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Programs of Study

The Institute of Sacred Music Core Curriculum

Institute students are enrolled both in the Institute and in the School of Music and/or the Divinity School. Institute students must follow the curriculum of their respective schools to receive their degrees. They must also follow the curriculum of the ISM to receive the ISM Certificate and maintain their financial aid.

Institute students must pass all terms of the ISM Colloquium. Students are required to give a joint colloquium presentation in their final year in the ISM. Students whose presentations do not pass do not receive credit for the term of colloquium in which they presented; therefore they do not receive the ISM Certificate.

Satisfactory Academic Progress (SAP)

All degree-seeking students are required to meet standards regarding Satisfactory Academic Progress (SAP). ISM students should refer to the SAP requirements in the bulletin of the professional school from which their degree will come, noting that they must also complete specific ISM program requirements and expectations in order to receive the ISM Certificate.

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The Institute of Sacred Music and the School of Music

Students should also consult the bulletin of the School of Music for degree requirements and other course information.

Choral Conducting

The program prepares students for careers as professional conductors in many contexts, including professional ensembles, schools, colleges and universities, community organizations, and churches. A primary emphasis of the master’s degree is laying the foundation for continued work in a doctoral program. Students are expected to expand their musicianship skills and develop the broad knowledge of repertoire required of conductors.

Program Requirements

The program for choral conductors includes individual lessons with the choral conducting faculty and instruction during regularly supervised sessions with the repertory and recital choruses. Attendance at a weekly seminar, Repertory Chorus rehearsals, and membership in the Yale Camerata are required each term, as is participation as a singer in either the Yale Schola Cantorum or the Repertory Chorus. First-year students conduct Repertory Chorus in two shared performances. Second-year students present a degree recital with the Recital Chorus. Choral conducting students are required to study voice as a secondary instrument for two terms and are encouraged to pursue other secondary instrumental studies. For more information about curriculum and degree requirements of the Yale School of Music, please see the School of Music bulletin. Students who are enrolled in the School of Music and the Institute of Sacred Music have additional requirements as specified by the Institute. All students are expected to avail themselves of the offerings of the University, particularly courses in the Department of Music.

Choral conductors are advised to observe rehearsals of each of the various vocal and instrumental ensembles. Further conducting experience is gained by serving as assistant conductor for one of the faculty-led choruses, and by directing the Battell Chapel and Marquand Chapel choirs. Visiting guest conductors have included Sir David Willcocks, Robert Shaw, Krzysztof Penderecki, James MacMillan, Sir Neville Marriner, Stephen Layton, Helmuth Rilling, Nicholas McGegan, Paul Hillier, Dale Warland, Simon Carrington, Simon Halsey, Andrew Megill, James O’Donnell, Stefan Parkman, Masaaki Suzuki, Erwin Ortner, Matthew Halls, and Kaspars Putnin¸š.

Working with their adviser, choral conducting students in the Institute of Sacred Music elect two courses offered by the ISM, Yale Divinity School, or Department of Religious Studies. With the approval of the adviser and ISM director, required School of Music Hearing and History courses may take the place of one or more of these electives. Students may petition the ISM director for exceptions to these expectations.


The major in organ prepares students for careers as informed church musicians, soloists, and teachers, and for doctoral-level programs.

Program Requirements

Organ students may enroll in the Institute of Sacred Music for any degree programs—M.M., M.M.A., or D.M.A.

The departmental seminar is devoted to a comprehensive survey of organ literature from the seventeenth century to the present. For one week each year the department invites a visiting artist/teacher to be in residence to give individual lessons, an organ seminar, and a public recital. In recent years the visiting artists have included Marie-Claire Alain, Michel Bouvard, Sophie-Véronique Cauchefer-Choplin, David Craighead, Vincent Dubois, Hans-Ola Ericsson, Michael Gailit, Jon Gillock, Naji Hakim, Martin Haselböck, Susan Landale, Olivier Latry, Jon Laukvik, Rachel Laurin, Ludger Lohmann, Renée Anne Louprette, Thomas Murray, Karel Paukert, Peter Planyavsky, Simon Preston, Daniel Roth, Erik Wm. Suter, Thomas Trotter, and Dame Gillian Weir. Martin Baker will be the guest artist in 2017–2018.

