Summer at St. Mary's


Professor Jeffrey Silberschlag conducting the Chesapeake Orchestra at the River Concert Series.

Study abroad in Italy

Choir and Orchestra in Alba

You can participate in the Alba Music Festival, two weeks of intensive music making in the north of Italy.


Frequently Asked Questions about the Music Department

1) Do you have a good teacher for the instrument I play? What about composing? What else do you have?

We have excellent teachers on all of the major orchestral instruments, plus piano, guitar, saxophone, celtic harp, conducting, and voice. We have excellent teachers of composition, music history, world music, and theory. For more information about the faculty, or to contact any of them, please see the faculty site. If you wish to make direct contact with a particular faculty member, please contact Deborah Lawrence (Department Chair).

2) May I play in an ensemble or take private lessons even if I am not majoring in music?

Yes! All are welcome. While music majors and many music minors are in an ensemble and take private lessons every semester they are here (both the major and the performance minor require participation in 7 of 8 semesters), non-majors are active participants in our programs. At any given time we have about 50 majors or prospective majors. But in any given semester we will have between 175 and 250 students who are doing something in music, whether taking lessons, singing or playing in a group, or taking a music class.

3) What ensembles do you have at St. Mary's College of Maryland?

For singers, we have a large choir, a women's choir, and a small chamber choir. For instrumentalists, we have an orchestra, chamber groups (different each semester according to student interest), a jazz band, and a jazz combo. We also have exciting performance opportunities for students in the summer (a program in Italy and a professional orchestra that plays a summer series). See the performance page for more information.

There are also student-run groups (gospel choir, a cappella vocal groups). And there are a number of student rock bands.

4) How do I get into an instrumental ensemble?

All of the college ensembles have auditions at the beginning of each semester. During the first week of each semester, we post signs with audition times for each ensemble. Our desire is to assess your ability to participate, and we understand that there will be a wide range of abilities. While you are not required to come to the audition with prepared material, an excerpt from a standard sonata or concerto, or an orchestral excerpt will give evidence of performance experience. This applies in particular to returning students who may choose to audition to be considered for a principal chair or advancement in their section.

If you are interested in student-run groups, ask around, or check with the SGA (student government association) for music groups that are incorporated as clubs.

5) How do I get into any of the choirs? What about private voice lessons?

Early in the first week of the semester, we will post the vocal audition times. The auditions will take at the end of the first week of each semester. The choirs and private voice lessons have a single audition. When you audition, you should express your interest, whether for one of the choirs, voice lessons, or some combination. After these auditions, we will post the private lesson studios and the membership lists for the choirs.

6) How do I get private instrumental lessons?

All private lessons are by audition. During the first week of each semester, we post signs with information about how you can make contact with the private lesson teachers to set up the audition. In the audition, we are listening for you to demonstrate preparation consistent with College-level study. We will expect a higher level of preparation from students intending to major in music. You do not have to prepare anything in particular for the audition, though if you choose to do so, that is fine. Basically, we just want to hear how you play. For voice, piano, and guitar, we have class instruction for beginners. For all other instruments, we may take beginners if there is room.

7) How do I find out about the place and time for auditions for getting into ensembles or for private lessons?

At the beginning of the fall semester, we will post information on bulletin boards along the music hallway, and in the glass case outside of MH 25 (on the side closest to the practice rooms). For the ensembles, we will post where and when the auditions will be held. For private lessons, we will post the list of private teachers by instrument, giving the time they will be on campus to hear auditions. We’ll post contact information for them as well.

As noted above, the auditions for chamber singers, choir, and private vocal lessons occur as a single audition, and the time for these auditions (usually two times during the first week of classes) is posted on bulletin boards along the music hallway and in the glass case outside of MH Room 25.

If information is missing or unclear, you can check with the Music Office (MH 23). The person in there will be able to help you.

8) I am trying to choose between a conservatory and a liberal arts college. Will I find enough high-level performance activity at St. Mary's College of Maryland to prepare me for a career as a performer?

