The Bachelor of Music in Church Music curriculum prepares you to become a working, professional, full-time church musician.
Shenandoah Conservatory’s Bachelor of Music in Church Music degree prepares you for a fulfilling career as a church musician. You’ll study with artist faculty who are inspiring performers and passionate teachers, perform in ensembles led by challenging conductors, work with exciting guest artists worldwide and enjoy opportunities for international travel.
We’ll equip you to be a well-rounded church musician with the knowledge and skills to direct music programs for various Christian denominations. We’ll give you a solid background in performance and conducting, along with an understanding of historical and contemporary practices in church music liturgy.
The curriculum includes courses in religion and private study of piano, organ and voice, culminating in the final year with an internship at a local church. Many of the church music courses are offered each summer through the Church Music Institute, a three-year cycle of classes focusing on liturgical organ playing, conducting (adult, children’s and handbell choirs), and congregational song (hymns and liturgy).
The reimagined church music curriculum increases the diversity of opportunities and experiences for students. It ensures they graduate with greater awareness of the various roles of the church musician and different worship traditions, and can further apply their creative and entrepreneurial skills to work in and lead today’s church music programs.
- New ShenCoSkills sequence for all first- and second-year conservatory students. A first-of-its-kind four-semester program that not only further integrates students into conservatory and campus life, but also provides them with a critical toolset impacting their well-being, academic success and ability to collaborate within the conservatory and their profession
- Standard four-semester theory sequence reimagined to Thinking in Key, blending together written theory, ear training, and critical listening skills and encouraging students to explore how their music creates meaning
- New courses added to support the musician’s work in the church:
- Organ Improvisation and Organ Literature (Organ Emphasis)
- Vocal Literature and Vocal Pedagogy (Voice Emphasis)
- New seminar in church music which addresses different worship traditions, the role of the church musician and administration of church music programs
- More even distribution of performance courses — piano, organ and voice — so that only two applied subjects are studied each semester
- Final culminating senior recital changed to Senior Performance Recital Project, which better aligns with career goals of the 21st century musician, allowing for the integration of advanced musicianship, individual artistic identity and skillful audience engagement within a collaborative setting
Learn More About This Program
Lead traditional worship as an organist, become a choir director and learn the art of accompaniment.
Church Music is a field that has wide appeal for those who wish to combine a love of music with a career in a church setting. Church musicians work with people of all ages and abilities as they prepare the music needed in worship services. Church musicians possess specialized skills in organ, conducting, voice, children and adult choirs, and service playing. They must understand the role of music in worship and have a thorough understanding of the various denominational liturgies. The training that Shenandoah offers in church music is not focused on any one denomination, and graduates of this program are employed by all major denominations. Most Shenandoah graduates are employed in full-time positions as music ministers or organist/choirmaster in churches with multiple choir programs.
Shenandoah Conservatory’s Church Music Institute is held for two weeks each summer as part of a three-year cycle of an intensive study of the skills and knowledge required of a musician working in the church.
Minor in Music, Theatre or Dance
Shenandoah Conservatory offers minors in Music, Theatre or Dance for all Shenandoah University students. Acceptance into conservatory minors must be approved by the Division/Department Chair, and some minors require an audition.
Declaring A Minor
Shenandoah students work with their Academic Advisor to declare a minor. Academic Advisors will continue to work with students to ensure that they fulfill all of the requirements to complete the minor.
Incoming students should not indicate their intended minor on their Shenandoah application. Applications are for intended majors only.
The Bachelor of Music in Church Music curriculum prepares you to become a working, professional, full-time church musician. Whether you choose an emphasis in organ or voice, you will become well-versed in both, along with becoming a skilled, versatile conductor.
Lead traditional worship
You will know how to lead traditional worship as an organist, a music or choir director, studio teacher, or an accompanist.
Teach church music students of all ages and skill levels
We prepare you to work with and teach amateur choirs, no matter how much training they might or might not have. You will not only be able to help your students make music, but also think about and appreciate what and why they are playing.
Work with and train members of clergy
You will also be qualified to work professionally with members of clergy – who often have little or no training themselves – to help them develop their own skills in worship planning.
The Career Services Office provides a comprehensive range of services and resources to assist Shenandoah students in their career search. Services offered include resume and cover letter building, mock interviews, and professional dining etiquette workshops.
