Masters in Sacred Music vs. MA in liturgical music
  • Hi all,

    I'm hoping to go back to school and do a masters in liturgical music and was wondering if anyone knew the difference between an MA in litugical music and MSM (masters in sacred music).

    I'm considering the Notre Dame MSM program and the St John's University, College of St Benedict's MA program. I've also considered CUA but the program seems to be heavily skewed towards applied music and have too little of liturgy.

    I've been in touch with SJUCSB and they seem really welcoming and warm. It also appeals to me a bit more because I get to do composition as a concentration, and am not limited to either voice or organ like the MSM at Notre dame program is. I could do organ, but I doubt I'm good enough to major in it. Apparently they also have 7 organs on campus which is a huge plus for me. heh. Has anyone have had any experience with SJUCSB's program?

    Any ideas to other places I should consider would be great too! Thanks in advance.
  • Not a direct answer to this question, but there is some discussion of conservatory and educational options here.
  • miacoyne
    Posts: 1,805
    "if anyone knew the difference between an MA in litugical music and MSM (masters in sacred music)."

    Thank you for asking this.
    Honestly, I didn't know that, or didn't pay close attention to it at least.
    No wonder someone I know who graduated from CUA with masters' degree in sacred music seemed to be confused and have a hard time in putting and understanding liturgical music in the liturgy.
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  • mjballoumjballou
    Posts: 993
    My personal belief is that you should go where you think the faculty are the best for you. That's what will make the difference between enduring your degree and enjoying the process. (I've done both in non-musical areas.)

    The difference in the name of the graduate major isn't that important. In the long run, you'll just say, "I have a master's," not "I have a master's in LITURGICAL or SACRED music." Fr. Anthony Ruff is at St. John's and is certainly both chant and liturgy oriented. I think you can pick up everything you need as a non-cleric to know about liturgy in the course of a music degree (a great deal of which is the ability to talk a good game). And in my part of the country, liturgists without strong musical ability are being phased out as the churches tighten up budgets and priests reclaim their liturgical authority (admittedly with mixed results).

    And how I wish my user ID were expiredcornpop - that is so memorable.
  • miacoyne
    Posts: 1,805
    I know it's off the topic, but I want to make sure. Are 'sacred' and 'liturgical' music interchangeable terms in catholic church?
  • mweidner
    Posts: 1
    I hold a master's degree in sacred music from CUA (M.Mus. Sacred Music), which I earned in 2005. The degree was, until 2004, called a master's degree in liturgical music. The degree title was changed (I think) because liturgical music is a sub-category of sacred music. While all liturgical music is sacred music, not all sacred music is liturgical music (for example, some sacred music is suitable for concert use but not necessarily for liturgical use). The current title of the degree reflects what the program offers: solid training in liturgical music, as well as in other various forms of sacred music throughout history.

    I found the required coursework in liturgical theology to be more than sufficient (three graduate level courses). In addition to the liturgical theology courses, most of the other required courses offered by the music department are not just about music, but integrate liturgical theology, history, and practice.

    Overall, I found CUA's program to be an outstanding preparation to my work as an organist/music director. I would highly recommend it.
  • PaixGioiaAmorPaixGioiaAmor
    Posts: 1,473
    To add another question and dimension to this thread:

    I have been considering a Masters of Theological Studies degree, mainly for cost and convenience. I have foundational music training, hold the CAGO certificate from the AGO, and am taking the AAGO test soon ...

    So ... MTS degree ... good idea/bad idea?

    Opinions and thoughts?
  • I'm inclined to agree with MJBallou's ideas on this. Faculty is huge.

    A serious question- is there any MSM or MA in lit. music program in the U.S. that ranks alongside even mid-level music programs at secular universities or conservatories? What are audition standards like, etc.? I guess I ask because, though it sounded like a great idea to me, there is no substitution for rigorous musical training.

    (Most of that has to do with overall background and having an undergraduate degree or equivalent in music, I suppose.)

    I went to CUA to inquire about their master's program and have to say I was not impressed with the music program overall, so I figured I could do better by getting an MM. In fact a priest at CUA recommended just that. Why not study liturgy with a great mentor- or a few of them- and go for the better music programs?

    Considering developments in liturgy and sacred music these days, maybe there are some up-and-coming great music programs at Catholic universities. I would love that!
  • Pes
    Posts: 623

    What follows is a mixture of hearsay and observation,

    ND is very strong in academic chant studies (A. Blachly, P. Jeffery).

    It is quite strong in organ studies (C. Cramer, esp. northern German repertory).

    The Liturgical Choir is decent; the Chorale is decent; the size of the Schola Musicorum waxes and wanes.

    I've heard that vocal instruction at ND is a mixed bag.

    I don't know anything about their composition group other than that some people consider it too friendly to twelve-tone music and other esoteric novelties.

    I've heard three troubling things about the program overall:

    1) it is split administratively between Theology and Music on the one hand and between traditionalists and modernists in Music on the other -- there is a lot of rancor between them;
    2) at least some of the professors in the theology/liturgical component are openly hostile to RC teaching and tradition;
    3) choral duties are assigned arbitrarily: a tradition-minded student could be assigned to Steve Warner's "folk" choir, for example.

    Consequently, the worth of ND's program would be determined by hewing closely to a few professors, and holding your nose the rest of the time.

