MA in Liturgical Music at St. John’s Graduate School of Theology

The M.A. in Liturgical Music at Saint John’s School of Theology and Seminary in Collegeville, long known for its high quality, has just been strengthened and expanded into a four-semester 42-credit program. (See below for degree requirements). Students now participate in the VoiceCare Network, sing in the graduate Chapel Choir, do supervised music ministry in the graduate chapel, have placements in parishes with a theological reflection component, and sing Gregorian Chant during each semester of their program. Audition date (for full consideration of scholarship offers) is March 26-27, 2017 – rolling admission thereafter.

Here is the scoop on the revised M.A.

  1. Why is Saint John’s M.A. in Liturgical Music the strongest program in the U.S.?
    It’s the most integrated– music plus liturgy plus real-world ministry. We are the only Catholic masters program in music in the U.S. accredited by the Association of Theological Schools. Read more.
  2. Who is the St. John’s program for?
    It’s for talented performers who get liturgy and are passionate about music ministry. Read more.
  3. What kind of place is Collegeville to live and study?
    It’s home to a large Benedictine monastery, Liturgical Press, the VoiceCare Network, the Saint John’s Bible, the Saint John’s Boy Choir, a graduate school known for liturgical scholarship, … and more. Read more.
  4. Who are the faculty?
    We have specialists in Gregorian Chant, organ, choral conducting, piano, voice, composition, liturgy, and theology. Read more.
  5. What is vocal and choral study like at Saint John’s?
    It includes Gregorian Chant, VoiceCare Network, choral conducting coursework, choral literature, supervised lab choir, and participation in fine choral ensembles. Read more.
  6. What is organ study like at Saint John’s?
    It’s great instruction on great instruments! Read more.
  7. What is composition study like at Saint John’s?
    It’s for well-rounded liturgical musicians who are grounded in the liturgy. Read more.
  8. What is the study of liturgy like at Saint John’s?
    All students take a required core of liturgy courses so as to understand the place of music in all the Church’s rites, along with further coursework in liturgy and theology. Our graduates are sought out because of their immersion in liturgy in a place internationally known for liturgical reform and renewal.
  9. Is your program only for Catholics?
    No. We are Catholic and ecumenical, and students from mainline Protestant liturgical traditions have done very well in our program.
  10. Can I begin in spring? Or study in summers?
    Students ordinarily begin in the fall and study four semesters. There is one credit of VoiceCare Basic in the summer, with the option of further applied music lessons or liturgy or theology coursework during summer term.
  11. What is the financial aid package like? Are work positions available during my study? What are the housing options?
    All students receive a generous aid package, with possibility of a full-tuition scholarship in some cases. Work positions are available on campus and in area parishes, including with the National Catholic Youth Choir, and most students do parish music ministry during their studies to help fund their studies. Full-time students are advised to have outside work of no more than 20 hours per week. There is housing on campus for those who wish to live in the community of graduate theology students, but some students choose to live off-campus.
  12. Do your graduates get church jobs? Does your program provide what employers are looking for?
    We’re nationally known for our solid preparation, and pastors typically call upon us when full-time positions open up. Our program meets the USCCB National Certification Standards for Lay Ecclesial Ministry – Director of Music Ministries, and we have 100% job placement.
  13. What are the degree requirements?
    All students take 11 credits of music-liturgy synthesis (including chapel choir, seminar in liturgical music, and parish placement), 13 credits of music (including lessons in major and minor, and choral conducting), and 15 credits of theology (including 12 in liturgy). Read more.
  14. I’m looking at several schools for liturgical music study. What should I look for?
    Look for the place that matches your dreams and professional goals. Read more.
  15. How do I apply?
    Contact Andy Dirksen in Admissions. On-campus auditions are scheduled for March 26 and 27, 2017, with limited travel funds available. Overnight housing on campus is provided.

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1. Why is Saint John’s M.A. in Liturgical Music the strongest program in the U.S.?
Our program is driven by what is going on in communities (parishes, cathedrals, basilicas, religious houses), and how to prepare the most talented musicians to excel in real-world church situations. All students take a core of Catholic liturgy courses, since music ministry flows from the liturgy. All students do supervised music ministry (singing, playing, directing choir) in the graduate school chapel. All students are in a liturgical music seminar every semester which brings together musical performance, repertoire, liturgical application, and theological reflection. Our musical instruction is the most well-rounded available – with Gregorian chant, classical hymnody, organ performance, vocal performance, choral conducting, and diverse musical styles as part of the program of study for all our students. All this in the shadow of a large Benedictine monastery, in a supportive residential community of graduate theology students!

2. Who is the St. John’s program for?
Our program is not for people who just want conservatory musical training detached from liturgy or faith, nor is it for musicologists who want to study history for its own sake. Nor is it for amateur or hobby musicians. It is for masters-level musicians who want conservatory-level instruction to become the very best liturgical music practitioners.

