Best Organ/Choral/Church Music programs
  • PaixGioiaAmorPaixGioiaAmor
    Posts: 1,473
    What would you say are the best schools (and teachers) with which to get an advanced degree (MM or DMA/PhD) in Organ, Choral Conducting, or Church Music?


    How would you rank these (inter-)nationally known schools?

    Indianna
    Julliard
    Cleveland Institute of Music
    University of Michigan
    University of Cincinnatti
    Eastman
    North Texas

    I'm an entering grad student at one of the above named schools, but even if you know which it is, don't let that color your answers. I'd like to know where colleagues rate these schools. Oberlin is deliberately left off because they do not offer graduate level organ study (unless you count historical performance, which I'm leaving out of this particular discussion.)
  • CharlesW
    Posts: 10,007
    I have always considered Cleveland and Indiana at the top of the heap. Others may differ, but as the CA sage says, YMMV.
  • If you want only choral conducting, the University of Louisville has an outstanding director. You would have the chance to sing with a uncommonly good choir too. I don't think any collegiate choir is more internationally known. I feel like the choral vocal style encouraged there is ideal for chant/polyphony/Church music. One of his students has gone on to conduct the National Chorus of Korea.

    View list of UofL master's degrees here (There is an organ one too).

    Louisville is a very Catholic city with probably about 40 parishes or so, so I bet you could find work too.
  • PaixGioiaAmorPaixGioiaAmor
    Posts: 1,473
    Thanks Hilary. At the moment this is theoretical and informational only. But I'll keep this in mind!
  • SkirpRSkirpR
    Posts: 853
    University of Michigan is the king of DMA Choral Conducting programs right now. While their graduates know their stuff, I don't find all of them particularly engaging on the podium (clear, but not engaging), but they all seem to get jobs no problem because of the reputation of the program. Just my own frank opinion.

    There are also way too many DMAs in Choral Conducting being produced in the US for the number of college and university positions. The college/university job market for DMAs in Choral Conducting is approaching that of PhDs in English.
    Thanked by 1Felipe Gasper
  • For organ performance, my vote is for Eastman, with Julliard as a second.
    Thanked by 1CHGiffen
  • redsox1
    Posts: 191
    Indiana. Great organ teachers, including Bruce Neswick who is a phenomenal church musician and improviser. Excellent conducting program. TWO Fisk organs!
  • ClergetKubiszClergetKubisz
    Posts: 1,895
    Notre Dame comes to mind.
    Thanked by 1CHGiffen
  • PaixGioiaAmorPaixGioiaAmor
    Posts: 1,473
    Skip, did you mean University of Michigan or Michigan State University?

    I don't see it as a negative to have saturation in a degree area. To me it means that with so many DMA's the very best with the best resumes will get the jobs, thus raising overall quality.
  • SkirpRSkirpR
    Posts: 853
    University of Michigan.

    I don't see it as a negative to have saturation in a degree area. To me it means that with so many DMA's the very best with the best resumes will get the jobs, thus raising overall quality.


    And you'd be right, except for a few things. First, we'd like to think that's how the hiring process works in higher education. It's not. I've seen too many excellent all-around choral conductors not get jobs, and seeing who actually got the job left me scratching my head as to whether it's really a meritocracy, and if it is, exactly what the criteria is.

    Also I see a ton of technicians abounding in the field. (This applies primarily to the US.) Where (my sense is) in the 80s and early 90s, the pendulum may have been stacked too high on feel-good choral performance, at conferences I now see [too] many technically wonderful performances devoid of any feeling or audience connection. But this total swing in the opposite direction doesn't seem to concern the "market" at all.

    Many of the faculty in choral DMA programs are only just beginning to realize how difficult the job market is for their students. (A lot of the old timers refuse to acknowledge it and think things are just as they were in their day.) And the curriculum and prevailing attitude of many DMA programs is that the students are all going to hold university positions upon graduation, and those who do not are failures.

    I know this may come across as bitter, and I'm trying hard not to be so, because I'm honestly happy and content with how my own post-DMA life has turned out. I've had opportunities to serve the Church in the past few years that I frankly enjoy more and wouldn't have had had I gone the traditional route, but I just want those interested in following that route to know the truth of the higher ed choral world. It is not for the faint of heart! - and that statement has nothing at all to do with musical resolve!
  • Adam WoodAdam Wood
    Posts: 6,304
    There will always be a glut of Doctoral students if a University position is the only desirable employment option. It's just simple logic:

    At any University, in any School, in any Department, compare:
    -the number of students who earn a Doctorate in any given year, to
    -the number of new faculty members hired.

    One can hope and plan and work towards one's goals, but it is ridiculous to function as if the primary goal of Doctorate programs (in any field) is creating University professors.
  • PaixGioiaAmorPaixGioiaAmor
    Posts: 1,473
    Thanks Skip. That's good insight and information. My personal philosophy for ME is that I'd like to get the highest level of education possible without going into massive debt to do it, thus opening up as many opportunities as possible be they church work, being a professor, teaching high school, etc.
  • Liam
    Posts: 3,757
    Actually, gluts are not a great thing in actual practice. Harvests of academic graduates occur annually, and the success of each harvest depends on what positions happen to be open in the period right after the harvest. Consequently, fantastic candidates may not find openings suited to their talents, and may therefore seek employment in another field for which they have sufficient transferable skills. I've seen this happen with tremendously gifted musicians, and it's not good.

    And this dynamic also discourages truly gifted people from entering the field to begin with.
  • SkirpRSkirpR
    Posts: 853
    One can hope and plan and work towards one's goals, but it is ridiculous to function as if the primary goal of Doctorate programs (in any field) is creating University professors.


    Exactly, but as the exponential growth of the DMA-required position, and university music programs in general coincided with the period when many of today's DMA-program directors got their start, they are unaware of this.