Master of Sacred Music (M.S.M.)

The Master of Sacred Music (M.S.M.) 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 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 church settings.

The program is enriched not only by the theological context in the School of Theology and relationship with Meadows School of the Arts, but also by the diverse and vibrant worship life and artistic opportunities in the Dallas area, one of the fastest growing metropolitan areas in the United States. Congregations reflect many ecumenical and cross-cultural possibilities that enrich the academic experience including a wide range of worship styles and more new organ installations in that last three decades than any other city in the world. Performance venues for symphony, opera, and choral music, as well as spaces for dance, theatre and other artistic exhibitions make this one of the major hubs for the arts in the United States.

The following are the aspirational Program Goals for the Master of Sacred Music Program. An M.S.M. graduate should demonstrate:

Musical, Theological, Liturgical, and Contextual Discernment

The ability to make sound musical and theological judgments about works performed, including 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.

Musical Skills

Advanced accomplishment in an applied area appropriate to a faith community’s piety, demonstrated through the voice, keyboard, and choral rehearsal technique; 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.

Pedagogical Process

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.

Understanding the Discipline of Sacred Music within a Larger Theological and Cultural Framework

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.

Interpersonal Sensitivity and Organizational Skills

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 term hours of courses in the liberal arts.

A cumulative G.P.A. of at least 3.00 (on a 4.00 scale) is required for admission to the Master of Sacred Music program. The concentration in Liturgical Musicology requires a cumulative G.P.A. of at least 3.5 for admittance and that the student maintain at least a 3.5 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 School of the Arts and the School of Theology. Apply online here.

The applicant is expected to bring capabilities in one of the seven concentrations offered, demonstrating potential for success for study at the graduate level. The following concentrations are available:

Applied Concentrations

Choral Conducting: Submit a 20 minute video link(s) and writing sample through the Perkins School of Theology Application

Composition and Arranging: Submit links to recordings, PDF or scores, and goal statement through the Perkins School of Theology Application

Keyboards: Register for an audition on campus or submit a recorded audition

Organ: Register for an audition on campus or submit a recorded audition


Academic Concentrations

Music Education: Submit a 20 minutes video link(s), writing sample through Perkins School of Theology Application. Also schedule an interview with

Worship Arts: Submit a writing sample through the Perkins School of Theology Application 

Liturgical Musicology: Submit a writing sample through the Perkins School of Theology Application 


View audition or submission requirements for Master of Sacred Music applicants here:

Audition Requirements
Academic Concentration Requirements

All academic concentrations include applied instruction in choral conducting, 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.

Graduate Diagnostic Examinations

All applicants for a Master of Sacred Music degree are required to complete brief tests in music history and music theory. The content of these tests is based on typical undergraduate core courses in these areas. Instructions for completing the Pre-Diagnostic Examinations will be emailed to you directly from the Division of Music following submission of your application to the Perkins School of Theology, or registration of an audition for performance candidates.

Graduate candidates who have successfully completed the admissions process and have been admitted into the Master of Music or Master of Sacred Music programs are required to take DIAGNOSTIC EXAMS in MUSIC HISTORY and MUSIC THEORY prior to enrollment. Students are expected to demonstrate skills and knowledge in music history, aural skills and theoretical materials equivalent to those of graduating seniors who have met general requirements in these areas at SMU. It is to the student's financial advantage to prepare seriously for the diagnostic examinations.

Applicants who already hold graduate degrees in music (M.M., M.M.E. 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 term 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 School of Theology (if the work is in theology). Applicants who have already earned a graduate degree in music, may also qualify for the M.T.S. degree with a concentration in Church Music and Worship, a program that focuses specifically on church music skills and repertoire and theological studies. Applicants interested in such options should consult with the director of the M.S.M. program. Download M.T.S. in Church Music and Worship

With the approval of the appropriate admissions committees, a student may pursue a second Master of Music (M.M.) degree following the completion of the M.S.M. The applicant must satisfy the audition requirements of the Division of Music Faculty in Meadows School of the Arts. Depending on the field of study chosen for the M.M., an additional master’s degree usually requires only one additional year because of the overlap in the programs. Hours in the M.S.M. may also apply toward the M.Div., Th.M., M.T.S., or M.A.M. degrees offered by the School of Theology. Consultation with the director of the M.S.M. program is recommended.

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.