You will learn:
- Musicianship in both solo and ensemble performance
- How to perform in differing settings and for specific audiences
- Repertoire and planning for liturgical settings
- How to lead a rehearsal and the music component of a church service
- Music theory, music history, world music and music technology
- How to work with and train children’s choirs
- How to effectively and efficiently express ideas both orally and in writing
Learning support services are available to all students in every course at Shenandoah. Free peer tutoring with a student who has previously succeeded in the course is available for any course across the university. The Writing Center is available for every stage of the writing process from thesis development to proofreading and bibliography assistance. The Math Enrichment Center is available for math and science assistance. Professors and Academic Advisors across the university also have office hours and open door policies to ensure Shenandoah students succeed academically.
Performance Opportunities and Ensembles
Shenandoah Conservatory produces more than 400 performances each year. Enroll in a dynamic curriculum and start preparing for a meaningful career in the arts. You will practice your craft in front of audiences and develop a plan for your professional launch into the industry that focuses on your personal desires and aspirations.
Embrace extensive performance opportunities with top-tier facilities from theatres, concert halls and dance studios. Unite with fellow artists and join an alumni family that takes center stage from Broadway to the concert halls of Europe.
Shenandoah Conservatory is home to more than 20 instrumental, vocal, and dance ensembles that present numerous performances every year. These performances take place throughout Shenandoah University’s vibrant campus on its various stages, including a concert hall, recital hall, proscenium stage, black box studio, outdoor amphitheater and more, to venues and performance spaces in the Northern Shenandoah Valley and around the world. Ensembles constantly engage with Shenandoah’s dynamic faculty and an array of distinguished guest artists through residencies, workshops and unique performance opportunities.
Experience the world-renowned Shenandoah Conservatory. Study with master teachers – more than 100 professionals in music, theatre, dance and arts management.
Shenandoah Conservatory’s prestigious faculty is dynamic, creative, and passionately committed to the highest levels of artistic excellence. A deeply caring community, they mentor students with a wealth of professional expertise, balancing rigorous expectations with compassion and wisdom. At Shenandoah, you will study with, and perform for, award-winning composers, Metropolitan Opera singers, Grammy Award winning conductors and international competition winners. You will learn from leading scholars in music and premiere works created by accomplished dance artists and cutting-edge directors. Shenandoah Conservatory’s faculty embodies the highest levels of professional accomplishment and the deepest commitment to furthering the artistic growth and creative aspirations of students in every discipline.
J. Thomas Mitts
Director and Associate Professor of Organ and Church MusicFull Biography
Application and Audition Information
Shenandoah University works on rolling admissions. Applications are reviewed individually and holistically.
Submit your application, review required admissions materials, and find our admissions standards.
Admission to Shenandoah Conservatory is highly competitive. Not only must students be academically admissible, they must also complete and pass the mandatory audition/portfolio review and interview process. Audition dates are limited and may fill and close well in advance of the audition date.
Make studying abroad the highlight of your college experience! Whether you go for a year, a semester, or just a few weeks, you will never forget learning in another culture! The Center for International Programs is here to help you plan your study abroad experience. Start your planning early to ensure the courses you complete abroad count toward your degree and you graduate on time.
Global Experiential Learning (GEL) Program
The Global Experiential Learning (GEL) Program offers Shenandoah students a short-term, faculty-led, study-abroad experience for academic credit. These short-term, credit-bearing, faculty-led programs are offered winter break, spring break, and during the summer. If a course is not within your major, it might be used as an elective.
Shenandoah University is a member of the International Student Exchange Program (ISEP), a global network of 300 universities. This partnership allows students to study for a full semester or year at other member campuses abroad. By working closely with their academic advisors and the study abroad advisor, students can take classes taught in English abroad while receiving Shenandoah credit.
Shenandoah University also maintains direct partnerships with several universities around the world. These relationships allow students from SU to study abroad as exchange students and students from these universities to study at SU. All partner universities offer courses taught in English.
Fast-Track to Arts Management
Accelerated PALM Program
The Master of Science in Performing Arts Leadership and Management is designed to provide future performing arts executives and artistic leaders with the industry skills required in the 21st century. The accelerated program in Performing Arts Leadership and Management is available for current Shenandoah Conservatory undergraduates who, upon completion of their undergraduate degree, wish to obtain a Master of Science in Performing Arts Leadership and Management in just one year. Students who are accepted into the accelerated program will begin to take arts leadership and management courses during their undergraduate studies and register for internship during the summer between senior year and their final year of graduate study.