Doctor of Musical Arts in Performance: Sacred Music

Department of Organ

Designed for students seeking the highest degree in the field, the DMA is a rigorous three-year course of study culminating in three recitals and a scholarly essay in lieu of a dissertation.

Program Requirements


The doctoral degree is awarded on the basis of demonstrated competence, not on the basis of a specified number of credit hours. Completion of the program normally requires six terms of full-time study beyond the master’s degree. Students are expected to attain candidacy effective at the beginning of the sixth term.

Sacred Music

Students elect at least five courses in the field of specialization from the following:

  • Music Performance 781: Seminar in Performance Problems (2 hrs)
  • Sacred Music 583: Improvisation I (2 hrs)
  • Sacred Music 584: Service Playing (2 hrs)
  • Sacred Music 585: Blended Worship Music Styles (2 hrs)
  • Sacred Music 586: Contemporary Issues in Sacred Music (2 hrs)
  • Sacred Music 588: Contrapuntal Improvisation (2 hrs)
  • Sacred Music 590: Improvisation II (2 hrs)
  • Sacred Music 591: Creative Hymn-Playing (2 hrs)
  • Sacred Music 592: Advanced Improvisation (2 hrs)
  • Music Performance 891: Directed Performance (2-6 hrs), elected each term in residence as a pre-candidate
  • Music Performance 995: Dissertation/Candidate (8 hrs), elected each term in residence as a candidate
Choral Conducting
  • Choral Conducting 442
  • Students must have one term of Conducting at an undergraduate or Master’s institution or complete Conducting 315
Musicology and Music Theory
  • Each DMA student is required to complete no fewer than 15 hours of graduate course work in musicology and music theory or at least five courses totaling a minimum of 12 hours.
  • Musicology 503: Bibliography of Music (3 hrs) should be elected during the first term of enrollment as a pre-candidate.
  • Musicology 577: Medieval Music, is also required for students in this program.
  • At least one musicology course at the 600-level must be elected by all doctoral students.
  • Work beyond the minimum requirements in musicology and music theory may be necessary to prepare for the preliminary examinations. (An average of B must be achieved in these courses and no course may be counted in which a grade lower than B- is received.)

In addition, students elect at least three courses in organ literature or early music from the following:

  • Organ Literature 782: Early Music for Keyboard (2 hrs)
  • Organ Literature 783: Baroque Organ Music (2 hrs)
  • Organ Literature 784: Organ Music of the Nineteenth Century (2 hrs)
  • Organ Literature 785: Organ Music of the Twentieth Century (2 hrs)
  • Organ Literature 786: Music of the French Baroque (2 hrs)
  • Early Music 550: Basso Continuo I (2 hrs)
  • Early Music 551: Basso Continuo II (2 hrs)
  • Early Music 782: Topics in Historical Performance (2 hrs)
  • Early Music 783: Advanced Continuo and Partimento (2 hrs)

Residency Requirement

At least one academic year of full-time residence is required.

Requirements for Candidacy

Foreign Language

A basic reading knowledge of one foreign language (French, German, Italian or, Spanish).


Every doctoral student in the School of Music, Theatre & Dance must satisfy the pedagogy requirement during the first two terms of enrollment. A list of courses that satisfy this requirement may be found in the Handbook for Rackham Students in Music, Dance, or Theatre.

Repertoire Requirements

Repertoire before 1800:

  • Germany: At least six works by composers before Bach, representing composers from Northern, Central and Southern Germany;
  • France: Two suites or the equivalent made up of selected movements from several works;
  • Italy: At least one toccata and one polyphonic work;
  • Spain & Portugal: Two works by Iberian composers;
  • England: Two representative works
  • Works of J.S. Bach including at least:
    • Eight smaller chorale preludes (Orgelbüchlein, Neumeister Collection or similar)
    • Five larger chorale preludes (Clavierübung III, Leipzig Chorales, Schübler Chorales or similar)
    • Three trio sonatas
    • Six free works (prelude and fugue, toccata and fugue, etc.)