Students have the opportunity for practice and performance on the extensive collection of fine instruments at the University: the H. Frank Bozyan Memorial Organ in Dwight Memorial Chapel (Rudolph von Beckerath, three manuals, 1971); the organ in Battell Chapel (Walter Holtkamp, Sr., three manuals, 1951); the organ in Marquand Chapel (E. M. Skinner, three manuals, 1932); and the Newberry Memorial Organ in Woolsey Hall (E. M. Skinner, four manuals, 1928), one of the most famous romantic organs in the world. The 2007–2008 academic year saw the inauguration of the Krigbaum Organ (Taylor & Boody, three manuals, meantone temperament, 2007) in Marquand Chapel. The Institute also possesses a Taylor & Boody continuo organ (2004). Two-manual practice instruments by Flentrop, Holtkamp, Casavant, and others are located in Woolsey Hall and at the Institute of Sacred Music, which also houses five Steinway grand pianos, a C.B. Fisk positive, a Dowd harpsichord, a two-manual Richard Kingston harpsichord, and a two-manual organ by Martin Pasi.

Working with their adviser, organ students in the Institute of Sacred Music elect three courses from the ISM, Yale Divinity School, or Department of Religious Studies. With the approval of the adviser and ISM director, required School of Music Hearing and History courses may take the place of one or more of these electives. Students may petition the ISM director for exceptions to these expectations.


Students majoring in vocal performance at Yale are enrolled in one of two separate and distinct tracks: the Opera track (sponsored by the School of Music, with Doris Yarick-Cross as program adviser), and the track in Early Music, Oratorio, and Chamber Ensemble (sponsored jointly by the Institute of Sacred Music and School of Music, with James Taylor as program coordinator).

The Yale community and the New Haven area offer ample opportunities for solo experience with various Yale choral and orchestral ensembles, as well as through church positions and professional orchestras. Close proximity to New York and Boston makes attendance at performances and auditions in those cities convenient. Additionally, students have the opportunity to teach voice to undergraduates in Yale College and to nonmajors in the Yale School of Music.

Information about the Opera track can be found in the bulletin of the Yale School of Music.

Voice: Early Music, Oratorio, and Chamber Ensemble

This vocal track, leading to the M.M., M.M.A., or D.M.A., is designed for the singer whose interests lie principally in the fields of early music, oratorio, art song, contemporary music, and vocal chamber ensembles.

The ISM voice track is designed to enhance and nurture the artistry of young singers by developing in them a secure technique, consummate musicianship, and stylistic versatility through instruction in performance practice and comprehensive performance experience. There is a strong emphasis on oratorio, particularly the works of Bach and Handel, as well as art song repertoire.

Program requirements Private voice lessons are supplemented by intensive coaching in art song and oratorio literature and by concentrated study of ensemble techniques in the chamber ensemble Yale Schola Cantorum, directed by David Hill. Schola’s touring and recording schedules provide invaluable professional experiences, and students’ participation in Schola offers the opportunity of working with such renowned conductors as Simon Carrington, Matthew Halls, Paul Hillier, Stephen Layton, Sir Neville Marriner, Nicholas McGegan, Helmuth Rilling, Masaaki Suzuki, Jeffery Thomas, and Sir David Willcocks. Schola’s performances feature the ISM voice majors in the various solo roles.

Weekly seminars and voice classes provide in-depth instruction in performance practice; early music and art song repertoire; diction (French, German, Italian, and Latin); and Gregorian chant. Voice majors are required to sing a recital during each year of study. Additionally, singers have the opportunity to participate in master classes by internationally renowned artists, who in recent years have included Anna Caterina Antonacci, Robin Blaze, Christian Gerhaher, Emma Kirkby, Marni Nixon, Andreas Scholl, Donald Sulzen, Hilary Summers, Roderick Williams, and Furio Zanasi.

All students of the Institute of Sacred Music are required to attend the ISM Colloquium each week of every term. Working with their adviser, voice students in the Institute of Sacred Music elect two courses from the ISM, Yale Divinity School, or Department of Religious Studies. With the approval of the adviser and ISM director, required School of Music Hearing and History courses may take the place of one or more of these electives. Students may petition the ISM director for exceptions to these expectations. Students are encouraged to avail themselves of the offerings of the University, particularly courses in the Department of Music.

