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


The Master of Sacred Music has become the standard first professional degree for persons engaged in parish music ministries. Persons serving in any religious tradition as a cantor, director or minister of music, pastoral musician, pastor of worship, organist, etc., and who possess an undergraduate degree in some area of music, are welcome to apply. The degree includes the traditional interdisciplinary studies of a master’s degree in this field (sacred music foundation, hymnology, liturgy, parish music literature and administration, applied work, and theological study).
Course credit may be earned through a combination of online, distance, or independent study through the GTF, and transfer credit from approved institutions.  The M.S.M. Project may take the form of a 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 30 credit program that may be completed in no less than eighteen months and no more than three years.  
  • 24 credits (8 courses)
  • 6 credits (Exit Project)

Would you like to hear from an alumnus? Click here

Admission Requirements
  1. Baccalaureate degree or equivalent in some area of music validated by a transcript.
  2. Five years accumulated experience in music ministry.
  3. 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 degree program.  Students are bound by the academic and financial requirements of the Handbook in use at the time of their acceptance. 
  2. The student will complete eight Units of Study:  four required from the Graduate Theological Foundation, and four taken from the GTF or fulfilled by transfer credit. 
  3. Completion of the non-credit course, Research Methodology.  This course is a prerequisite to beginning the master’s project.
  4. Completion of the M.S.M. project and submission of one electronic or hard copy including the Project Consultant’s evaluation forms. 

All academic requirements must be met by March 1 of the intended year of graduation.

All financial requirements must be met by April 1 of the intended year of graduation.

Study Options 

This program requires the completion of eight 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.
NOTE: For Paper Guidelines, please Click Here.
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 (Forms).
  • Academic Affairs provides the nominated faculty member with the Faculty Project Consultant Nomination Form.
  • 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.

Master’s Project

The M.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 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 Project: The M.S.M. project in its final form, if written in a thesis style, must be 25,000-30,000 words in length and must have a table of contents as well as a bibliography of a minimum of 20 sources. It is also recommended that the project have annotations for the 10-12 most important sources for the project. It must be written in 12 point Times New Roman (or comparable) font, double-spaced, with one-inch margins.

Performance Project: 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 6,250 words) in which the student explains the motivation and rationale for the accompanying recording, video, or composition.

Administrative / Ministerial Project: 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 25,000-30,000 words (100-120 pages) and may include recordings or video if applicable.

When the project in its final form has been reviewed and approved by the student’s Project Consultant, it must be submitted to the GTF for final review. One copy of the Master’s project must be submitted by email to the Office of the Registrar or in hardcopy to the GTF’s general mailing address, by March 1 of the intended year of graduation. Please click here and fill out the form to request the email address for the Office of the Registrar. 

Professional Associations in Sacred Music

American Choral Directors Association (ACDA)
The American Guild of Organists (AGO)
Association of Canadian Choral Conductors (ACCC)
Church Music Association of America
The Hymn Society in the United States and Canada
National Association of Pastoral Musicians (NPM)
Royal School of Church Music (RSCM)
Royal School of Church Music in America
Royal Canadian College of Organists (RCCO)
Royal College of Organists (RCO)

Scroll to Top