Doctor of Musical Arts

The Calvin M. Bower DMA Program at Notre Dame seeks to form 21st-century organists and choral directors with superior artistic and scholastic ability that is required of professional, collegiate, community, and church musicians who aspire to perform at the highest levels.

Why pursue a DMA at Notre Dame?

Dma Alumni Conducting Choir In The Basilica Of The Sacred Heart

Student organists and conductors acquire a broad knowledge of Western sacred and concert repertories from performance and analytical viewpoints. As part of their core training, students also practice complementary skills that have become increasingly necessary in the professional world, such as conducting children's choruses and multi-disciplinary performance techniques. This program, housed in the College of Arts and Letters, draws world-class faculty from both the Music and Theology departments.

As part of the academic curriculum in Choral Conducting or Organ, students, together with the Director of Graduate Studies, will select courses that meet the requirements of the degree program and that support their individual professional goals. The program includes courses in liturgy and theology, ritual studies, early music and historical performance practices, music history, theory and analysis, and ethnomusicology, among others. 

Conductors and organists have substantial opportunities for public performance, podium time, and interactions with professionals in the field. Sacred Music at Notre Dame 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.

What can I do with a DMA?

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 Ph.D. for scholars. While a Ph.D. 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:

  • 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.
  • Diocesan Music Director in a Roman Catholic diocese, or an equivalent position in another religious denomination.
  • Director of Music Ministry in a campus ministry, cathedral, or large parish. 
  • Professional ensemble conductor or touring concert organist.
  • Many organists and choral conductors with academic positions also fill part-time positions in a local parish.

Recent graduates found positions at: 

  • University of Notre Dame Folk Choir, Basilica of the Sacred Heart (Director)
  • Minot State University (Director of Choral Activities)
  • Hope College, MI (Interim Director of Chapel Choir)
  • Sacred Heart Seminary and School of Theology, Wisconsin (Director of Liturgical Music and Organist)
  • Mount St. Mary’s Seminary for the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Cincinnati, OH (Music Director)
  • Holy Name of Jesus Cathedral, Raleigh, NC (Music Director)
  • St. Phillip’s in the Hills Episcopal Church, Tucson, AZ (Music Director)
  • South Bend Community School Corporation (Choral Director)
  • Goshen College (Interim Choral Director)

Doctor of Musical Arts in Choral Conducting

  • DMA Conducting students present three recitals with an ensemble of graduate student vocalists. Year one is an a cappella performance, year two includes a small number of instrumentalists, and the third year recital includes chorus and chamber orchestra. 
  • Students in their third year of study often serve as Conducting Fellows with the South Bend Symphony Orchestra and have the opportunity for coaching with Maestro Willis and to rehearse and lead a performance.
  • DMA students write a thesis in their third year guided by the world-class scholars and performers on our faculty. 
  • Recent Masterclasses include: Seraphic Fire, Tallis Scholars, Cantus, Schola Antiqua, The Crossing, Donald Nally, Joseph Flummerfelt, Stephen Cleobury, Benjamin Saunders, Chris McElroy, Alastair Willis, and Kimberly Dunn Adams
  • Biannual trips to Italy and England to study the musical traditions of Rome and the English Cathedral tradition of child and adult choristers leading worship

“SMND’s choral conducting program allowed me to study with marvelous teachers like Carmen-Helena Téllez, Maxwell Johnson, and Margot Fassler, to enjoy expanding travel opportunities — I went to Italy, the U.K., Mexico, Chile, and Latvia with the support of the program — and to participate in rigorous performances: all of these were excellent preparation for work in the Episcopal tradition.”

Justin Appel MSM '12 DMA '17
Director of Music, Saint Philip’s In the Hills Episcopal Church

Doctor of Musical Arts in Organ

  • Workshops and Masterclasses with: Olivier Latry, Stefan Engles, Janet Fishell, Christopher Young, Isabelle Demers, Gregory Crowell, Renée Anne Louprette, Huw Lewis
  • Biannual organ trips to Europe
  • Six dedicated practice organs for Sacred Music students; 15 organs for practice and performance across campus
  • Taylor and Boody Continuo Organ
  • Serve as organist at local parishes (Catholic and Protestant)
  • DMA students write a thesis in their third year guided by the world-class scholars and performers on our faculty.

“The standard of excellence at which my Notre Dame professors required me to perform was the greatest gift they could have given to me. It is a true joy to share the same standard of excellence with my students that Sacred Music at Notre Dame first shared with me. The excitement that comes from making music well is contagious.”

Dr. Mary Catherine Levri MSM '11 DMA '17
Director of Music, Mount St. Mary’s Seminary for the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Cincinnati