Jul 21, 2024  
2021-2022 Graduate Catalog 
2021-2022 Graduate Catalog [ARCHIVED CATALOG]

Sacred Music, M.S.M.

Return to {$returnto_text} Return to: Academic Programs


The Master of Sacred Music degree program is jointly sponsored by Perkins School of Theology and the Division of Music of Meadows School of the Arts for the preparation of professional music and arts leadership in the church and, if one chooses, ordination as a deacon. Recognizing the existence of several models of professional church music leadership, this program provides a wide range of graduate-level training in performance, professional and academic skills.

High priority is placed upon the preparation of the church musician as enabler of congregational singing and conductor of various ensembles in both the church and the community. Professional church music courses, supervised practicum, worship leadership opportunities, conducting projects and other work offered in the School of Theology and the Division of Music provide opportunities to learn a wide range of literature, performance practices and skills and to apply this learning in both academic and churchly settings.

Learning Outcomes

  1. Discernment: Students will demonstrate musical, theological, liturgical and contextual discernment, including the ability to make sound musical and theological judgments about works performed, (e.g., questions of validity, quality and contextual appropriateness on the twin levels of text and music) and the capability to situate a musical work in a local context.
  2. Skill: Students will demonstrate musical skills, including advanced accomplishment in an applied area appropriate to a faith community’s piety, and informed by the history and analysis of the genres of church music as well as by sensitivity to the ways current technologies can aid the realization of the music’s goals in its contexts.
  3. Pedagogy: Students will practice effective pedagogy, including an understanding of faith formation through music for musicians of all types and ages, and application of processes for engaging musical participation by choirs and the congregation in worship.
  4. Theological framework: Students will demonstrate an understanding of the discipline of sacred music within a larger theological and cultural framework.
  5. Theology: Students will demonstrate clarity toward a theology that positions music in all its dimensions as praise to God and service to neighbor, as biblically based offering and prophecy, and as proclamation of Gospel.
  6. Interpersonal and organizational skill: Students will practice interpersonal sensitivity and organizational skills, including the ability to foster professional interpersonal relationships, Christian community in musical ensembles, and skills to effectively administer a music and worship ministry that supports the mission of a congregation in its context.

Requirements for Admission

Applicants for the M.S.M. program must hold a Bachelor of Music or Bachelor of Music Education degree, or its equivalent, from a regionally accredited institution. Their undergraduate preparation must include credited work in choral conducting and at least 30 credit hours of courses in the liberal arts.

A cumulative GPA of at least 3.000 (on a 4.000 scale) is required for admission to the Division of Music. Admission to the School of Theology further requires that a minimum GPA of 2.750 be achieved in the student’s liberal arts work. The concentration in liturgical musicology requires a cumulative GPA of at least 3.500 for admittance and requires that the student maintain at least a 3.500 GPA for all graduate work. Although one application is made through Perkins School of Theology, successful applicants for the M.S.M. program are accepted by both the Division of Music in the Meadows School of the Arts and the Perkins School of Theology.

The applicant is expected to bring capabilities in one of the seven concentrations offered, demonstrating potential for success for study at the graduate level. Admission to the applied concentrations (choral conducting, keyboards, organ, and composition and arranging) requires that the applicant demonstrate performance capabilities by a personal audition or by an online Web link. All academic concentrations (music education, worship arts and liturgical musicology) include applied instruction in choral conducting and organ and a keyboard proficiency exam. In addition, the application should include a description of previous experience or written work that demonstrates the applicant’s ability to pursue graduate level work in the chosen concentration.  Download Application Requirements: Academic Concentrations.

Applicants who already hold graduate degrees in music (Master of Music, Master of Music Education or other comparable degree) or who have completed some coursework at the graduate level may, upon the approval of the director of the program, apply up to nine credit hours (or the equivalent) of nonperformance graduate musical or theological study toward the M.S.M. degree. However, this work must also meet the approval of the Committee on Graduate Studies of the Division of Music (if the work is in music) or of the registrar of the Perkins School of Theology (if the work is in theology). Hours in the M.S.M. may also apply toward the M.Div., Master of Theology or M.A. degrees offered by the Perkins School of Theology. Consultation with the director of the M.S.M. program is recommended.

