Skip to content

Music – Sacred Music Major Guide for 2015-2016

What is Music – Sacred Music?

Sacred Music is performed in church for liturgies, rites, prayers, devotions, or ceremonies. Students that major in sacred music are usually interested not only in music itself, but also in religion. The degree in Sacred Music will emphasize music skills as well as the skills, concepts and knowledge you will need as a church musician. A B.M. in Sacred Music includes courses in music performance, conducting and religious studies. You will also intern in a church situation, learning from experienced church musicians.

Career Opportunities in Music – Sacred Music

Graduates with a degree in Sacred Music pursue careers as:

  • Church organists, pianists or vocalists (including cantors and song leaders)
  • Conductors of church choirs
  • Directors of Music Ministry
  • Other administrative positions in churches (e.g. Youth Directors)

Some Sacred Music graduates will also pursue further studies in the seminary.

Salary Trends in Music – Sacred Music

Positions in the field of Sacred Music will vary greatly in responsibility and salary.  Positions may be either part-time or full-time and in large or very small churches. Duties may range from one of coordinator of all music and even liturgy, to accompanist. Due to the large range of activities and the budgets of the various churches, salaries are very hard to predict. Part time church musicians may receive from $100-300 per service.  Base salaries for full-time Church musicians range from $49,842 – $65,622.

Many churches will follow the guidelines associated with the American Guild of Organists. (See for salary guide­lines.)

High School Preparation

To prepare for a sacred music degree:

  • Get involved in your church music program.
  • Play organ or piano for the choir.
  • Take part in all kinds of liturgy.
  • Learn about many different faiths – what they believe and what their liturgies consist of.

To prepare for a degree in music:

  • Perform as much as possible.
  • Take part in the chorus, the bands, and the orchestra in high school.
  • Take private music lessons to help prepare for the audition.
  • Take any music theory, ear training, music history, or appreciation courses offered by your school.
  • Listen to as much music and as many varied types of music as you can.
  • Attend concerts.

How to Major in Music – Sacred Music

All new music students in Sacred Music (freshmen and transfer) must perform an audition on their major instrument. No student progresses to a major in Sacred Music until the audition has been successfully completed.

Information on the audition process can be found on the School of Music web site (  Applicants are urged to register for an audition as early as possible.

Requirements for Music – Sacred Music

You will take the music core curriculum, including

  • Music theory and ear training
  • Form and analysis
  • Music history and world music
  • Piano
  • Applied music (lessons)
  • Ensembles
  • Recital attendance, as part of Solo Class

You will also take courses specific to your major, including

  • Religious Studies
  • Music in Christian Worship
  • Church Service Playing
  • Piano/Organ/Vocal Literature

Finally, you are required to present two recitals, a 30-minute in your junior year and a 60-minute in your senior year. In your senior year, you will also serve an internship in a church.

Highlights of Music – Sacred Music

Students in this School of Music degree program say the highlight of the program is the internship in the senior year.  During this internship, the student works with experienced church musicians at an area church. Students gain practical experience in directing the adult, teen or children’s choirs; playing the organ and piano; and directing various instrumental groups.

Ready for the World logoReady for the World

The Sacred Music faculty members encourage their majors to acquire a wide range of experiences.  If students can afford and have an interest in studying abroad, the faculty will work with them to make this opportunity as easy as possible.  Learn more about UT’s Ready for the World initiative to help students gain the international and intercultural knowledge they need to succeed in today’s world.

The University of Tennessee, Knoxville, offers study abroad programs in Asia, Europe, Africa, Australia, South America, and North America. Program lengths vary from mini-term trips to the entire academic year, and students may choose to fulfill general education requirements, study a foreign language, or take courses within their majors. In addition, UTK offers students opportunities for international internships.

Students are highly encouraged to begin planning early in their academic career and to consult with an academic advisor about the best time to study abroad as well as what courses to take abroad. For more information about program options, the application process, and how to finance study abroad, please visit the Programs Abroad Office website.

Academic Plan and Milestones

Following an academic plan will help students stay on track to graduate in four years. For first-time, first-year, full-time, degree-seeking students, UT has implemented Universal Tracking (uTrack), an academic monitoring system designed to help students stay on track for timely graduation. In order to remain on track, students must complete the minimum requirements for each tracking semester, known as milestones. Milestones may include successful completion of specified courses and/or attainment of a minimum GPA.

To see a sample academic plan and milestones for this major, please visit the undergraduate catalog for the Sacred Music – Organ Track, Sacred Music – Piano Track, or Sacred Music – Voice Track.

For More Information

See the Sacred Music area web site:
Or contact the School of Music area:
Undergraduate Admissions
School of Music
1741 Volunteer Blvd.
Haslam Music Center
Knoxville, TN 37996-2600


The information on this page should be considered general information only. For more specific information on this and other programs refer to the UT Undergraduate catalog or contact the department and/or college directly.

The flagship campus of the University of Tennessee System and partner in the Tennessee Transfer Pathway.

Report an accessibility barrier