For more precise information about the courses and requirements in this track, contact the Institute’s Office of Admissions at 203.432.9753.

Church Music Studies

Training tomorrow’s professional church musician is one of the core elements of the Institute’s mission. Church Music Studies is an optional certificate program designed for organ, choral, and/or voice majors enrolled in the Master of Music program in the Institute of Sacred Music and School of Music. Organ majors can complete the church music curriculum within the two-year degree program. Choral conducting and voice majors in the M.M. program typically require a fifth term of full-time study (see Expenses and Financial Aid for more information). By electing courses from a broad set of categories, taking a proseminar in church music (see below), and participating in selected worship opportunities, students will gain an understanding of the history, theology, and practice of the variety of Christian liturgical traditions. Music students will work side by side with Divinity students as they together develop the skills and vocabulary necessary for vital and effective ministry.

Students interested in pursuing the Certificate in Church Music Studies should consult with the program adviser as soon as possible after matriculation. Second-year voice or choral conducting students who wish to elect the fifth term must state their intention of doing so by December 8.


An organ, choral, or vocal major follows the normal programs for the Master of Music degree as required by the School of Music. The electives in the program are guided by the requirements for Church Music Studies. Students will develop their individual program of study in collaboration with the Church Music adviser.

The curriculum is designed so that an organ major can complete it concurrently with the M.M. degree program in two years of full-time enrollment. A choral or vocal major will need to enroll for a fifth term as a nondegree student following graduation with the Master of Music in order to complete the requirements. For information about enrolling for the fifth term, see the special section under Expenses and Financial Aid. Students will not continue studio lessons during this fifth term.

4-credit courses Students will elect one course from each of the following four categories (4 credits each). Some examples of prior years’ courses are given to show how the individualized program might look. Consult the bulletins of the School of Music and Divinity School for current course offerings.

Biblical Studies

  • One course from the O.T./N.T. Interpretation sequence

Liturgical Studies

  • Foundations of Christian Worship
  • Prayer Book

History of Sacred Music or Religion and the Arts

  • J.S. Bach’s First Year in Leipzig
  • Mozart’s Sacred Music
  • Music and Theology in the Sixteenth Century
  • From House Churches to Medieval Cathedrals: Christian Art and Architecture from the Third Century to the End of Gothic

Art of Ministry

Hymnody as Resources for Preaching and Worship

The Parish Musician

2-credit courses Students will also elect three skills-based courses (2 credits each); for example:

  • Elements of Choral Conducting (for organ majors)
  • Voice for Non-Majors
  • Improvisation at the Organ
  • Choral Ensembles
  • Organ for Non-Majors
  • Leading Congregational Song (a course team-taught by an organist and one skilled in global hymnody)
  • Church Music Skills (administration, working with instruments, handbells, praise band, etc.)

Proseminar A 1-credit course will be offered each year for Divinity and Music students alike, in which issues including the theology and practice of liturgy, music, and the arts, as well as program development and staff leadership, will be addressed. Participation in selected worship opportunities will be a key component in these discussions.

Church Music Internships

The Institute partners with a number of major churches and cathedrals around the country to offer internships in church music for music graduates of the ISM who have completed the Church Music Studies curriculum. Students may apply for these internships in their second year and spend one to two terms immediately following graduation from Yale learning firsthand the skills needed of professional church musicians. Working with their mentor on-site, they focus their attention on service playing, conducting, administration, planning, and staff relations. Interns report back to the Institute their weekly progress. Interested students should see the ISM director for details.

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The Institute of Sacred Music and the Divinity School

Institute faculty members are responsible for the programs in Liturgical Studies and Religion and the Arts at the Divinity School. Outside of those specialized programs, ISM/Divinity students may also pursue the Comprehensive Master of Arts in Religion or the M.Div. (see the chapter Degrees). Students should also consult the bulletin of the Divinity School for degree requirements and other course information.

Liturgical Studies

The program offers a broad-ranging education in historical, theological, and practical aspects of liturgical studies. Drawing on the strengths of both Yale Institute of Sacred Music and Yale Divinity School faculty, as well as faculty from cognate fields, the program is richly interdisciplinary. Numerous electives supplement the core courses of study, ensuring that students not only gain a broad understanding of liturgy and of approaches to its study but also encounter the diversity of liturgical patterns in the Christian tradition. The faculty emphasizes connections with church history as well as theology, contemporary liturgical practice, and the practice of sacred music and other art forms.