3. What kind of place is Collegeville to live and study?
There’s no place like Saint John’s in Collegeville – with Saint John’s Abbey where the monks pray four times a day, Liturgical Press, VoiceCare Network, Saint John’s Bible, Saint John’s Boy Choir … and of course the School of Theology and Seminary. The graduate theology school is a community of believers, searchers, learners and pray-ers. It’s an ideal setting for talented, thoughtful, reflective people who want to make the most of themselves and explore the purpose of their life in a supportive environment.

4. Who are the faculty?

  • Fr. Anthony Ruff, OSB is internationally known as a Gregorian Chant scholar, including its role in contemporary liturgy, and author of a 704-page comprehensive study of the role of music in Catholic liturgy. He also specializes in classical ecumenical hymnody.
  • Dr. Kim Kasling studied organ in Vienna on a Fulbright scholarship, and also at the North German Organ Academy, and long served as principal organist at St. Mary’s Basilica in Minneapolis.
  • André Heywood is conductor of Saint John’s Boys’ Choir, the All-College Choir, and National Catholic Youth Choir, and 2013 Outstanding Young Director of the Year of the American Choral Directors Association [ACDA] of Minnesota.
  • Dr. Axel Theimer sang in the Vienna Boys’ Choir, is president and director of the VoiceCare Network, and is sought out nationally and internationally as a clinician and guest conductor. He is recipient of the Minnesota ACDA Choir Director of the Year award and the F. Melius Christiansen Lifetime Achievement award, and has been elected to the Minnesota Music Educators’ Association Hall of Fame.
  • Fr. Bob Koopmann, OSB is abbey organist, concert pianist, and has issued several recordings of repertoire and liturgical improvisation.
  • Dr. Carolyn Finley is a specialists in voice and vocal pedagogy who has performed widely in church, concert hall, and opera house and has issued CD recordings.
  • Dr. Patricia Kent is also a specialist in voice and vocal pedagogy who has performed widely in church, concert hall, and opera house and has issued CD recordings.
  • Dr. Brian Campbell is a specialist is music theory and composition.
  • Robert LeBlanc is a parish music director who is widely published as a liturgical composer.
  • Our liturgy faculty includes Fr. Anthony Ruff, OSB, widely-published historical scholar Dr. Martin Connell, basilica liturgy director Dr. Johan Van Parys, parish priest Fr. Matthew Luft, OSB, and respected teacher and liturgical scholar Sr. Theresa Koernke, IHM.

5. What is vocal-choral study like at Saint John’s?
For all students there is the VoiceCare Network, training in the basics of choral conducting, and supervised lab choir conducting in the graduate school chapel. For Vocal-Choral majors there is Choral Literature, singing in university vocal ensembles (Chamber Choir, All-College Choir, Men’s Chorus, or Women’s Chorus), and additional VoiceCare electives in advanced voice and choral conducting. Students sing Gregorian Chant and other choral music in chapel each semester. A recital is done in the final semester – here is a recent example

Download (PDF, 181KB)

6. What is organ study like at Saint John’s?
Students receive conservatory-level organ instruction and perform a recital in their final semester. The program includes instruction in service playing and liturgical improvisation, with the option of liturgical piano for interested students. See #5 above for an example of a final recital in voice and organ. There is an extraordinary wealth of fine instruments on our campuses.

7. What is composition study like at Saint John’s?
Students study with Brian Campbell and Robert LeBlanc and present a recital or project in their final semester. Composition students acquire proficiency in both voice and organ. Here is a composition of our student Tim Dusenbury, “Antiphon for St. Martin” as sung by our National Catholic Youth Choir, conducted by Axel Theimer.

13. What are the degree requirements?

  • 11 CREDITS SYNTHESIS: 8 Seminar in Liturgical Music (includes Chapel Choir), 3 Field Education (includes spiritual direction).
  • 13 CREDITS MUSIC: 10 Applied Music (6 in major, 4 in minor and service playing), 3 Choral Conducting (includes 1 VoiceCare Basic in one summer). Vocal-Choral students take Choral Literature and sing in a large university vocal ensemble.
  • 15 CREDITS THEOLOGY: 9 required liturgy (Initiation and Eucharist; Rites of Church; Liturgical Song), 3 liturgy elective, 3 theology elective (Scripture, systematics, or history).
  • 3 CREDITS ELECTIVE: theology, liturgy, Gregorian chant, applied music, service playing, summer advanced VoiceCare, university vocal ensemble, Choral Literature.
  • Full recital or final project in final semester.

14. I’m looking at several schools for liturgical music study. What should I look for?
If you hope to work in the church, ask about how well the program prepares you for that work by integrating music and liturgy. Make sure the liturgy and music faculty work well together and are fully behind the degree program. Ask if the program is accredited by the Association of Theological Schools and meets the USCCB standards for Lay Ecclesial Ministry. Ask if the program directors and the key faculty members are active in church music ministry get what it’s about from the inside. Ask if there is supervised master class experience in a worship setting of playing, singing, and conducting. Ask if pastors and parishes respect the program for its liturgical formation and look highly upon the program’s graduates. And don’t hesitate to ask us at St. John’s about any questions you have – we’re here to mentor, advise, and support you throughout your discernment and application process.

The revised 42-credit M.A. in Liturgical Music has been approved by the Association of Theological Schools. Approval from the Higher Learning Commission is pending.


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