Master of Sacred Music - MSM

The Master of Sacred Music Program in Choral Conducting, Organ or Voice

Applications and Pre-screening Materials for the Masters of Sacred Music (MSM) program are due on December 1 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 Masters of Sacred Music program, founded in 2005, is currently situated in the College of Arts & Letters with major participation from faculty in the Department of Theology & the Department of Music. The degree program offers its students the entire wealth of choral and vocal experience and range of organs found on the Notre Dame campus and in the immediate environs of the university. A primary purpose of this Master's degree is to train professional musicians for work in the Christian churches, at a time when there is a well-established need for skilled  musicians who understand the liturgy and know how to work with priests/pastors and within congregations. A second purpose is to prepare graduates for admission to doctoral programs in music; about half of our graduates eventually enter doctoral programs: usually the DMA (Doctor of Musical Arts), but also the PhD in Musicology. The MSM program is broadly ecumenical, but gives specific attention to Roman Catholic traditions and practice, as well as to the particular needs of the Catholic  Church in the United States. The MSM is designed to take full advantage of Notre Dame's distinguished faculty in Liturgical Studies and in Music History/ Ethnomusicology, giving students unique training in these subject areas.

The Sacred Music M.S.M. degree is a two-year 48-credit-hour degree, consisting of courses in sacred music, liturgical studies, and applied music.  Students apply in one of three concentrations: (1) Choral Conducting; (2) Organ Performance; or (3) Vocal Performance. Mastery of the chosen field is required, and students are encouraged to gain expertise in secondary areas as well. The expectation is that every graduate will be a well-rounded church musician, possessing the requisite skills in playing, conducting, and singing necessary to shape music programs in the churches of most Christian denominations. Every student is offered the opportunities to become sophisticated in the uses of modern technology, which may include ways of using media in planning worship, and/or making short films and appealing websites to strengthen community and improve outreach. Another unique strength of our program is the emphasis on work with children's choirs, both through the internships and through training with the Notre Dame Children's Choir.

There are three areas that come together in each student’s curriculum:

  • Each student develops performance skills in the studio of a master teacher. Organists study with Dr. Craig Cramer, conductors with Dr. Mark Doerries and Dr. Carmen-Helena Tellez, and vocalists with Dr. Stephen Lancaster & Kiera Duffy.
  • Students also take classes with the distinguished faculty in the Department of Music, several of whom specialize in sacred music, including Mary Frandsen (Baroque), Alex Blachly (Renaissance), Peter Jeffery (chant and early Christian music), Margot Fassler (medieval music and American music), and Paul Walker (Organ).  All students also learn from Notre Dame’s superb liturgical scholars in the Department of Theology, including Michael Driscoll, Maxwell Johnson, Margot Fassler, David Fagerberg, and Peter Jeffery.
  • Each student has an internship that puts them in interaction with musical and liturgical faith communities. Experienced practitioners in the Basilica of the Sacred Heart, in Notre Dame dormitories, and in local churches mentor the MSM students. The community is greatly enriched by the presence of these exceptionally talented and dedicated young men and women.

Admission Requirements and Financial Support

Frequently asked Questions about the MSM Program

For additional information concerning the Master of Sacred Music - MSM Program, please contact us.