Doctor of Sacred Music (D.S.M.)


The Doctor of Sacred Music is a second level professional degree for persons engaged in parish music ministries as a cantor, director or minister of music, pastoral musician, pastor of worship, organist, etc., or in other contexts in which the individual serves in a sacred music capacity, such as a music missionary. Persons who possess a master’s degree in church, liturgical or sacred music, or who have earned a master’s degree in another area of music within which sacred music study was undertaken, are welcome to apply.
The D.S.M. is designed to enable the candidate to develop a sequence of ten units which will focus on an area of sacred music previously lacking in the candidate’s training, or focus on taking an area of musical expertise to a higher level. Students may specialize in a performance area, musical composition, research, parish music administration, or other in-ministry concerns. Study for the units may be acquired by attending traditional graduate level courses, by directed study, or through a combination of short-term courses, seminars, workshops, master classes, or private instruction at the institutions of the candidate’s choice. The D.S.M. Project may take the form of a recital or a lecture-recital, a choral/instrumental performance, the writing of a traditional thesis, the composition and performance of an original work or set of works, or the development of an in-ministry activity based on the student’s particular area of interest and context need.
This degree is a 36 credit program that may be completed in no less than eighteen months and no more than three years. 
  • 30 credits (10 courses)
  • 6 credits (Exit Project)

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Admission Requirements
  1. Baccalaureate degree or equivalent in some area of music validated by a transcript.
  2. Master’s degree in sacred music or other area of music, validated by a transcript.
  3. Five years of accumulated experience in music ministry.
  4. Completion of the Application Procedure, which includes the submission of a performance portfolio detailing the student’s musical experiences, including when appropriate, video and/or audio recordings representative of the student’s musical skills and performance expertise.

Program Requirements 

  1. Students are expected to thoroughly familiarize themselves with the Student Handbook of the year of their acceptance with particular focus on their particular degree program.  Students are bound by the academic and financial requirements of the Handbook in use at the time of their acceptance.  The current Student Handbook, as well as past years’ Handbooks, can be viewed here.
  2. Completion of ten Units of Study:
    1. Five Units of Study must be taken from the Graduate Theological Foundation. Students may choose from any of our online courses in sacred music, tailoring their course selection according to their interests and professional needs.
    2. Five Units of Study may be completed through the GTF, through other approved educational institutions, or through the use of transfer credit.
  3. Completion of the non-credit course, Research Methodology.  This course is a prerequisite to beginning the doctoral project.
  4. Completion of the Doctoral Project and submission of one electronic copy including the Project Consultant’s evaluation forms.   All academic requirements must be met by March 1 prior to graduation.

Study Options 

This program requires the completion of ten Units of Study. A Unit of Study is defined as 40 contact hours of instruction, and is equivalent to a 3-credit graduate-level course, one Unit of Clinical Pastoral Education, or 4 Continuing Education Units.

Units of Study may be completed through the GTF, from other approved venues, or by using transfer credit.

The Study Options button on the GTF’s website under the heading Academics lists the course offerings of the GTF and provides information about the various methods of earning Units of Study for your degree.

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Research Methodology

Research Methodology is a required course for all students completing an exit project.  The Research Methodology course requirement is explained here.
Transfer Credit
Any student wishing to have previously completed academic work evaluated for possible transfer credit or wishing to complete coursework through a venue other than the Graduate Theological Foundation for use as transfer credit toward a degree, must contact the Office of the Registrar for approval. Students may use transfer credit to fulfill a maximum 50% of their Unit of Study requirements for this degree program.  Accepted transfer credit has the potential to decrease the total tuition paid by the student. Requests for acceptance of transfer credit are reviewed on a case by case basis. GTF transfer credit policy allows for a $600 tuition reduction per Unit of Study (3 graduate credits) fulfilled by transfer credit.
Selection of Faculty Consultant and Nomination Procedure

Students select a faculty member of the GTF to serve as Project Consultant. This enables the student to receive helpful and pragmatic evaluative feedback from a member of the faculty in the developmental process of producing the Exit Project. The role of the faculty Project Consultant is responsive and suggestive rather than “supervisory” as is the case with academic thesis writing. The faculty person is encouraged to limit feedback to pragmatically helpful hints and suggestions and not to attempt any censorship of the project. The exercise of discretion with respect to time demands is very important for both the student and faculty member. The faculty Project Consultant must give final approval of the student’s work by submitting the Project Consultant’s Report Form. The assessment from the Project Consultant is due by March 1 of the intended year of graduation.

  • The student peruses the Faculty Details page and makes a selection.
  • The student completes the Faculty Project Consultant Nomination Form 107 (Forms).
  • Academic Affairs provides the nominated faculty member with Form 107.
  • The selected faculty member notifies Academic Affairs of acceptance of student nomination.
  • Academic Affairs informs the student and faculty member of relationship approval and contact information is provided. 
Doctoral Committee
In order to ensure the highest level of academic rigor and to provide constructive and helpful feedback, students enrolled in professional doctoral degrees at the GTF will have a Doctoral Committee assigned to them. 
Doctoral Committee for professional doctoral students:
Doctoral Project Consultant – The Doctoral Project Consultant will work closely with the doctoral candidate in the development of the project.  The project consultant has no responsibility for any copyediting of the manuscript, but is responsible for providing guidance regarding content and academic protocols.  The GTF expects that the project consultant must finally and formally approve of the doctoral project and submit the Doctoral Project Consultant’s Report Form.
Faculty Reader –Upon submission of the doctoral project and receipt of the Doctoral Project Consultant’s report, the Faculty Reader will read and review the work.  The Faculty Reader will submit a brief review and evaluation of the doctoral project.  If the Faculty Reader has any major concerns regarding the acceptability of the work, those concerns will be brought to the attention of the Doctoral Committee Chair, the Doctoral Project Consultant, and the doctoral student.
Doctoral Committee Chair – The Doctoral Committee Chair will write a final evaluation of the work which will be based on the Doctoral Project Consultant’s report, the Faculty Reader’s report, and the Doctoral Committee Chair’s own evaluation of the work.
Doctoral Project

The D.S.M. project may take the form of a recital or lecture-recital, a choral/instrumental performance, the writing of a traditional thesis, the composition and performance of an original work or set of works, or the development of an in-ministry activity based on the student’s particular area of interest and context need. The concept and format of the project can adhere to one of three distinct project formats as delineated below.

  • Academic Track: The D.S.M. project in its final form, if written in a thesis style, must be 35,000-40,000 words, double-spaced, footnoted, with a table of contents as well as a bibliography of a minimum of 35 sources. It is also recommended that the project have annotations for the 10-12 most important sources for the project.
  • Performance Track: Recording or video of recital, lecture-recital, the composition of an original work or set of works, or conducting performance.
    The project must include a written overview or abstract (minimum 8,750 words) in which the student explains the motivation and rationale for the accompanying recording, video, or composition.
  • Administrative/Ministerial Track: The project should reflect the student’s particular interests and/or context needs, such as the teaching of a series of classes on hymnody, the development and execution of a series of workshops, etc. The project must include a written component of 35,000-40,000 words and may include recordings or video if applicable. 
Professional Associations in Sacred Music
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