The Sacred Music Program is situated at heart of the mission of the University of Notre Dame. Ecumenical in nature, but with a Roman Catholic core, it serves to train the entire person, from childhood to advanced graduate study, in knowledge and practice of sacred music. It is from this program that the academy will find its teachers, both of scholarship and of performance, and the church will find it leaders both pastoral and lay. Our program nurtures the congregations of the future, and the audiences for music of many kinds. Our engagement, writ large, is with the ongoing transformation of the musical life of the Christian Churches, with special concern for the life of the Roman Catholic Church. Our Program gives back daily to the region through our work in the parishes, where every student has an assistantship, through the powerful presence of our recitals, open to all throughout the year, and through numerous events that relate to the life of the church and community.
Notre Dame's Calvin M. Bower Doctorate in the Music Arts was founded in 2013, and is to be awarded to students majoring in organ or in choral conducting. Our doctorate has been formed with many innovative features. Each student will present a lecture-recital, usually based on the subject of the doctoral thesis. It is a goal that Notre Dame students are articulate spokespeople for the art they serve. Choral conducting students give recitals called "performing the scholarship," which grow directly out of course work, and that use the members of the class as part of the ensemble. The splendid organs at Notre Dame—including the Paul Fritts tracker in the Reyes Organ and Choral Hall and the new Fritts organ in the Basilica of the Sacred Heart—call to our students both as artists and as intellectuals.
The Master of Sacred Music degree is awarded to students in choral conducting, voice, and organ. There is a total of eighteen students in residence for this two-year program. About half of the students go from out of this program to work in the churches. In this capacity, these Notre Dame students will be agents of cultural change in the communities they serve, training congregations in their abilities to make music with "full heart and full voice," and with special attention to the musical formation of child chorister. A second half will eventually seek advanced degrees, either as DMA's or with PhD's, and will go on to lead both from major church positions and/or in the academy.
Many faculty affiliated with the Program in Sacred Music are dedicated teachers of undergraduates, both in the Departments of Music and of Theology. Through our work at Notre Dame talented undergraduates become part of the work of the most skilled graduate students in the art of music. We have recently begun an initiative in the Notre Dame's Rome Center: Sacred Music, East and West. This program has competitive scholarships for undergraduates to join with our graduate students in exploring the church architecture of the Eternal City, and bringing our choirs, vocalists and organists to present and perform.
To achieve its broad aspirations the Program has several programs of study, beginning with the newly founded Notre Dame Children's Choir, directed by Dr. Mark Doerries. This ecumenical choir, currently supported by a grant from Lilly Endowment, Inc., has in just a short time become a major performing force in our region, with lively concerts, some of which are staged. The NDCC moves out into the community, giving the children chances to see what it is like to sing for a variety of audiences and in many venues. We are attentive to the musical formation of each child, with voice lessons for all. The deepening of knowledge of the great repertories of Christian music is supplemented by our interest in contemporary music and commissioning of new works for the choir.