Nancy Jane Hermiston


Research Interests

opera, voice, theatre, interdisciplinary work with a diversity of fields and opera
Opera training and its effect on sculpting the brain - Wall Opera Project, Hermiston/L/Boyd/J Werker

Relevant Thesis-Based Degree Programs

Affiliations to Research Centres, Institutes & Clusters

Research Options

I am available and interested in collaborations (e.g. clusters, grants).
I am interested in and conduct interdisciplinary research.
I am interested in working with undergraduate students on research projects.

Research Methodology

Interdisciplinary research with linguistics and brain research - opera/music and the brain -shared research projects Dr. Lara Boyd/Dr. Janet Werker
use of equipment and methodologies in collaboration with research partners.


Master's students
Doctoral students
Postdoctoral Fellows
Any time / year round

Wall Opera Project - Does Opera Training sculpt the brain. Does the study of opera performance change the brain function for students with learning disabilities ? Does it have positive effects for all students studying opera. If there are positive effects to be found how could this help people who have other brain disfunctions or have succombed to diseases or stokes affecting the brain?

neurological/brain research scientists, opera singer or person passionate about opera and music in general, reading music and fluency in languages is an asset, team player, sensitive, caring person.

I support public scholarship, e.g. through the Public Scholars Initiative, and am available to supervise students and Postdocs interested in collaborating with external partners as part of their research.
I support experiential learning experiences, such as internships and work placements, for my graduate students and Postdocs.
I am open to hosting Visiting International Research Students (non-degree, up to 12 months).
I am interested in hiring Co-op students for research placements.

Complete these steps before you reach out to a faculty member!

Check requirements
  • Familiarize yourself with program requirements. You want to learn as much as possible from the information available to you before you reach out to a faculty member. Be sure to visit the graduate degree program listing and program-specific websites.
  • Check whether the program requires you to seek commitment from a supervisor prior to submitting an application. For some programs this is an essential step while others match successful applicants with faculty members within the first year of study. This is either indicated in the program profile under "Admission Information & Requirements" - "Prepare Application" - "Supervision" or on the program website.
Focus your search
  • Identify specific faculty members who are conducting research in your specific area of interest.
  • Establish that your research interests align with the faculty member’s research interests.
    • Read up on the faculty members in the program and the research being conducted in the department.
    • Familiarize yourself with their work, read their recent publications and past theses/dissertations that they supervised. Be certain that their research is indeed what you are hoping to study.
Make a good impression
  • Compose an error-free and grammatically correct email addressed to your specifically targeted faculty member, and remember to use their correct titles.
    • Do not send non-specific, mass emails to everyone in the department hoping for a match.
    • Address the faculty members by name. Your contact should be genuine rather than generic.
  • Include a brief outline of your academic background, why you are interested in working with the faculty member, and what experience you could bring to the department. The supervision enquiry form guides you with targeted questions. Ensure to craft compelling answers to these questions.
  • Highlight your achievements and why you are a top student. Faculty members receive dozens of requests from prospective students and you may have less than 30 seconds to pique someone’s interest.
  • Demonstrate that you are familiar with their research:
    • Convey the specific ways you are a good fit for the program.
    • Convey the specific ways the program/lab/faculty member is a good fit for the research you are interested in/already conducting.
  • Be enthusiastic, but don’t overdo it.
Attend an information session

G+PS regularly provides virtual sessions that focus on admission requirements and procedures and tips how to improve your application.



These videos contain some general advice from faculty across UBC on finding and reaching out to a potential thesis supervisor.

Graduate Student Supervision

Doctoral Student Supervision

Dissertations completed in 2010 or later are listed below. Please note that there is a 6-12 month delay to add the latest dissertations.

