The 60-hour curriculum of the Calvin M. Bower DMA program has four major components: 1) coursework; 2) recitals; 3) the thesis; and 4) the internship.


As can be seen from the curriculum listed below, the coursework for the DMA falls into four areas. The first is the performance specialization, either choral conducting or organ performance. Each DMA student will be part of a graduate studio, and thus will receive much individual attention as well as ample opportunities to learn in collaboration with her/his peers. In the second area, each student will work in secondary areas of music performance, continuing with the emphasis on well-roundedness that our faculty has come to expect from its Master’s level students. The third area provides a long and rich roster of courses from which students choose three, beginning their foundational academic study. In the fourth area, students can develop a track or specialized area, making a group of five more academic courses that will relate to the thesis and to the needs of the projected career path. To do this work, they will continue to choose from the long list of courses regularly taught (Area III) and also choose from the topics courses, which will be designed by the faculty as student interests emerge and the program grows to its full capacity.


The recital requirements are somewhat different, depending on concentration. Choral conductors give a recital each year of the three-year residency. One of these must be an a cappella or a chorus and keyboard recital. Another will be a "performing the scholarship" recital, linked to coursework, and with coaching in a particular performance practice. Yet a third will be an accompanied recital, and a budget will be provided for hiring a small number of collaborative musicians to play instruments for this work. One of these recitals must be a lecture-recital, ideally related to the thesis. Organists give a recital each year, and one of these must be a lecture-recital, preferably related to the thesis.


The DMA thesis is a research paper, which may well have a strong analytical or historical component. As the DMA is a performance degree, the thesis is shorter than a PhD thesis, and far more circumscribed in its nature. The work often relates to knowledge of scholarship and professional skills a performer must have to understand how to present a particular composition (or group of compositions) or to work in a particular style or performance practice. A thesis seminar will meet in the fall in the manner of a colloquium to assist students in various aspects of research and writing.


One of the great strengths of the DMA program at Notre Dame is the internships. Each student works in a local church, directing a children's choir and carrying out other parish music duties. In addition to their full tuition scholarships, every student receives a stipend for this work. See Internships for more information.


Course Requirements

1. Performance Specialization

3 credits per semester of studio lessons and masterclasses (Recital preparation, colloquia, and other collective activities may be required as part of performance studio work) 18 credits
3 capstone recitals, one each year, the last of which is a lecture/recital related to the thesis 0 credits
Thesis seminar, with emphasis on writing and research (second semester of the second year) 1 credit
Research and Dissertation variable credits
Total 19 credits

2. Musicianship and Repertoires

Required for Organists

Supervised placement every semester 0 credits
Children's Choir
(1 credit for each of 2 semesters)
2 credits
Secondary lessons in Choral Conducting
(1 credit for each of 2 semesters)
2 credits
Organ Literature course
(3 credits, 1 semester each year for 2 years)
6 credits
Required Secondary Lessons 4 credits
Total Credits in Musicianship and Repertoires 14 credits

Required for Conductors

Total credits in Musicianship and Repertoires
Supervised placement every semester. 0 credits
Children's Choir
(2 credits for each of 2 semesters)
4 credits
Choral Literature, Analysis, and Performance Practice course
(3 credits, 1 semester each year for 2 years)
6 credits
Voice or Keyboard Lessons *as recommended by advisor 4 credits
Total credits in Musicianship and Repertoires 14 credits

3. Core Academics

Three academic courses from among the following 3-credit offerings: 9 credits. These courses are open to both DMA and MSM students; courses from this list will also be of major importance for the "tracks" that students may wish to develop.

Hymnology. The major forms and styles for singing psalms and hymns throughout Christian history: in the early and medieval church, the Reformation and Counter-Reformation, and the modern period. Methodologies for hymnological research and consideration of liturgical context and function.

The Church Year and its Music. This study of the calendar and its evolution within the various Christian denominations also explores the kinds of repertory appropriate to each season, and to major feasts of the saints.

Liturgical prayer: The Hours, their History and Evolution. The daily, weekly, and other cycles of formal prayer in the early church, the monastic movement, cathedral worship, reforms of the early modern period, and the 20th-century liturgical renewal.

Gregorian Chant in the Roman Rite. A "hands-on" course emphasizing performance and pedagogy: medieval notation, Solesmes method, cheironomy, semiology, the latest new editions, for the Ordinary and Extraordinary forms of the Roman Rite.

Editions and Transcriptions of Early Music. Transcribing works of music dating from before 1800, preparing editions in modern notation that enable choirs and congregations to recover and perform these lost treasures.

World Cultures of Sacred Music. This course, which has a fieldwork component, trains students to understand sacred music and ritual in a multi-cultural world, and strengthens their ability to work with the many kinds of people who make up today's congregations. It includes study of selected world traditions of religious/ritual music, and training in the ethnographic skills necessary to uncover the social and cultural dynamics that shape any group of worshippers.

Passions, Cantatas, and Requiems. The historic repertory of the Baroque masters, including Schütz, Händel, the Bach family, and others. Organists, conductors, and singers will join forces to prepare a historically informed performance of a seminal work, often in a ritual context.

Topics in Sacred Music. To be selected from salient research projects of the faculty, joining faculty and students in the study and possible performance of a major work or group of works.

Sacred Music in Christian Thought. The nature and purposes of music in the teachings of the Church Fathers, the Ecumenical Councils, Canon Law, the Protestant Reformers, and the Popes, leading up to Vatican II and its aftermath. This course gives students the training they need to understand how and why liturgical practices have evolved within the major denominations,and the ways that sacred music fits within this liturgical history. This course will also be offered to the MSM students.

Worship and Music in the USA. A history of liturgical practices in the United States, from the beginning to the present time, with an emphasis on both popular and learned traditions.

Music in the Medieval West. An overview of music in its cultural context, beginning with Augustine and going through to the end of the fourteenth century. Students have opportunities to work with primary source material and to explore a variety of performance practices.

4. Advanced Topics and Tracks

These seminars are open to DMA students and students in other doctorate-level programs. Each student will choose five courses, either from the above Core Academics list or from the following advanced academic courses, for completion of the doctoral degree, depending especially on their thesis topics: 15 credits. These can be combined in ways that result in a specialized track in a specific area, such as early music, liturgy and music, or interdisciplinary presentation, or they can be chosen to meet the certification standards required by a specific denomination. These courses will be developed in time, and we will try to offer one per semester.

  • Music and Technology
  • World Music
  • Early Music
  • Liturgy and Music
  • Music in Interdisciplinary Practice
  • Music Theory and Analysis
  • Opera and Oratorio
  • Symphonic Repertoire
  • Holy Scripture
  • Contemporary Music
  • Ritual Studies

Medieval Liturgies, THEO 83403 / MI 63467
The purpose of this seminar is to examine the various sacramental rites in the Middle Ages, especially the Eucharistic liturgy, and to attempt to reconstruct them within the context of liturgical enactment, architectural space, artistic and musical decoration, etc. The seminar must necessarily deal with liturgical texts, but this is only a first step for understanding the broader dimensions of the liturgy. Architectural, artistic and musical components will be taken into consideration. Numerous commentaries on the liturgy are also an important source for garnering the medieval understanding of the liturgy, especially in its allegorical interpretation. A tangential but key element for the understanding is the devotional and spiritual practices that grew up alongside the official liturgy. Therefore, some attention will be given to these dimensions, including liturgical drama.