Requirements for Graduation

The requirements for the M.S.M. total 48 credit hours.

During the student’s final term of enrollment, they will be given a set of comprehensive written examinations covering the major areas of study and related fields. Satisfactory performance on these examinations and a minimum cumulative GPA of 3.000 or a grade of B on all M.S.M. work are required for graduation.

All requirements for the M.S.M. degree must be completed within seven calendar years from the time of initial registration

Planning a Program of Study

The course of study includes some work taken in common by all M.S.M. students, courses that fulfill the requirements of one of the seven concentrations, and some work that is designed to serve the individual student’s particular needs and interests. Each student elects one of seven options for concentration study:

Applied Concentrations:

  • Choral Conducting
  • Composition and Arranging
  • Keyboards
  • Organ

Admission to these concentrations requires that the applicant demonstrate performance capabilities by a personal audition, by an online web-link, or by a portfolio (for composition and arranging). Click here for Audition Requirements.

Academic Concentrations:

  • Music Education
  • Worship Arts
  • Liturgical Musicology

All applicants must take Graduate Placement Examinations administered by the Division of Music in order to complete their application. These examinations, administered online by the Division of Music, aid in determining the student’s strengths and weaknesses in the areas of music history, literature, theory, and aural perception. While not a factor in admission, an application cannot be considered for admission and financial aid until the exams are taken. The Graduate Placement Exams aid the student’s advisor in planning their course of study, and also provide the student with a better understanding of the expectations for graduate-level study. Those who do not successfully complete the exams during the application process may take them again at the beginning of their first semester. Remedial instruction is offered online to assist the student to complete this aspect of their requirements.

For all concentrations except organ and keyboards, materials for the keyboard proficiency exam will be sent to successful applicants after they have been admitted. The sacred music faculty will administer an exam during the first weeks of the fall semester. The results are used by the student and his/her adviser in planning a proposed course of study for the degree.

Course Requirements

The requirements for the M.S.M. total 48 credit hours, and they may be completed in two years (usually including summers) depending on the results of the Graduate Placement Examinations. Those pursuing an additional graduate music degree in Meadows School of the Arts or fulfilling the requirements for deacon’s ordination in the United Methodist Church will require up to an extra year of study.

Students are required to participate in a spiritual formation group for two terms during the first year of study. The required supervised practicum includes musical/liturgical leadership in a local congregation and work with a church music mentor.

The 48 credit hours for the M.S.M. are distributed as follows:

Required Courses

Total: 13 Credit Hours

Total: 11 Credit Hours

Professional Skills and Methods

  • (four terms)
  • Participation for two consecutive terms within the same academic year in a Meadows Choral Ensemble, as determined by placement audition (two one-credit hours)

Perkins or Meadows Electives

The seven elective hours will be determined in consultation with the student’s adviser on the basis of the outcome objectives of the M.S.M. program and the student’s competency to meet these objectives.

Total: 7 Credit Hours

Applied Concentrations

Total: 13 Credit Hours

Total: 13 Credit Hours

Keyboards Concentration Requirements

Total: 13 Credit Hours

Organ Concentration Requirements

Total: 13 Credit Hours

Academic Concentrations

Worship Arts Concentration Requirements

Total: 13 Credit Hours

Liturgical Musicology Concentration Requirements

Total: 13 Credit Hours

Total: 48 Credit Hours


  • For United Methodist students pursuing deacon’s orders, the 12 credit hours under “Theological Studies” may count toward the 24 credit hour requirement. It may be possible to use hours under “Perkins or Meadows Electives” to satisfy more of the 24-hour requirement.
  • The prerequisite course for WO 6313, XS 6310 - The Church in Its Social Context, is not required for the M.S.M. degree.
  • Elective courses for all concentrations will be determined in consultation with the student’s adviser on the basis of the outcome objectives of the M.S.M. program and the student’s competency to meet these objectives.
  • A portion of the hours under “Perkins or Meadows Electives” may be used for choral conducting, depending on the placement evaluation. No more than three elective hours of applied study in Meadows may be counted toward the M.S.M. degree requirements.
  • Private vocal instruction for M.S.M. students will be offered only for those who have also been accepted into the Master of Music in voice major as a concurrent degree program or by audition with the voice faculty. Private vocal instruction for M.S.M. students is subject to the availability of voice faculty.
  • All M.S.M. students not enrolled in the organ or keyboard concentrations must pass a keyboard proficiency examination before completing the degree. Information on the exam will be sent to all incoming students in the appropriate concentrations.
  • Choral conducting students with prior organ degree study may substitute one credit of private organ study for PERB 6111, with the permission of the instructor.