Our track record with our performing graduates is a good one. Your experience in college studying music performance begins, of course, with your private lesson teacher. Our faculty is uniformly strong, with successful and active professionals teaching every instrument. Our ensembles play challenging repertoire, and because we are small, you will have a lot of opportunities to play, not only in the large groups, but also chamber music - and you will get the kind of personal attention impossible at a large school.

Two of the most exciting parts of our program, though, are in the summer - and these set us apart dramatically from other small colleges. We begin each summer in Italy. Our performance program moves to Alba, in Northern Italy, to participate in the International Alba Music Festival. Concerts are given in the town's 400-seat performing arts center, numerous small and large churches, and in the auditorium of the Ferrero chocolate factory. Typically, we will give something like twenty concerts in eleven days. The music festival is organized as a joint venture between the St. Mary's College and the Piemonte town of Alba, with students and faculty from St. Mary's College, plus featured artists and musicians from the United States and throughout Europe and Asia. Please contact Jeffrey Silberschlag if you have questions about that.

The rest of the summer features our River Concert Series.  At the center is a six-concert series by the Chesapeake Orchestra, an excellent professional group with our teachers sitting in the principal chairs. The orchestra is put together based on the model for many festival orchestras, including the Aspen Festival Orchestra, where the players are at a professional or advanced level. Our students, as appropriate, are hired to play in these concerts, giving them the opportunity both for summer employment and for a chance to play music from the heart of the standard repertoire at a high level in a situation where they work in an orchestra together with their private lesson teacher.  Throughout the summer, there are other related music activities.  Click HERE for more information about the River Concert Series.  

Also see the performance opportunities page for more information.

9) Can I get teaching certification in music at St. Mary's College of Maryland?

Yes, In response to Maryland's requirement that teachers earn a Masters degree within the first ten years of teaching, we now direct our future teachers into a fifth year combination Masters in Teaching and Certification program. This allows students to pursue a "normal" four-year BA program of study, unencumbered by the numerous courses required only for teaching certification. For students wishing certification as music teachers, there are only a few courses above and beyond the major required during BA study. All the rest of the course work required for Maryland State teaching certification and a Masters of Arts in teaching now take place in this fifth year. For full information on the Masters of Arts in Teaching, click HERE for information about the Department of Educational Studies.

10) I play an instrument and I am thinking about being a music major. I do not want to pursue a performing career, though. What are my options?

While some of our graduates take the next step towards a performing career (by going to a good conservatory for graduate school), many do not. The most popular course of study leads to teaching certification - and we have a fabulous track record of placing our graduates at the best primary, middle, and high schools across Maryland. There are many other options. Our graduates have been accepted to top graduate programs in composition, musicology, and music theory. There are still more options. A number of our graduates have gone on to success in the field of Arts Management. And, as is typical with a good liberal arts college, our graduates have also had great success in fields unrelated to music. Some of these students have graduated with a double major (some recent combinations have been Music and Art, Music and Economics, Music and Biology, Music and Psychology, Music and Philosophy, Music and Computer Science, Music and Spanish, Music and German) - while some have chosen a single major but taken a good number of courses in other fields. And students with double majors or with extensive study in a second subject can use both areas to launch them into a professional life that combines the interests. For example, Music and History might combine to lead someone to a study of Music or Copyright Law. We will work with you to help you find a way to follow your interests as far as you choose to take them.

11) What can my major be in the St. Mary's College of Maryland music department?

While students think of themselves sometimes as "piano majors" or "voice majors," liberal arts study (here and elsewhere) results in a Bachelor of Arts degree in Music. That stated, most students concentrate in one, sometimes two areas. At St. Mary's College of Maryland, you can receive an excellent music education concentrating in performing on any of the major orchestral instruments, as well as piano, guitar, saxophone, conducting, or voice; we have very fine teachers for all of these. You can also receive an excellent music education concentrating in composition, musicology (music history), or theory; we have wonderful faculty in all of these areas. While pursuing your BA in music, you can also work towards receiving Maryland State teaching certification.

12) How do I get a music scholarship?

At St. Mary's College of Maryland, there are only a few department-based scholarships, and these almost never go to first-year students. However, all applications are screened for potential merit- or need-based scholarship, and most students receive aid of some kind (in a typical year, more the 3/4 of students received aid).