This program in liturgical studies seeks to serve students who are preparing for doctoral work and those with ministerial vocations, lay or ordained, especially parish ministers and church musicians.

Students in the Liturgical Studies program may be candidates for either the M.A.R. or the S.T.M. degree. (All other Yale students, especially those in the Divinity School’s M.Div. program, are welcome to elect liturgy courses.) A liturgical studies major enrolling in the Institute of Sacred Music will elect the ISM Colloquium each term in addition to other courses.

Program Requirements

M.A.R. in Liturgical Studies This degree program requires 18 credit hours of study in the major area, including the introductory core course of the program, Foundations of Christian Worship, REL 682. Students must take 9 credit hours of limited electives in liturgical studies, 3 with a historical focus, 3 with a theological focus, and 3 with a strong methodological or practical component. The remaining 6 credits may be taken as electives, but students are strongly encouraged to seek out a course in their own denominational worship tradition.

The remaining 30 credits required for the M.A.R. in liturgical studies will be taken in the various areas of study of the Divinity School and Institute curricula, according to a student’s academic interests and professional goals and in consultation with faculty in the area of concentration.

S.T.M. in Liturgical Studies Candidates for the Master of Sacred Theology in Liturgical Studies must complete 24 credit hours of study, 18 of which must be in the major area. Six credits may be satisfied by reading courses and/or thesis work. If not previously taken, the following courses are required: the introductory core course, Foundations of Christian Worship, REL 682; and 9 credits of limited electives in liturgical studies, 3 with a historical focus, 3 with a theological orientation, and 3 with a strong methodological or practical component. An extended paper or an independent thesis (one- or two-term option) is required for the S.T.M. degree. In addition, ISM students present their work at the Institute Colloquium.

The work for this degree may be regarded as a fourth year of preparation for the Christian ministry. The S.T.M. program may also be used as a year of specialized work in one of the theological disciplines or as preparation for doctoral studies. The schedule of courses may involve offerings in other schools or departments of the University.

Each candidate is required to plan, submit for approval, and pursue an integrated program designed to serve either of the purposes stated above. A minimum of three-fourths of the courses taken must be related to a designated field of concentration.

A candidate for the S.T.M. degree must complete the equivalent of at least twenty-four term hours of graduate study beyond the M.Div. or equivalent degree. Only course work graded High Pass or above is credited toward the S.T.M. degree. A thesis, major paper in a regular course, or other acceptable project in the selected field of study is required. It must demonstrate the ability to do independent research. Students writing theses or projects are required to register in REL 3999, S.T.M. Thesis or Project.

The work for the degree may be taken in one year, or distributed over two, three, or four years; it must be completed within four years of matriculation. In the case of students who wish to extend their studies, nine term hours is the minimum course load that can be regarded as a full-time program of studies. Normally, no work taken prior to matriculation will be counted toward the degree, nor will credit be transferred from other schools unless approval to utilize a course to be taken elsewhere has been given in advance.

The Institute provides a maximum of one year or equivalent of financial support to students in this program. More detailed information about the S.T.M. degree and requirements is in the Yale Divinity School bulletin.

Religion and the Arts

The program in Religion and the Arts provides enrichment to all students in YDS and ISM. Master’s-degree students may pursue the broad-based comprehensive M.A.R. in religion and the arts (see Degrees), or they may be admitted to one of three areas of concentration: religion and literature, religion and music, or religion and the visual arts and material culture. Applicants declare their concentration at the time of application, and an undergraduate major or equivalent preparation in the concentration is presumed. Courses in these areas are taken principally from faculty in the Divinity School and Institute of Sacred Music; electives are taken elsewhere in the University: in the Graduate School (e.g., the departments of English, Comparative Literature, Music, American Studies, History of Art, Religious Studies, Anthropology) or in the schools of Art, Architecture, and Music. In addition, students study the traditional curriculum of divinity: Bible, theology, history of Christianity, liturgics. Students are encouraged to attain reading proficiency in a second language relevant to their field of study.