Students seeking ordained deacon status in the United Methodist Church will need 12 additional credit hours beyond the required coursework for the M.S.M. degree. For specific information, students should contact the director of the M.S.M. program.

Entrance Exams and Proficiency Requirements

Incoming M.S.M. students are required to take the Graduate Music Diagnostic Examinations upon matriculation. The results of these examinations are used to identify any deficiencies in the areas of music history/literature, music theory and aural skills. Students found to be deficient in these areas will be required to take appropriate review courses. Failure to pass required review courses in the first term of study will result in academic probation and a second-term continuation of review. (Financial aid does not cover any review courses.) Failure to pass the review courses during the second term will result in academic suspension from the degree program.

Spiritual Formation

All students completing the M.S.M. are required to register for the program in spiritual formation. Students are required to attend a daylong orientation held in conjunction with the new student orientation program and are then enrolled in formation groups. These groups meet weekly throughout the fall and spring terms during the first year of the program.

Led by facilitators in groups of five to 10, students share in a formative experience designed to provide them with the framework of a common experience, emphasizing the following:

  • The opportunity to explore the vital connection between spiritual formation and ministry.
  • Opportunities to explore the central genius of spiritual traditions.
  • The development of a critical capacity that will allow the student to evaluate those traditions theologically.
  • Broad-based exposure to a variety of spiritual disciplines.
  • Experience in prayer and devotion.

Students are evaluated and given credit by the group facilitators on the basis of attendance and engagement with the subject matter of the formation process. Students should register in both the fall and spring of the first year. Exceptions to this rule must be requested in writing from the director of spiritual life and formation.

The Supervised Practicum

Students enroll in the course CM 8120 - Supervised Practicum  during the spring term of their first or second year. Students should have secured positions in a local church setting by no later than the second year of study. The Sacred Music Office provides assistance in securing placement in view of each student’s pedagogical and financial needs. A professor in the Sacred Music Program will serve as a liaison between Perkins and the student’s church so that the student has sufficient support to meet the requirements of the practicum.

In the second or third year, with the approval of the M.S.M. faculty, the student will present a service of worship in her/his church to complete CM 8120 . This service becomes the graduate project for the M.S.M. degree and will be given a pass or fail grade by an evaluating M.S.M. faculty member.

Admission to Candidacy

M.S.M. students will be reviewed for admission to formal candidacy for the degree in the fall term following the completion of 18 credit hours of academic work. A student will be admitted to candidacy provided that he or she has achieved a grade average of 3.00, is not on academic probation and is not disqualified for having given evidence of patterns of personal behavior tending to seriously hinder ministry. Admission to formal candidacy signifies that the student is proceeding satisfactorily in his or her course requirements, including admission to and continuation in internship courses, and possesses a seriousness of purpose, emotional stability, and likelihood of satisfactory performance of Christian leadership. Formally, the presence of patterns of personal behavior tending to seriously hinder ministry may be grounds for the faculty to disqualify a student from graduation with the M.S.M. degree, or, if the prognosis justifies it, to defer awarding the degree until such time as the hindering pattern is overcome. A student may be considered for the degree upon completion of all the requirements, but admission to formal candidacy does not oblige Perkins to grant the degree.

Financial Aid

In addition to the financial aid described elsewhere in this catalog, a limited number of scholarships, fellowships and work grants are available specifically to M.S.M. students. Inquiries should be addressed to the director of the M.S.M. program. In addition, most M.S.M. students are employed by a local congregation as a part of the supervised practicum requirement for the M.S.M. degree.

Return to {$returnto_text} Return to: Academic Programs