Leigh Van Handel

Associate Professor

Relevant Thesis-Based Degree Programs


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.

A concise guide for teaching non-Chinese speaking singers to sing early Chinese national opera (2024)

Currently, the goal of the Chinese opera society is to establish a “school of Chinese opera” worldwide, expanding its international influence to position Chinese opera as part of mainstream repertoires in global opera houses. This thesis focuses on the early Chinese national operas, which serve as the pivotal starting point in the history of Chinese opera development. Due to limitations in singing techniques, these operas have struggled to abandon microphones, hindering audiences from experiencing the vocal charm found in Western operas. Consequently, contemporary scholars advocate that performing these operas should adopt the scientific Bel Canto singing tradition, similar to Western operas. Chapters 1 and 2 of this thesis introduce the research background and significance of early Chinese national opera. Chapter 3 exposes the technical challenges faced during their development. Chapters 4, 5, and 6 propose pedagogical methods for teaching early Chinese national opera excerpts, including teaching steps, a novel concise IPA-based Mandarin diction guide for singing, and corresponding IPA and singing tips for selected excerpts from the renowned opera Sister Jiang. The goal is to balance Bel Canto’s singing technique, traditional Chinese Xiqu musical elements, and Mandarin diction in performances, enabling non-Chinese speaking singers to engage with such works rapidly. Focusing on excerpts from Sister Jiang, this research contributes to a deeper understanding of historical context, vocal techniques, and the stylistic evolution of early Chinese national opera. By promoting nuanced comprehension of Chinese linguistic and musical expressions, this thesis is a valuable resource for aspiring singers and educators, facilitating engagement with the rich heritage of Chinese operatic traditions globally. This study, fostering cross-cultural exchange, marks a significant step toward the internationalization of Chinese opera.

View record

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

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.

Musical babes: Clara Macirone and Oliveria Prescott's role in Victorian-era girls' music education (2024)

No abstract available.

A corpus study of tone-melody correspondence in Cantopop, 2000-2020 (2023)

No abstract available.

Current Students & Alumni

This is a small sample of students and/or alumni that have been supervised by this researcher. It is not meant as a comprehensive list.

Membership Status

Member of G+PS
View explanation of statuses

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.


Explore our wide range of course-based and research-based program options!