Graduate Degree - music or Liturgy?
  • Hi,

    I am looking for advice on a possible graduate degree. I work for a fairly small Midwest parish as the Music/Liturgy Coordinator. I happened into this position 2 & a half years ago when I was freshly graduated with an Undergrad Piano Performance degree and pretty limited knowledge of the Liturgy. I've learned quickly how little I had known about the Liturgy so I've done what I can to rectify that in the meantime.

    My Pastor has been hinting that he'd be open to me working on a Masters Degree, and the dilemma I'm facing is this. Would it be more worthwhile to try and get a Masters in Liturgical or Sacred music, or a Masters in Liturgy? In terms of time, this job is full time, and me and my family aren't planning to leave town. Unfortunately, there's no college in town offering either degree. So I don't know that I can reasonably take 2 years to go get a Masters in music, but opinions from people I've talked to and read on this forum would suggest that liturgy could be learned well enough from a mentor. Advice from anyone who has gotten a masters in either and now works in a Parish setting is much appreciated.
  • River of the north,

    Which degree you get (and how much value it actually has) will depend in large part on where you choose to take the degree (or, in the event, how you choose to take the degree).

    While there is some value in attending classes or workshops put on by those who can't wait to inculturate the liturgy, I suggest that you start somewhere else.

    There are two purposes to having you get an advanced degree
    1) To give the pastor the chance to raise your salary.
    2) To correct your (I guess) insufficiently modern thinking.

  • irishtenoririshtenor
    Posts: 1,201
    Sort of piggy-backing on what CGZ was saying: why exactly do you want this degree? Who's going to pay for it? Will you be paid more after earning it?

    I hold a BA and MMus (neither in sacred music or liturgical anything, just regular performance degrees). I do believe they have helped open doors for me, but the great bulk of any liturgical knowledge I have gained has been through self-study.

    I have been impressed with the students I've encountered from the new Master of Sacred Music program at the University of St. Thomas in Houston, for whatever that's worth.
  • CharlesW
    Posts: 11,000
    I tell kids to not go into church music or teaching if they want to be wealthy. There's little money in either. If you either have outside resources to back you up or don't mind living on less, then go for it. It never hurts to have an alternate degree in case you need to make money.

    Right about the degree opening doors. True about learning mostly through self-study, including experience, and interacting with other musicians.
  • SalieriSalieri
    Posts: 2,713
    Just my two cents:

    I would suggest going for a Masters in Music.

    If you go for a Masters in Sacred Music, I would be selective about where you attend, but since your professors would almost all be musicians, I would assume that you would come out of most places with a great deal of knowledge of music and a fair bit about liturgy--at least as much as most jobbing church musicians need to know.

    If you went for a Masters in Liturgy, I have a feeling that, since your professors would mostly be liturgists, you'd probably come out with a great deal of Aggiornamento, little-to-no knowledge of actual liturgical history, and a great contempt for Sacred Music as you hand out bongos and tambourines to your choir.

    Remember the old saw about liturgists and terrorists...
  • kevinfkevinf
    Posts: 1,126

    Your question goes to the heart of the problem as to the education of Roman Catholic musicians. When I was your age ( Im sort of old), I was told to get my music degree and go to summer school to get liturgy knowledge. So I got my MM in organ and I went to ND (Notre Dame) for liturgy work for summers. At that time ND had some pretty special faculty ( Robert Taft, John MacQuarrie, Paul Bradshaw) or so we thought at the time. So I did this for three summers. Loved ND, the faculty were okay.

    In the mid 90's I became disillusioned with the state of liturgy. I read Papa Benedict's book and was "illumined." Funny because I knew it was there all along because of my study of Charles Tournemire and the French liturgy and Gregorian chant. Suddenly all that junk at ND became useless and I realized I was under the spell of the modernists and even people who were only nominally Catholic.

    Fast forward a few years, I went to an early CMAA event and learned a lot. I continued my study on my own and also attended a number of workshops about chant. I read everything I could on the Latin rite and its history. I travelled many summers to chant experiences and I queried everyone I could about the old rites and chant. I learned so much on my own and now it is second nature to me. Do I still have lots to learn? Yes. I currently mentor two folks. Lots of fun for me.

    Based on my own experience, get your technique good on the organ. Know that you will learn very little in many programs on such things as accompanying chant, planning and using the gradual.

    Find a mentor to teach you liturgy. And connect up with that person frequently. Ask such questions as what are the sequences, the shape of the communion antiphons, the rhythm of the year in terms of the music, not the damn ABC cycle, even though you need to know that also. The nature of the hymn in the Novus Ordo as opposed to the EF. Why do this as opposed to that. Read William Mahrt's book on the liturgy. Go to one or two colloquiums of the CMAA but not too many. Find like minded folks in your neighborhood ( think of the neighborhood as really big.)

    Message me if you wish to ask more questions. Doing this now 37 years and still learning. Fides quaes intellectum and lex orandi,lex credendi.

  • BruceL
    Posts: 1,049
    If you must take a degree, take one in music, preferably organ or sacred music. The liturgy one is only going to be worth something if 1) you are in academia (and even then, a Catholic seminary is going to want a licentiate or doctorate, not a secular degree), or 2) you are gunning for one of like three lay liturgical director jobs in the country. Those are going to be mostly paper pushing, and you're going to spend a lot of time convincing gentlemen in collars that they should listen to you even though you don't have a collar.

