme (1609) at the Seattle Center Playhouse.

How to Apply

Admission to the Artist Diploma in Early Music program is by audition only and consists of a three-step process: application, prescreening, and live auditions. To begin the application process, complete the Early Music Application Form. This is the only application you will need to complete. You do not need to complete the online application required of those seeking admission to Cornish’s undergraduate program.


Next you will need to submit audio or video recordings of three representative selections, totaling no more than 15 minutes. These audition submissions should demonstrate your artistry and proficiency on your primary instrument or voice. Review of pre-screening auditions will begin January 1st. Students submitting auditions after January 1 will be reviewed in the order received and invited to the live auditions on a space available basis. The program will NOT accept CDs, DVDs or videotapes for review. As part of the online submission process, you will be asked to upload:

  • A completed application form including a brief statement stating the reasons you are applying to the program.
  • A current resume or CV
  • An optional headshot (for singers).

Resumes and CVs should be formatted as Adobe® Portable Document Format (PDF) files, and headshot photos as standard JPEG files. Submit your prescreening audition recordings and application materials.

Live Auditions

Should you be invited to a live audition at Cornish on March 1-2, 2014 you will be required to perform up to three selections for the faculty. All auditions are conducted on the Cornish campus at Kerry Hall, 710 East Roy St., Seattle, WA 98103. Plan to arrive one hour prior to your scheduled audition time, so that you have adequate time to warm-up. Once you check in, we will assign you a warm-up room.

For your live audition you may bring your own accompanist or we will provide one for you at no charge. If you require an accompanist please let us know in advance so we can make the necessary arrangements to ensure you have a successful audition.

Should you be unable to travel to Seattle for a live audition, we will do our best to make alternate arrangements.

Final Admission Decision

All applicants for admission to the Artist Diploma program will be notified of a final admission decision approximately one month after their live audition.

Tuition & Fees

Students interested in the Artist Diploma in the Early Music program, view Tuition & Fees. This represents a significant discount of the College’s standard undergraduate tuition. Tuition is assessed in two equal installments for fall and spring semesters, and can be further spread out over 10 months using Cornish’s zero interest payment plan.


Please contact us if you have any questions about the Artist Diploma in Early Music program or the application and audition process.