The Master of Sacred Music (M.S.M.) degree is a two-year program, with the possibility for summer study. Students must complete 48-credit-hours at a minimum, although most students take more credits. To be full-time students, and eligible for the stipend and tuition fellowship, students must take a minimum of 9 hours in any given semester. 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 related 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 and to lead 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. About half of our student seek employment in the churches right after graduation, and about half go on for the DMA or PhD.
The MSM program is presently divided into three broad areas of study:
1) Academic Courses (24 credit hours)
- History, Theory & Analysis (12 credit hours minimum)
- Liturgy & Ritual Studies (12 credit hours minimum)
2) Practical Music, Repertory, & Performance (24 credits)
*each of the three concentrations has its own specific requirements
3) The Internship (no credit, but mandatory for the degree)
In addition, all students:
- perform one recital per year. In the first year, the Vocal and Conducting Students perform a joint recital.
- must attend the Colloquium series, which usually meets six times per academic year
- are assigned an internship and must work for around 13 hours per week in these positions.
The internship serves as on-the-job professional training and functions as part-time employment for the students.
The Repertory Choir and the Recital Choir are Required by all Conducting Concentrators. Many Voice Students have assistantships that include singing in these choirs as part of their internships.
The Notre Dame Repertory Choir is a vocal ensemble conducted by the choral conducting graduate students in the studio of Professor Carmen-Helena Tellez. The chorus explores masterpieces of the sacred music repertoire and the techniques for singing and conducting it. In the spring semester the choir also serves as an instrument for the joint recital of the first year conducting MSM students, and all singers must take part in the recital. The choir provides ample opportunities to sing a great variety of music with an accompanist at a high professional level. This choir meets twice a week.
The Notre Dame Recital Choir is a vocal ensemble conducted by graduate students in the Program in Sacred Music. It serves to prepare the recitals of advanced MSM and DMA students in the studio of Professor Carmen-Helena Tellez. It meets as a regularly scheduled ensemble for credit. Members of the choir take sophisticated repertories of music through to polished performances, several of which include professional collaborative artists. All choristers will need to take part in the dress rehearsals and concerts. There are three concerts per semester, and they typically take place on Sundays within the concert series of Sacred Music at Notre Dame. The choir meets twice a week on Friday with dress rehearsals on the Saturday before each of the three Sunday performances.
The Notre Dame Children's Choir is conducted by Dr. Mark Doerries, and serves as a laboratory choir for the training of graduate students in the Program in Sacred Music, and for training children in music. It is our major town/gown ensemble.