Organ Study at St. Olaf

The organ department at St. Olaf College is one of the largest undergraduate organ departments in the country. The program has maintained a stable enrollment over the past quarter-century. Graduates have gone on to careers as church musicians and organ professors, and have won national awards in performance and improvisation. Students who wish to major in music with organ as their primary instrument have the three degree options described below. A weekly studio class for all organ students (regardless of major) is led jointly by James Bobb and Dr. Catherine Rodland. There are also many opportunities to travel to the Twin Cities where organ students participate in masterclasses and hear rectials on the many fine instruments found in Minneapolis and St. Paul.

Bachelor of Music in Church Music: Organ Emphasis

Church Music study at St. Olaf attempts to balance an examination of the history of music in the church with an exposure to techniques for the practicing church musician. In this context, the student is encouraged to develop a clear understanding of the role of music in the life of the local congregation. In addition to core music coursework and weekly private lessons, all Church Music majors participate in the church music practicum, and take a three-course sequence of choral conducting in which the final semester requires the student to work with their own lab choir. Church Music majors participate in one of the five auditioned choirs on campus, and have the option to participate in a variety of other ensembles, including orchestra, band, and handbells, and present the same required recitals as all Bachelor of Music majors.

The Church Music Organ curriculum includes courses which explore vocational and practical dimensions of being a church musician while pursuing a rigorous course of organ studies. The organ major focuses upon the special skills an organist needs to learn in order to lead worship from the organ (such as improvisation) and as a conductor. The daily chapel services and Sunday worship services serve as a laboratory for St. Olaf organ and church music students, giving organists the opportunity to observe and evaluate their peers.

Bachelor of Music in Organ Performance

The organ performance major offers a comprehensive and in-depth study of the performance practices of the organ. This program is structured as a typical performance major to include the core music curriculum (music theory, aural skills, music history,) private lessons, pedagogy, and recital requirements. The organ performance major differs from the church music major primarily in that it does not require the church music practicum or conducting courses.

Bachelor of Arts in Music

This degree option provides a solid foundation in core music courses, combined with a broad-based general education curriculum, central to the philosophies of a liberal arts education. The Bachelor of Arts in music also allows for the possibility of completing a double major within four years.

Organ and Church Music Faculty Bios