Repertoire after 1800:

  • Four works by 19th-c. German composers such as Brahms, Mendelssohn, or Rheinberger
  • Two English or American works written in a Romantic or early 20th century idiom
  • Six French symphonic works written between 1850-1920, by composers such as Franck, Widor, Guilmant or Vierne
  • Three works written after 1920 by French composers such as Dupré, Duruflé, Alain and Langlais
  • Three works or movements by Olivier Messiaen
  • Eight additional works by 20th and 21st-c. composers

Repertoire should include works by American composers, women composers, living composers and composers outside the European tradition, as well as works for organ and other instruments or voice. Sacred music classes include additional requirements in hymn-playing, accompaniment and improvisation. Substitutions may be made in any category with the approval of the faculty. Works performed for juries and the degree recital do not need to be memorized.

Sacred Music Repertoire Portfolio

Candidates for the DMA in Sacred Music must learn at least 60 minutes of organ repertoire appropriate for performance in present-day worship services in one or more religious traditions (Catholic, Protestant, Jewish, Unitarian, etc.). Some of these pieces may be drawn from the general repertoire requirements for the DMA in Sacred Music. This repertoire must include works from each century from the 17th century to the present.  As one example, a portfolio might include hymn-based preludes for the liturgical year, with appropriate pieces for Advent, Christmas, Lent, Easter and Pentecost.

Preliminary Examinations Prior to Candidacy
  • Music History General Preliminary Examination (or the coursework alternative)
  • Music Theory General Preliminary Examination
  • Performance Preliminary Examination
  • Oral Preliminary Examination

At least two courses in musicology, including MHM 503, must be completed prior to taking the preliminary examination in that field, and at least two courses in music theory must be completed prior to taking the preliminary examination in theory.

The performance preliminary examination will consist of a public recital of major organ works, in which the applicant must satisfy a jury that he or she has achieved the requisite musical competence to undertake the public programs to be presented in lieu of a written dissertation. As preparation for this examination, the applicant must present evidence that memorized public performances of organ works equivalent to one recital (normally completed for the bachelor’s degree), including an approved number of major works, has been performed, and that most of the repertoire requirements have been completed.

The preliminary examination in performance may not be taken until the residence, language, and pedagogy requirements and other preliminary examinations have been successfully completed.

Candidacy will be conferred upon completion of these requirements and examinations. A dissertation committee must have been appointed by the time candidacy is achieved.

Dissertation Requirements


In lieu of a written dissertation, the student will be required to present three public recitals:

  • One recital of major organ works
  • One collaborative recital
  • One additional recital selected from the following options: a lecture recital, a harpsichord recital or a carillon recital

An additional organ recital is presented prior to achieving candidacy as the performance preliminary examination (see above). The three dissertation recitals will be given after achieving candidacy.


A scholarly essay or research paper of approximately 5,000 words dealing with a particular aspect of sacred music will be required.  This document must be submitted to the dissertation committee prior to the performance of the second of the three dissertation recitals.


An abstract listing the music performed for the dissertation recitals and describing the dissertation projects is required.

Final Oral Examination

A final oral examination concerned primarily with the field of specialization will be conducted by the dissertation committee after all of the other requirements have been completed.

For requirement details, please see the Degree Requirements and Term-by-Term Layout for Current Students.


Nearly all DMA students receive full-tuition fellowships. Most also receive health benefits and a stipend attached to a Graduate Student Assistantship, which can vary in proportion to the appointment fraction and the duties associated with it. In addition to the funding packages offered by the SMTD, Rackham students are also eligible to apply for a wide range of fellowships to fund research, travel, and performance.

Audition & Interview Dates

How To Apply

Academic Eligibility

Applicants to the Doctor of Musical Arts in Performance: Sacred Music must have completed a master’s of music degree or equivalent to be eligible for admission.

Applicants must:

  • apply to U-M via the Rackham Graduate School Application by December 1
  • Submit an SMTD Artistic Profile by December 1
  • Send official transcripts from all previous schools to the Rackham Graduate School

Click the button below to read more detailed information about the application requirements and procedures.

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