James Slipp ’25 Has a Song to Share And A Conversation That He’s Happy To Start
James Slipp ’25 describes his academic journey as a music performance major as having “diversified and expanded.”
He doesn’t just perform vocal music — he is a pianist, and in Concert Band, he is a euphonium player. This semester, as part of a composition class, his first performance premiere of a musical piece was a success, unveiled during the Student Composers Recital.
A music education major to start, James switched to focus more on performance and studio teaching as a career pursuit.
“I have learned more about my musical interests through my courses, and I discovered a love of performing opera and early music through Keene State’s Opera Workshop and the Early Music Ensemble, Vocal Consort. I have also learned, from my vocal pedagogy class, which examines the anatomy and physiology of the singing voice, that I have a passion for teaching.”
He added: “I knew I wanted to study music in high school, but I am grateful to have had the ability to find out what I specifically wanted to study at Keene State.”
His journey is deeper than all of this. A baritone, James has taken master classes with professionals from across the country. He performed with the Concert Choir in Einbeck, Germany, and collaborates with professional ensembles locally.
Equally notable, James, a transgender male, was a featured presenter at the 2023 New Hampshire Music Educators Association Fall In-Service Conference in Nashua. He presented a peer-reviewed interest session titled Supporting Singers with the Transmasculine Changing Voice: Considerations for Music Educators focused on the transmasculine singing voice.
“It was excellent and received very well from music educators and pre-service teachers,” remarks Dr. Sandra Howard, Professor of Music and Coordinator of Choral Music Education at Keene State, says of the presentation.
“Transgender vocal pedagogy is important to me because of my own experience and research,” says James, a Sandown, N.H., resident. “I was nervous to present at a professional conference at 20 years old, but it was a fulfilling experience. When I first came to college, I was struggling with my voice changing from hormone replacement therapy. Here, I have gained a lot more confidence and experience as a vocalist, and I want to pursue a career in performance and studio teaching with an emphasis on teaching transgender vocalists.”
At Keene State, James says, he found not just community, but a campus culture where respect and inclusion, open conversations, and safe spaces are not talking points but relentless, focused pursuits.
“Faculty, my peers, they have done nothing but accept and support me.”
“James has made himself an extremely valuable resource for voice teachers, choir directors, and others who are transitioning,” says Daniel Carberg, Professor of Music and Coordinator of Vocal Activities at Keene State.
The Music Department, as a whole, attracts a high number of LGBTQ+ students, and this has been particularly true over the past few years, Carberg says. “I believe that when LGBTQ+ high school and transfer students visit our program, they can picture themselves here in a warm, supportive, safe, and welcoming environment.”
I was nervous when I had to audition as a vocal major. I was worried about not being accepted. But I found just the opposite here … professors and students who were so accommodating, who were there cheering me on and wanting to lift me up.”
– James Slipp ‘25
It is not an easy time to feel valued and equal when culture wars rage and seek to undermine and even exclude marginalized populations. All the more reason, James says, to find a community of belonging.
“I was nervous when I had to audition as a vocal major,” James recalls. “I was worried about not being accepted. But I found just the opposite here … professors and students who were so accommodating, who were there cheering me on and wanting to lift me up.”
James also credits the college’s music faculty with helping him to identify opportunities and feel empowered to go after them.
The conference is a “wonderful” example, he says. It was a mix of K-12 music teachers, collegiate music teachers, and music students from other colleges and universities. James says his research and real-life story inspired an engaged conversation with educators on pedagogical practices to best help transmasculine vocalists through the exciting but also challenging process of vocal change.
Research regarding how Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT) affects transgender vocalists is insufficient, James presented, so music educators must continue to seek further guidance to enhance this aspect of their teaching approach. A form of gender-affirming care, HRT is a way to medically replace the primary hormones present in a person’s body.
His presentation focused on adolescent and young adult singers with the transmasculine changing voice in the music classroom and voice studio, as well as in a choral ensemble setting.
Due to fear of vocal damage or loss of progress in vocal technique many transgender vocalists are hesitant to pursue HRT treatment, he says.
Right now, James is preparing for graduate school auditions, which take place next semester. Besides his greater ambition to perform and teach applied voice lessons, James says he will not lose his focus on helping other transgender musicians realize there is a place for them in vocal music.
“College is even better than I hoped it would be. Keene State in general has a great community environment, especially in the music department. I regularly get together to rehearse or hang out with classmates. I live on campus with five other music majors.
“I’ve learned that you don’t have to have everything figured out all at once when you start college. Your interests and passions will become clear to you as you continue to have new experiences.”
His journey of discovery — of career, and self — remains a work in progress and always will, he says. But the triumphs are real, meaningful, and what drives him.
“I’m happy to be doing what I love. I’m now a regular 20-year-old baritone… in tone and sound.”