    The recent hire of Peter Jeffery and Margot Fassler (who will chair Music), however, is a very promising sign of both Catholicity and world-class quality -- something that ND very much needs these days, I'm afraid.
  • Thanks to all of you for your evaluation of ND and CUA's programs. I am also in the midst of researching a sacred music degree. I don't know if anybody will know much about this, but are there any strong Masters-level programs in sacred music in England? I'm working in the Anglican church and would love to study in the COE choral tradition. I've seen a few programs here and there (Bangor, Leeds), but don't know what might be considered a strong program. Any help would be greatly appreciated.
  • Blaise
    Posts: 439
    I'm curious, the MSM website at ND said that students could be assigned to serve their practicum in residence halls. So, I take it the residence halls have choirs?
  • Here is a list of accredited sacred music degree programs.

    The Association of Theological Schools in the United States and Canada

    The only Roman Catholic schools with approved sacred music degree programs listed are Aquinas Institute of Theology and University of Notre Dame Department of Theology.
  • CharlesW
    Posts: 11,927
    I tell students who want to study music, to learn something else, as well, that they can make a living at if necessary. I am assuming you have already done that, or plan to.
  • Where were you and your good advice in 1965?
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  • marajoymarajoy
    Posts: 781

    I like to quip that the *only* musicians who have jobs are those who DID study organ/church music! ;-)
  • What I'm really getting at is that schools like Catholic University, Duquesne University, Westminster Choir College, and Yale are not on the list even though they offer a sacred music degree.

    Does it matter? If not, then why?
  • CharlesW
    Posts: 11,927
    "Where were you and your good advice in 1965?"

    Hah! LOL.
  • DougS
    Posts: 793
    Jeffrey, CUA, etc. are not on the list because their degrees are not conferred by their respective departments/schools of theology, which seems to be the only interest of the Association of Theological Schools. It makes a difference.

    Personally, I wouldn't put much stock in this accreditation program when it comes to music degrees.
  • vinny
    Posts: 5
    I hold an MSM from Notre Dame (2009) and was very happy with the training. I studied organ with Craig Cramer and worked for Gail Walton (RIP) and Andrew McShane at the Basilica of the Sacred Heart with the Liturgical Choir, Women's Liturgical Choir, and the Basilica Schola. All MSM students (organists, choral conductors, and vocalists) study voice with Dr. Stephen Lancaster who is an excellent teacher. I was (and am) completely prepared and qualified for my current full-time job as Director of Music and Organist at a large Roman Catholic parish. Coursework in music and liturgy was excellent and well balanced between the two fields, and I don't know of anyone in any department who is considered "openly hostile" to Roman Catholic teaching. There are several non-Roman Catholic individuals who teach liturgy, and they are EXCELLENT scholars and teachers. The MSM is a great program and a great experience!!!
  • slide98
    Posts: 1
    I would like to add some more information regarding the MSM at Notre Dame, since I'm familiar with where it has been and where it is heading:

    It is indeed very strong academically in musicological, liturgical, and theological studies.

    It also has equally strong faculty now in all three concentrations of musical performance: Craig Cramer in organ, visiting faculty Carmen Tellez, Tom Merrill, & Nancy Menk in choral conducting, and Stephen Lancaster in voice.

    There is no composition concentration currently.

    To comment more on some of the perceived weaknesses:

    1) There is no split between "traditionalists" and "modernists" among the music department faculty and theology faculty. All academic faculty (musical and theological) are experts in their fields and encourage the highest possible standards from the students in their respective studies.

    2) There is no hostility on the part of any involved MSM faculty members towards RC theology and tradition.

    3) Placement duties are not assigned arbitrarily, HOWEVER, most students' practical church ministry placements are within Campus Ministry which is a completely separate and differently-governed entity from the MSM degree program. Campus ministry contains ensembles which range from traditional to contemporary and thus students may indeed work in an ensemble which does not resemble their preference. This is viewed as a strength of the program because it encourages students to interface with the wider range of musical style that they will encounter when they graduate and serve in parishes.

    There are also a handful of students whose placements are in local parishes and as assistant rectors in dormitories. The Mass is celebrated in each dorm chapel and students assigned to these chapels prepare the music.
  • matthewjmatthewj
    Posts: 2,691
    I find church musicians who are no longer church musicians make excellent bartenders. I have a friend who was an excellent choir director and organist, full time, for 15 years and then one day was fired unjustly. He decided to never look for another job in ecclesiastical music and decided to just become a bartender - now he makes an awful lot of money on tips and enjoys his job (and relatively stable job security, comparatively).

    You can always pour drinks if it doesn't work out.
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  • CharlesW
    Posts: 11,927
    "You can always pour drinks if it doesn't work out."

    Or stay on as a church musician and drink them. A good friend also works for the church. We agreed that we thought much more highly of the institution before we started working for it. It sometimes looks much better from the outside.
  • Aaron
    Posts: 108
    I am also a grad holding a MSM from Notre Dame, I second Vinny's comments.
  • ND grads- There's one voice teacher for all MSM students? How many students are there? Are MSM students required to take vocal pedagogy and/or give recitals of any length (in addition to juries)?
  • vinny
    Posts: 5
    Yes, there is one voice teacher for all MSM students (Dr. Stephen Lancaster). There are 16 students currently, divided among concentrations in organ, voice, and choral conducting. The conducting concentration was new as of the 2010-2011 academic year. All students are required to take voice lessons, and Dr. Lancaster also teaches a course in vocal/choral pedagogy. Each student must give two recitals (one each year) in their concentration which is double the standard requirement for an MM in most places. There are no juries, however.

    Last I heard, ND was second only to Yale's ISM in applications, so admission has gotten rather competitive in the past two-to-three years.