    The other thing for people in this conundrum is that many MM programs won't take you for a grad degree if you don't have an undergrad music degree. This is just foolish, but it's the reality (a friend of mine recently had this issue with the very fine Notre Dame program, even though he has an MLS from Yale ISM).
  • canadashcanadash
    Posts: 1,467
    My immediate reaction is do the music and learn to better your playing on an instrument. This is what sets you apart. You can learn the liturgy by reading what YOU think and what excellent mentors believe is important to read.
  • NihilNominisNihilNominis
    Posts: 632
    There is a summer-only Master of Church Music at Concordia University Wisconsin. I'm enrolled now, on year 2 of 3. Excellent instructors, and the Lutheran perspective is close enough to home to matter, actually teaching you some things you can use, but at enough of a distance, for me at least, to make for a tranquil study environment -- no intestine war between Catholic circles.

    Affordable tuition and housing, and they are open to qualified candidates without a B.Mus. Because it is summer only, faculty come to teach from all over. Some big names, too, at least in Luther country. Next summer is hymnody with Paul Westermeyer and composition with David Cherwein. But a very kind, supportive, collegial environment among students and faculty.

    Really, you should drop Dr. Freese a line and apply for next summer's term.

    Specializations in Organ, Choral, or Bells are offered.

    There is a good amount of (pretty ecumenically applicable) reflection on theology /liturgy in the coursework, but it skews heavily towards *musical* formation, which I appreciate.

    Campus on the shore of Lake Michigan (picturesque), former convent, and a glorious 50-something rank Steiner-Reck in the very live and surprisingly beautiful chapel.
  • NihilNominis -

    Not only Anglo-Catholics,
    but some high church Lutherans are more Catholic than some (quite a few) Catholics.
    While considering Lutheran schools, Valparaiso is good, high church, and has a marvelous Schlicker organ.

    I have long maintained that a choirmaster and a priest (with maybe a master of ceremonies thrown in) who know their liturgy, know the 'documents' and can read rubrics have no need of a 'liturgist'. Was this functionary even heard of or thought of before the so called 'Spirit of Vatican II' (not Vatican II) called it into being?

    This is a roundabout way of asserting that a graduate degree in sacred music would equip one more than anything as fully as need be to fulfill the musico-liturgical needs of a parish, cathedral, or abbey. 'Liturgists' are likely to know next to nothing about music, whereas a fully developed church musician will know his (or her) liturgy backwards and forward.

    I'll put another plug in for UST Houston's new Master of Sacred Music program. I know some of the people there (faculty and students) and can vouch that they are as good as can be found. Chair of the music dpt. is Dr Brady Knapp, choirmaster of Palmer Episcopal (Fisk), and holding a doctorate in voice paedagogy from Rice. The organ instructor is Dr Jeong-Suk Bae, who received her doctorate under Robert Bates at the UofH. Other faculty are equally qualified. The one drawback, thus far, to UST, is the rather limited 20-or-so rank Schoenstein organ. It is, admittedly, versatile for its size, but, considering that the chapel itself is an architectural (and acoustical!!!) gem designed by Philip Johnson himself, the organ is hardly of the calibre that the building deserves. Exposure, though, may be had to a plethora of world-class organs in Houston - including but not by any means limited to the magnificent Martin Pasi instrument at the Co-Cathedral of the Sacred Heart and the 97 rank Aeolian-Skinner at Christ Church Cathedral.
    (And, of course!, one could visit [or belong to!] Walsingham.)
  • Thanks everyone. I can't say I'm surprised by most of your advice, since I've learned a lot about Liturgy on my own but wouldn't have been able to get the equivalent of my Bachelors degree without studying.

    And Salieri, my job is understood in my parish more or less as Liturgist... am I doomed?? Or will my love of Gregorian chant/polyphony/latin/all-that-good-stuff be enough to keep me from terrorizing the parish? :)
  • ELapisardi
    Posts: 31
    In my former diocese, most of the full time positions were "Director of Music and Liturgy." As a convert with a very secular bachelor's degree in vocal performance (but I did play a nun in an opera once...), I knew that I needed to both strengthen my skills as an organist and improve my knowledge of liturgy to be qualified for one of these positions. I was fortunate enough to live within commuting distance of Duquesne University, so simultaneously began my master's in sacred music and a certificate in liturgy through Notre Dame's online STEP program. We did also have a class in liturgics at Duquesne, but the STEP program had already allowed me to familiarize myself with most of the key topics and issues covered in that course-- my final grade was 100%. One of the things I appreciated about STEP was that they exposed us to the church documents, fostered online discussion, and did not try to push an "agenda." While my own inclinations are probably more liturgically conservative than many of the other students, that never seemed to be an issue. After completing both programs, I was hired as a music director (and not as a liturgy/music director) in another diocese, but one of the priests with whom I work has indicated that my study of liturgics was one of the key factors in my hiring. Although it is not a master's degree, the STEP program's online format might be convenient in your situation; thorough self-guided study is also very effective when it comes to learning about liturgy, but less so for organ technique and/or choral conducting.
  • Jackson,

    You may not know that there's a book called Death of a Liturgist?
    Thanked by 1CharlesW