13) Do I have to audition to be admitted?

We welcome the opportunity to hear and to speak with you, and, on occasion, the Office of Admissions will use information we give them in making their decisions. But auditions are not required. Admission to the college is based on the information you provide in your application materials: official transcripts, essay, SAT I and/or ACT scores (TOEFL scores for International Students), service and co-curricular resume, description of the activities you consider most important, and two letters of recommendation. See the Office of Admissions website for complete information.

14) What do music graduates from St. Mary's College of Maryland do with their degrees?

The B.A in music offers a large range of possibilities for careers. St. Mary's College of Maryland’s strong General Education program prepares you for a wide variety of fields beyond music. In particular, our double majors have had success in non-music graduate programs (Medical School, Biology research, and others). But most of our students go on either in music or in a music-related field. A favorite has been Arts Administration, and some of our graduates hold administrative positions the Washington Performing Arts Society, the Baltimore Symphony, Levine School of Music, and the Phoenix Symphony (among others). Students serious about pursuing performing careers have also had success, and recent graduates have gone on to graduate programs at the Manhattan School of Music, Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music, DePaul University, Mannes School of Music, University of Maryland-College Park, The Peabody School of Music, Yale, Cal-Arts, University of Miami, Westminster Choir College, The Hartt School of Music, San Francisco Conservatory, SUNY-Buffalo, Western Michigan University, and The Royal Conservatory of Music and Dance in Scotland, among many others. Many graduates are working as performers. Some have been employed in the best of the US military service ensembles. Our graduates work throughout Maryland’s public and private schools, some in arts-oriented “magnet” schools. In fact, every graduate of St. Mary's College of Maryland who sought music teaching certification has been offered a teaching position in the state, and some are teaching out of the state.

15) I think I would like to earn a minor in music. Is this possible?

Yes. We are one of the departments at St. Mary's College that offers a minor degree. It is a popular student choice. Students earn a minor in music with either a performance focus or an academic focus. Please see the music department section of the college catalog for details.

16) I am a jazz musician. Do you have a teacher or a program for me?

Our department, like most college programs, is centered on classical music study. But people interested in jazz do find a lot to do. Our saxophone teacher, Don Stapleson, who leads our jazz program, works with students on all the saxes, doubling instruments, classical sax, and improvisation. See more information on Don on his faculty page.

St. Mary's has an eighteen-piece jazz band and jazz combo. Beyond that, there is a lot of opportunity for music study and involvement at St. Mary's We also offer credit courses in improvisation, and the history of jazz (The Jazz Makers) plus the full range of traditional theory, orchestration, electronic music, music history, conducting, and music education courses. There is also a very active "underground" music scene here consisting of students performing in the small bars, clubs, and in student-generated activities.

17) I sang and acted in musicals in high school. Do you have this kind of activity at St. Mary's College of Maryland?

As in most colleges and universities, Music and Dramatic Arts are completely different departments, with different outlooks and philosophies. And yet, every year we put on a Broadway-style cabaret evening, with students performing popular songs accompanied by a jazz combo; and every three or four years, we combine forces to put on a musical. Recent productions have included "Working," "Hair," "Three Penny Opera," and "A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To The Forum." Our vocal teachers have techniques based in the traditions of classical music, but they also have ability in and knowledge of Broadway and other popular styles. People interested in musical theater are perhaps best served at St. Mary's College of Maryland by pursuing a double major (Music and Dramatic Arts). They come away with a solid and thorough training in classical music and traditional theater, and so, find themselves with a rich and varied background that widens horizons and increases post-graduate opportunities.

18) I love music, but don't read music. I have never taken instrument or voice lessons. What kind of classes do you have for me?

We have many wonderful classes for people like you! "Music in History" is offered at least once each year. It is a look at the history of classical music connected to general history.  Other classes to watch for are the "Topics" courses: "Topics in Music History" and "Topics in Ethnomusicology." The topics change every time the courses are offered.  These upper-division seminars are often constructed to appeal to music-readers and non-music-readers alike.