New thoughts and methods for teaching Chinese art song in Western universities (2023)

With the increasing number of Chinese international students majoring in voice performance and opera at universities in North America and the growing size of China’s singing market in recent years, teaching Chinese art song in Western universities and conservatories of music has become beneficial. This dissertation aims to provide a creative and innovative performance and academic pathway for instructors who have interest in Chinese art song, so as to allow them to have a more comprehensive understanding of the genre and more importantly to make them more able to incorporate Chinese art song into their curriculums. To achieve this goal, the information will be presented in the following chapters. Chapter 1 is a brief introduction to the history of Chinese art song’s development from 1900s to the present. Chapter 2 is the clarification of the definition of Chinese art song. By taking Chinese cultural factors into discussion, this chapter will allow instructors to have a better and more appropriate understanding of the genre. Chapter 3 is an exploration of the value of Chinese art song to Western vocal pedagogy; 16 pieces of Chinese art songs will be introduced as teaching materials for Western undergraduate voice performance programs. Chapter 4 is an introduction to a new approach to Mandarin IPA and the tutorial which will allow instructors to read and learn the pronunciation of lyrics of this genre more effectively even without a Mandarin coach. Chapter 5 is an auxiliary section providing the song descriptions, pinyin notation, new Mandarin IPA notation, lyric translations and word-by-word translations for the selected 16 pieces; and Appendix A is a collection of the sheet music for the 16 Chinese art songs for middle voice.

View record

The art songs of Nikolai Medtner (2023)

Nikolai Medtner (1880-1951), a Russian composer, is deserving of greater recognition for his music, particularly his art songs. Unfortunately, his songs have been critically neglected in the art song repertoire, both in terms of performance and scholarly research. This can be attributed to various factors, such as his uncompromising musical beliefs, high philosophical ideals, and the inherent complexity of his compositions, both in interpretation and musical demands.The purpose of this doctoral thesis is to provide performers with a gateway to approach Medtner's art songs, specifically focusing on his Op. 9 No. 1 and all four songs of Op. 45. To accomplish this, a comprehensive understanding of the composer is necessary, including his musical philosophy, beliefs, motivations, and personal relationships. Medtner's lifelong affinity for poetry serves as a starting point, which involves delving into his upbringing and interactions with others to elucidate his strong musical philosophy.The investigation then turns to Medtner's treatise, titled "The Muse and the Fashion," which provides insights into his controversial thoughts and motivations concerning music and his compositional process. By comprehending his firm musical philosophy and ideology, the subsequent analysis gains context and informs the exploration that follows. The study of these songs begins by examining the poetry and exploring how Medtner imbued meaning into his music based on his interpretation of the poems. Finally, the analysis narrows down to Op. 9 No. 1 and all four songs of Op. 45. The inclusion of the Op. 45 songs is significant, as they showcase Medtner's frequent utilization of innovative techniques with complex poetry. Conversely, Op. 9 No. 1 exemplifies his profound emotional connection with the poetry.Overall, this doctoral thesis seeks to shed light on Nikolai Medtner's underappreciated art songs and aims to provide performers with valuable insights and guidance in their interpretation and presentation of his works.

View record

Chunhyang-ga as pansori-style opera: a guide for performing pansori with classically-trained singers outside of Korea (2019)

My love of Korean traditional vocal music stemmed from my two years of living and working near Seoul as an English teacher. Upon returning to Canada, I entered a Masters program in music which required the performance of a recital. Choosing a Korean art song cycle for this recital sparked my research into other Korean vocal art forms. From this, I discovered changgeuk, which is commonly referred to as “Korean Traditional Opera,” and subsequently pansori, a traditional form of Korean sung storytelling on which changgeuk is based. A continued curiosity in these two traditional art forms during my UBC doctoral studies inspired me to question whether there was an in-road for classically-trained singers in North America to perform them, and led to this creative-interpretive thesis project. The purpose of this thesis, which includes a dissertation and performance project, is to provide an example of a possible guide and template for individuals or institutions interested in presenting an opera production of pansori material. It provides an overview of pansori's theory, historical background, and repertoire; the basics and history of changgeuk; details of the production process for my Lecture-Recital performance (singing Korean, transcribing a vocal score, arranging full scores, directing the drama, and presenting suitable visual aspects); and a distilling of the successes and challenges of this project into suggestions on how future productions of pansori-style opera may bepresented effectively. A great deal of the experience I gained from this project involved navigating the adaptations necessary for performing this traditional Korean source material with the resources available to me in a non-Korean location. I plan to expand this thesis project into a full opera production and hope that my efforts may encourage others to experiment with similar hybrids using traditional musical-theatrical material.Ultimately, the goal is to establish such cross-cultural experiments as a more frequent source for opera productions, increasing exposure and interest in the traditions on which they are based.

