History and Timeline

Explore the history of Sacred Music at Notre Dame and its growth into a leader in the study and performance of sacred music. The timeline belows chronicles our expansion into a doctoral program, the growth of the Notre Dame Children's Choir, and new faculty recruited from Yale, Princeton, Indiana University, and the University of Michigan.

  • Cramer At The Organ


    MSM Degree Begins

    Rev. Michael Driscoll, associate professor of theology, and Craig Cramer, professor of music, begin the Master of Sacred Music (MSM) degree, and situate it in the Department of Theology. Class of three is admitted. Our placement record is 100%.

  • Photo Of Peter Jeffrey


    Jeffery Co-directs MSM

    Peter Jeffery of Princeton University joins Notre Dame as Michael P. Grace Professor of Medieval Studies. He teaches music and liturgy and co-directs the MSM.

  • Margot Fassler In Lab


    Fassler Co-directs MSM

    Keough-Hesburgh Professor of Music History and Liturgy Margot Fassler arrives at Notre Dame to co-direct the MSM. Previously, she directed the Yale Institute of Sacred Music for over 10 years.

    Applications stand at around 20.

  • Lancaster Stephen Headshot


    Lancaster Heads Vocal Studio

    College of Arts and Letters dean designates three new faculty lines to the MSM. Stephen Lancaster heads the new vocal studio. Search for a distinguished choral conductor begins.

  • Tellez Carmen Headshot


    Tellez Joins Faculty

    Professor Carmen-Helena Tellez joins the faculty. She came to Notre Dame from Indiana University, where she had directed the Jacobs School of Music’s graduate program in choral conducting.

  • Student Conducting Ndcc


    DMA and NDCC Launch

    Awarded $400,000 grant from the Mellon Foundation for the Sacred Music Drama Project.

    Awarded $1.9 million Lilly grant to help launch the Doctor of Musical Arts (DMA) degree and to start the Notre Dame Children’s Choir (NDCC), a lab choir to train our students in choral methods.

  • Mark Doerries Leading Ndcc


    Doerries Hired as Artistic Director NDCC

    Mark Doerries is hired as artistic director of the NDCC.

    Paul Walker is hired as field supervisor of the Lilly grant, working with the churches on the practical aspects of church music and community involvement.

    Doerries and Fassler host a conference: “The Child Chorister and the Future of the Church.”

  • 2015

    SMND Running as Independent Program in College

    Sacred Music at Notre Dame is up and running as an independent program in the College of Arts and Letters, with a complement of courses in sacred music and liturgy and three graduate studios, in organ, in choral conducting, and in voice.

    The Notre Dame Children’s Choir, to our amazement, has 40 children, double the anticipated enrollment. NDCC launches its inaugural national tour.

    Applications to our program skyrocket to over 50. Our internships are coveted by local churches.

  • Kiera Duffy Headshot


    Duffy Joins Voice Studio

    Sacred Music at Notre Dame hosts important national meetings, including the American Bach Society, and visitors are amazed at the quality of our student organists, singers, and conductors. One noted scholar said: “Notre Dame is giving Yale a run for its money!”

    Famed soprano Kiera Duffy hired to join Stephen Lancaster in the voice studio.

    John Liberatore is teaching composition for us now, one course per year.

  • Choir In The Basilica 125th Mass


    NDCC's Success and Murdy Family Organ

    We have more than 100 applications to our program.

    The NDCC has over 200 children, and two satellite choirs. Sacred Music Academy established to house NDCC and new children’s organ program. Our first recording is Number 1 on the Billboard Classical charts for 2 weeks.

    The new Murdy Family Organ is installed in the Basilica, which, with two additional Fritts organs, give Notre Dame one of the best collections in the country.

    Preparations underway to move into O’Neill Hall.

  • O Neill Hall


    New Home in O'Neill Hall

    We have moved into our new home, O’Neill Hall. It is a 100,000-square-foot, seven-story building on the south side of Notre Dame Stadium made possible by a gift to the University from Helen Schwab and her husband Charles, in honor of her brother, Notre Dame alumnus and trustee Joseph I. O’Neill III.

    Sacred Music received a gift from Jim and Molly Perry to name the Calvin M. Bower Doctor of Musical Arts Program.

    The NDCC now has over 300 children and two satellite choirs.


  • Gregian Chat Exchange Program Group Photo


    Georgian Chant Exchange Program

    In 2019, students from Tbilisi traveled to Notre Dame as part of the musical and cultural exchange program.

    Additionally, the Notre Dame Children's Choir and SMND released an album of sacred Christmas music with Grammy winning trumpeter Arturo Sandoval. The Notre Dame Children's Choir performed in Walt Disney Hall in Los Angeles and toured the United States and England.

  • Kola Owolabi


    Virtuoso organist and scholar Kola Owolabi joins faculty

    Dr. Kola Owolabi joins the faculty of Sacred Music at Notre Dame as Full Professor and Head of the Organ Studio. He comes to us from the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor and brings specialization in church music, improvisation, historical performance practices, and the music of African American composers.