Religion and Literature This concentration emphasizes the close reading of texts, an awareness of historical context, and a wide variety of interpretive approaches. What distinguishes it from other master’s programs in literature, however, is its focus on the religious dimension of literary works and the theological ramifications of their study—for communities as well as for individual readers. Students are helped to make connections between theological content and literary form (e.g., narrative, poetry, memoir, epistle, fragment, and song); to increase understanding of how the arts give voice to theological ideas; and to develop creative as well as critical writing skills in articulating theology. In addition to literary study, students take courses in Bible, theology, and history. Because of the interdisciplinary nature of the ISM, moreover, literature is always brought into conversation with worship and the other arts. Graduates of the program may go on to doctoral work in a variety of disciplines.

Religion and Music This concentration aims to familiarize students with broad areas of sacred music and their theological, philosophical, and ritual contexts. The program is open to students wanting to focus on historical musicology, ethnomusicology, or the theological study of music. Students will work within the methodological and theoretical framework of their subdiscipline, but they are also expected to cross the boundaries into the other musicological disciplines. In addition, students are encouraged to consider music within an interdisciplinary network: visual arts, poetry, literature, etc. Yale offers a wide variety of music-related courses, and students are invited to take advantage of course offerings in the larger Yale community, particularly the School of Music and the Department of Music. After graduation from the program, many students pursue doctoral degrees in music history or ethnomusicology, or they pursue theological studies with a particular focus on music and ritual.

Religion and the Visual Arts and Material Culture This concentration aims to provide students with a robust scholarly background in relations between religion and visual and material arts/cultures. It encourages interdisciplinary conversation across the various arts represented in the ISM curriculum (literature, music, liturgy, and ritual studies). The program invites students to take advantage of the abundant resources of Yale University in the visual arts and cultures of religion. After graduation from the program, many students pursue doctoral degrees in history of art or religious studies.

Program Requirements

M.A.R. in Religion and the Arts: Concentrations Students elect one of three areas of concentration, as detailed above. The emphasis in each area is upon history, criticism, and analysis of past and present practice. Each requires 21 credits in the area of concentration: in literature, 6 of these credits must be taken with ISM faculty; in music or visual arts/material culture, 12 must be taken with ISM faculty. In addition, at least 15 credits shall be devoted to general theological studies: 6 credits in Area I, 6 credits in Area II, and 3 credits in Area III. Twelve credits of electives may be taken from anywhere in the University, though the number of electives allowed in studio art, creative writing, or musical performance is at the discretion of the adviser and permission of the instructor. In total, one-half of the student’s course load must be Divinity School credits.

A limited number of studio art classes may be taken for academic credit by students in the visual arts/material culture concentration, and they must demonstrate the relevance of this study to theology. Admission to studio art courses depends entirely on the permission of the instructor and is customarily granted only to those with strong portfolios.

Students preparing for doctoral work will be encouraged to develop strong writing samples and foreign language skills. ISM students may apply to the Institute for study in Yale’s summer language program.

Other M.A.R. Programs

M.A.R.: Comprehensive By the time of graduation, all ISM/YDS students in the Master of Arts in Religion comprehensive program will have taken four 3-credit courses from ISM faculty. One course may be substituted with participation for one year in one of the following vocal ensembles: Marquand Choir, Marquand Gospel Choir, Recital Chorus, Repertory Chorus, Yale Schola Cantorum, Yale Camerata.

M.A.R.: Other Concentrations By the time of graduation, all ISM/YDS students in all concentrations other than those listed above will have taken at least two 3-credit courses from ISM faculty. (Participation in a vocal ensemble does not count toward this requirement.)

Ministerial Studies (M.Div.)

ISM students pursuing the M.Div. are offered many electives to explore the full range of studies in sacred music, worship, and the arts. By the time of graduation, all ISM/YDS students in the Master of Divinity program will have taken one 3-credit course from ISM faculty in each of the following areas:

  • • Sacred Music
  • • Worship
  • • Religion and the Arts (Visual Arts or Literature)

In addition, students will have taken a total of 9 credits in other ISM courses. This requirement may be fulfilled by applied music lessons for credit; by upper-level homiletics courses; or by participation in any of the following vocal ensembles: Marquand Choir, Marquand Gospel Choir, Recital Chorus, Repertory Chorus, Yale Schola Cantorum, Yale Camerata. (Those pursuing the Berkeley certificate are only required to take 3 credits in other ISM courses.)

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