View record

A Canadian opera aria anthology for soprano (2017)

A problem that Canadian opera faces is that once works are premiered, they rarely receive any further performances. Singers must overcome numerous barriers to sing these works due to limited score accessibility and lack of aria adaptations and recordings. Even if singers feel passionately about Canadian opera, such obstacles may impede their motivation to perform Canadian repertoire.This thesis aims to increase the awareness and accessibility of Canadian opera through the creation of a “Canadian Opera Aria Anthology for Soprano.” The anthology includes background information about the operas, composer and librettist biographies, opera synopses, and aria adaptations. In addition, performance and interpretive guides have been formed from the author’s own research in performing these works, available recordings, and from information gathered from the author’s interviews with the composers and librettists.Hopefully the arias within this anthology will not only provide singers with useful arias for auditions, but also give them and their audience a lens through which they may better understand Canadian opera and culture. Ultimately, this research aims to increase the recognition of Canadian opera and to develop a greater interest and appreciation for these works so that one day, they may become a part of the standard operatic repertoire and reach both Canadian and international stages.

View record

African and Western Aspects of Ballanta's Opera "Afiwa" (2016)

Nicholas George Julius Ballanta (1893-1962) was a Sierra Leonean composer, ethnomusicologist and scholar. Trained in Western art and church music both in his home country and in the United States, he also conducted many years’ research into tribal music in Africa, and indeed was a pioneer in the study of West African music. His most complete opera is “Afiwa,” which sets the story of a girl who stands up to her father, the king of the Anlo Ewe tribe in Ghana, for atrocities he had committed at her birth. This study identifies what is uniquely African yet also Western about Ballanta’s “Afiwa”. In chapter 1, an introduction to the work is presented, including Ballanta’s biography. In Chapter 2, I determine what Ballanta believed to be characteristic of the African music he studied by examining his writings about rhythm, melody, form, texture and harmony. In Chapter 3, I cite numerous passages from “Afiwa” where these characteristics are found. My conclusion is that Ballanta combined both African and Western musical aspects in this opera. Chapter 4 goes beyond the music to explain, referencing the 2010 Cottey College production, aspects of the libretto, plot and staging that will help any future producers to understand the opera better so as to provide as authentic a production as possible.

View record

Creative Differences: Sendak's and Knussen's Intended Audiences of Where the Wild Things Are and Higglety Pigglety Pop! (2015)

Author and illustrator Maurice Sendak and composer Oliver Knussen collaborated on two one-act operas based on Sendak’s picture books Where the Wild Things Are and Higglety Pigglety Pop! or There Must Be More to Life. Though they are often programmed as children’s operas, Sendak and Knussen labeled the works fantasy operas, but have provided little commentary on any distinction between these labels. Through examination of their notes and commentary on the operas, published reviews and analysis of the operas, e-mail interviews conducted with operatic administrators and composers of children’s operas, and my analysis of the two works I intend to show that Sendak and Knussen had different target audiences in mind as they created these works.

View record

Stylistic Fusion in the Cabaret Songs of Benjamin Britten and WH Auden: A Performer's Analysis (2010)

The Cabaret Songs of W.H. Auden and Benjamin Britten merge characteristics of a multitude of styles. The purpose of this document is to investigate the fusion of styles making up the Cabaret Songs and to analyze them from a performer’s perspective with the goal of providing collaborative partnerships with an historical and musical foundation on which to build their interpretation of the Cabaret Songs and thereby serve as a basis for informed performance decisions.Chapter 1 includes biographical information for both Benjamin Britten and W.H. Auden focusing on how the two artists met and discusses their working relationship during the seven years in which they collaborated. Also included is a short section of relevant biographical information on the singer/actress Hedli Anderson for whom the Cabaret Songs were created. Chapter 2 includes a brief overview of the history of the European cabaret-artistique and examines the creation and development of this art form. Examples of cabaret songs from other composers, namely Erik Satie, Kurt Weill, Friedrich Hollaender, and Noel Coward are given to show the musical soil of the era, from which the Britten and Auden pieces sprouted. Chapter 3 discusses the Cabaret Songs on a song-by-song basis and provides a musical analysis from a performer’s perspective, outlining the different musical influences in each song and investigating the cross-pollination of musical styles. The songs will be examined for characteristics of traditional European art song, operatic elements, American popular song elements, European dance rhythms and elements of original European cabaret.

