Making Connections: Music and Science

Curriculum written by Cynthia Stokes, Curriculum Specialist
Illustrations and consulting by Jennifer Tsau, Ph.D.


San Diego Opera’s Department of Education and Outreach is committed to examining the connection between opera and science through a series of lessons focusing on the human vocal system and how humans make sound.


The human voice is an extraordinary instrument and was most likely the very first musical instrument created. All other instruments, scales and sounds were initially created as a response to the human voice. Through the speaking voice a wealth of information is revealed about an individual. The following lessons examine the anatomy of the upper respiratory system, how sound is produced, a detailed exploration of the vocal cords and folds, a discussion of vocal health and a look at why humans respond to music.

Big Understandings:

Students will:

  • Create a model of the vocal apparatus.
  • Participate in simple exercises to identify parts of the vocal system.
  • Practice exercises in vocal health.
  • Examine the connection between human physiology and the beautiful sound that singers make.


These lessons are prepared for middle and high school students and were developed based upon California Science and Music Standards.

Science Standards

  • Structure and Function in Living Systems
  • 5 c Students know how bones and muscles work together to provide a structural framework for movement.

Music Standards

  • Creative Expression
  • 2.1 Sing a repertoire of vocal literature representing various genres, styles, and cultures with expression, technical accuracy, tone quality, vowel shape, and articulation written and memorized, by oneself and in ensembles.


Please click each link below:

Physics Connections

Physical Science Connections