Doctor of Musical Arts - DMA

The Calvin M. Bower Doctor of Musical Arts Program in Choral Conducting or Organ


Applications to the Doctor of Musical Arts (DMA) program are due on December 1, deadline extended through December 15, and auditions will take place on Sunday, February 9 and Monday, February 10, 2020.  If you are unable to make any of these deadlines please send an email to

The Calvin M. Bower DMA Program at Notre Dame seeks to form 21st-century organists and choral directors with superior creative and analytical skills within the most current interdisciplinary perspective. We aim to develop the artistic and scholarship proficiencies required of professional, collegiate, community and church musicians who aspire to perform at the highest levels of achievement. We invite you to read more about our program and its alumni.

Student organists and conductors will acquire a broad knowledge of Western sacred and concert repertories, from both performance and analytical viewpoints. As part of their core training, students will also practice complementary skills that have become increasingly necessary in the professional world, such as conducting children's choruses and using the latest technologies for interdisciplinary presentation. Conductors and organists are expected to become co-creative and interdisciplinary artists, able to engage with other artists and with the concerns of the community and culture at large. This program, housed in the College of Arts and Letters, relies on major participation of faculty from both the Music and Theology Departments.

As part of their academic curriculum in Choral Conducting or Organ, students together with a mentor will select a combination of courses meeting requirements in specialized areas of music creativity and scholarship, according to their individual professional goals.  Classes in this area include liturgy and theology, ritual studies, inter-artistic creativity and digital media, early music and historical performance practices, music history, theory, and ethnomusicology, among others. Students who desire it will be able to work with their mentor towards a certificate of specialization in a secondary area of research or creative activity. 

Both conductors and organists will have substantial opportunities for public performance, podium time,  and interactions with professionals in the field. A major project in interdisciplinary sacred music drama supported by the Mellon Foundation will engender significant opportunities for innovative professional practice. Sacred Music at Notre Dame also hosts visits by some of the most salient choral composers, conductors, and ensembles of our time. These visits are frequently combined with master classes and private lessons.

The Doctor of Musical Arts (DMA) is the degree needed to qualify for a wide range of leadership positions in academic music departments and in large churches and cathedrals. It is the terminal degree for performers, comparable to the PhD for scholars. While a PhD in music qualifies a person to teach academic courses in music history or theory, a DMA qualifies a person to perform music at the highest level, to teach performing musicians, and to manage performing ensembles and other programs. At the same time, this degree fosters high levels of critical inquiry: professionals holding DMA degrees often lecture or teach music history, theory and other academic disciplines matching their creative interests. Typical positions that require a DMA in organ or conducting include:

  1. Professor of Organ, University Organist, Director of Choral Activities, Professor of Conducting, or Professor of Church Music or of Sacred Music. Such appointments may be made in a college or university Music Department, a university School of Music, a conservatory, a seminary or a divinity school.
  2. Diocesan Music Director in a Roman Catholic diocese, or an equivalent position in another religious denomination.
  3. Director of Music Ministry in a campus ministry, cathedral, or large parish. 
  4. Professional ensemble conductor or touring concert organist.
  5. Many organists and choral conductors with academic positions also fill part-time positions in a local parish.