View record

The roles of "mothers" in opera as exemplified by Fides (Meyerbeer’s Le Prophete); Kostelnicka (Janacek’s Jenufa); Mrs. Patrick de Rocher (Heggie’s Dead Man Walking) (2009)

Mothers in operatic plots are mostly absent; when present, they are generally sung by a mezzo-soprano and are considered “supporting” roles. This dissertation attempts to elucidate what led to the scarcity of mothers as important characters in opera, and to the apparent stereotyping of the role with the mezzo-soprano voice type. Chapter 1 introduces the topic, while chapter 2 explores the aesthetics of the singing voice throughout various periods during which the “preferred vocal ideal” changed, as vocal ranges were equated with the personification and stereotyping of certain character types. Influences which affected the evolution of plot paradigms are also investigated. A summary of opera libretti from the seventeenth to the twentieth century supports historical evidence drawn from the above context and identifies the mother characters in these operas (see Appendix A). Chapters 3, 4, and 5 offer three case studies of the treatment of operatic “mothers”who are central to the plot of the operas in which they, respectively, appear: Fids from Giacomo Meyerbeer’s Le Prophète, Kostelnicka from Janácek’s Jenufa, and Mrs. Patrick DeRocher from Jake Heggie's Dead Man Walking. Each includes an investigation of theopera’s context, the dramatic study of the mother character, an analysis of the musicalsettings of the drama, and performance aspects. A brief interview with Jake Heggie is included in Appendix B. This study concludes that the presence/absence of the mother character is influenced by vocal aesthetics as conventionalized by Metastasian opera seria plots, and by subsequentopera plot conventions formulated through socio-cultural values. Despite the difference in time, place and musical style among the operas studied, the problems and feelings of the mother character have not changed much from the nineteenth century to the twentieth. Whether sung by a mezzo-soprano, or, occasionally, by a soprano, a timeless stereotype of the mother character emerges: a woman tormented between the love for her children and her moral duties.

View record

Master's Student Supervision

Theses completed in 2010 or later are listed below. Please note that there is a 6-12 month delay to add the latest theses.

Role of the Asahi baseball player in the opera Shadow catch (2023)

No abstract available.

Role of The Maple Tree Spirit in Shadow Catch, composers: Dorothy Chang, Benton Roark, Jennifer Butler and Farshid Samandari (2022)

No abstract available.

Mansfield Park role study (2021)

No abstract available.

The role of "Don Giovanni" in "Don Giovanni" (2020)

No abstract available.

Role of Jonathan Dale in Silent Night Composer: Kevin Puts (2019)

No abstract available.

Role of Lensky in Eugene Onegin (2018)

No abstract available.

Role of Magda in The Consul (2017)

No abstract available.

Role of Poussette in Manon, Composer: Jules Massenet (2016)

No abstract available.

Role of Count Almavira in Le Nozze di Figaro. Composer: Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (2015)

No abstract available.

Role of "Rusalka" in "Rusalka" by AntonIn DvoYak (2013)

No abstract available.

Role of Mayor Upfold in "Albert Herring" (2012)

No abstract available.

Role(s) of George Cartier/Donald Smith/General Middleton in Louis Riel Composer: Harry Sommers (2011)

No abstract available.

The Role of "Zita" in "Gianni Schicchi" by Puccini (2010)

No abstract available.


Membership Status

Member of G+PS
View explanation of statuses


Vancouver General Hospital

Program Affiliations

Academic Unit(s)


If this is your researcher profile you can log in to the Faculty & Staff portal to update your details and provide recruitment preferences.


Discover the amazing research that is being conducted at UBC!