Southwestern leads nation in church music

FORT WORTH, Texas (SWBTS) – Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary leads the nation in church music education, according to survey results reported last fall during the annual meeting of the National Association of Schools of Music (NASM).

According to this survey of 84 schools, Southwestern is the only accredited institution to the offer a Ph.D. in church music. Also, only seven institutions—including Southwestern, as well as two other Southern Baptist seminaries—offer Doctor of Musical Arts degrees in church music.

Of the institutions surveyed within the NASM, 61 have only one music program related to church music or worship, and many of them offer only bachelor’s degrees. In contrast to all other institutions, Southwestern Seminary offers the greatest variety of specializations, and the most degrees in church music.

Alongside its doctoral degrees, students can choose from three master’s programs in church music and a Bachelor of Arts in Music degree. In these six degree choices, students can specialize in accompanying, composition, conducting, jazz studies, music education, music history, music ministry, music missions, music theory, orchestral performance, organ performance, piano pedagogy, piano performance, vocal pedagogy, vocal performance and worship.

The survey also reported that, during a span of seven years, a national average of 678 students enrolled each fall into accredited programs related to church music and worship. In the fall 2011 semester alone, a total of 167 bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral students enrolled in Southwestern’s music programs. According to Stephen Johnson, dean of the School of Church Music, this means that the seminary trains almost 25 percent of the students who study in these programs related to worship and church music.

Last fall, 38 students enrolled in the Bachelor of Arts in Music program at Southwestern, 110 students enrolled in the School of Church Music’s master’s programs, and 19 enrolled in its doctoral programs. According to the survey reported at the NASM meeting, the national average for fall enrollment over the past seven years was 377 for bachelor’s programs, 254 for master’s programs and 47 for doctoral programs. As suggested by this information, Southwestern trains almost half of the master’s and doctoral students enrolled in church music and worship programs in the United States.

“We are very excited,” Johnson said, noting the many options that students have when they enroll in the School of Church Music. “It is very exciting to say that Southwestern is addressing this multi-faceted nature of worship in the life of the local church. And, yes, every local church is different, and you can’t say there is a one-size-fits-all approach to church music.” Unlike many schools, Southwestern has the “resources ready to address the level of need” in the churches.

On the other hand, Johnson added, the reported survey results “stress Southwestern’s responsibility.”

“There is a sense of responsibility to make sure that we are on the front edge, to make sure that we are doing it right and to make sure that we’re always having a visionary approach to what we’re supposed to do when we serve all the churches of the Southern Baptist Convention.”

In the School of Church Music, students not only train in the classroom, but also perform on campus and in such prestigious venues as New York’s Lincoln Center. Also, the School of Church Music equips students not only with the skills to handle any musical style, but also with the theological training necessary to enhance worship centered on the proclamation of God’s Word.

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