The Institute Past and Present

Psalm 21

“To the chiefe Musician a psalme of David”

1. Jehovah, in thy strength the King shall joyfull bee;
and joy in thy salvation how vehemently shall hee?

The Bay Psalm Book, 1640

The Yale Institute of Sacred Music is an interdisciplinary graduate center for the study and practice of sacred music, worship, and the related arts. Founded with a core focus on the Christian tradition of sacred music, the Institute also seeks to engage with other forms of sacred art and other religious traditions. David, the prototypical representative in the Judeo-Christian world of the church or synagogue musician, dominates the logo of the ISM because he and the Psalms conventionally ascribed to him have been continually reshaped to suit linguistic needs, liturgical taste, and historical understanding. Indeed, the Psalms have formed the basic materials for Jewish and Christian worship throughout the centuries. The Institute’s primary mission is to music students whose vocation is to conduct, play, and sing for the worshiping assembly, and who have keen interest in the religious and theological contexts of the sacred music they perform. Likewise, the Institute trains divinity students preparing for leadership roles in the churches, whether as lay people, as ordained clergy, or as scholars developing specialties in liturgical studies and in religion and the arts. As an independently endowed entity at Yale University, the Institute of Sacred Music provides generous financial support for those talented students who believe in the importance of interactive training for church musicians and clergy, a training that fosters mutual respect and common understanding. David, if one stretches him a bit, stands for the many activities supported at Yale through the Institute.

Through its mission to church musicians, the training for ministry, and the lives of the churches, the Institute has a unique position, not only at Yale, but in this country and in the world at large. At Yale, we link the resources of two extraordinary professional schools, the Yale School of Music and the Yale Divinity School. Institute students receive degrees in one or the other of these schools, and, if they elect to do so, joint degrees from both. The certificate additionally received from the Institute signifies that students have gained more than the training either school alone can offer. Students acquire a sense of the partnership between churches, and a working knowledge of the changing synthesis of music, text, ceremony, and liturgical space, which has taken place in the assemblies of all faiths and denominations since their beginnings. Now in its fifth decade, the Institute occupies its present position because many persons understood the importance of a shared process of formation for ministers and musicians.

Sacred Music at Yale before the Institute of Sacred Music

Timothy Dwight’s Yale was, as Yale had been since 1701, a school for the training of Christian ministers. President from 1795 until 1817, Dwight was a patriot who had been the chaplain of General Putnam’s camp, a place commemorated more than one hundred years later in Charles Ives’s Three Places in New England. Timothy Dwight believed that as much of the education of ministers took place in the chapel as in the classroom: his interest in sacred music was powerful (as was his voice), and he edited a collection of Watts’s psalms for the Connecticut Congregational churches, appending a collection of 264 hymn texts, an unheard of number, in a service book for that denomination. He was an outstanding preacher and wrote a book of sermons, designed for use over the course of two years, for the Yale chapel. Perhaps he would have agreed with Thomas Troeger that the singing of hymns is one of the best ways to “knock loose the debris of verbosity that often clogs a preacher’s spiritual springs.”

The education of all undergraduates in Yale College continued to be shaped throughout the nineteenth century by the practices of earlier times: daily chapel services were mandatory, as was the Sunday service, which slowly decreased from the six or seven hours in Timothy Dwight’s time. Singing of hymns by all, and of anthems by a student choir, was regular practice, although the organ was forbidden until mid-century. In Gustave Stoeckel (1819–1907), who had been a church musician in his native Germany, Yale acquired an energetic organist, choirmaster, and leader of the Beethoven Glee Club, the forerunner of Yale’s famed singing association. Stoeckel taught both in the College and in Yale Divinity School. He secured the funding for Yale’s Department of Music, founded in 1890, and served as the first Battell Professor of Music. Formal study of music at Yale, which eventually led to the foundation of the Yale School of Music as a professional graduate school, and the continuation of the Department of Music within Arts and Sciences, entered Yale through the door of the chapel.

Prior to the turn of the last century, in the very year that Gustave Stoeckel’s name no longer appeared on the faculty list of the Divinity School, a church musician named John Griggs gave a series of ten lectures at the Divinity School, accompanied by the undergraduate Charles Ives. The Divinity School hired musicians to teach its students, while Horatio Parker and other teachers in the Department of Music taught some of their courses with divinity students in mind. Hymn playing and singing remained a part of the Divinity School curriculum, with Henry Hallam Tweedy, professor of homiletics and an accomplished musician, as instructor in this subject. He was also the resident liturgiologist, and took professional interest in the history of Christian architecture. Tweedy’s role in instructing Divinity School students in liturgy, music, and the arts was part of a long tradition, to which the teaching of his contemporary, Charles Allen Dinsmore, who taught courses in religion and literature, also belonged.

Meanwhile in New York City: The School of Sacred Music

Union Theological Seminary in New York City, like Yale Divinity School, had a long tradition of offering musical instruction to its students. Three seminal figures, Henry Sloane Coffin, Union president from 1926 to 1945, Clarence Dickinson, who became professor of church music at Union in 1912, and his wife, Helen Snyder Dickinson, established the School of Sacred Music at Union in 1928. The impact that the graduates of the school had upon American musical and religious life during the middle decades of the last century would be difficult to overestimate. Clarence Dickinson taught both organ and composition, and published collections of music and textbooks; Helen Dickinson taught liturgy and used the slide collections of New York libraries and museums to show her students how liturgy and architecture worked together in the Christian tradition and in other faiths as well.

Graduates of the School of Sacred Music received the finest professional musical training available, with the musical riches of the city at their feet. The Dickinsons insisted that their students know and respect Western European art and music, and also the best of simpler traditions: the hymns, anthems, and monophonic chant repertories. In addition, musicians were taught the foundations of liturgical history and were required to take a small number of courses in the seminary. Seminary students simultaneously encountered music students through social interaction in their classes and when performing at common worship services. Church musicians and ministers—lifelong career partners—learned at Union how to understand each other better. In 1945 Hugh Porter became director of the School of Sacred Music; he was succeeded in 1960 by the distinguished organist Robert Baker, who also became the school’s first dean in 1962–63.

Their successful experiment in sacred music at Union did not survive the political turmoil of the late 1960s: funding was withdrawn in the early 1970s, and the school was closed. Shortly thereafter, in 1973, Professor Baker, together with the music historian Richard French, the seminary chaplain Jeffery Rowthorn, and the administrator Mina Belle Packer, migrated to Yale University to begin a similar venture: the Institute of Sacred Music. The new entity was endowed by Clementine Miller Tangeman, whose husband, Robert, had been professor of music history at Union before his untimely death in 1964, and by her brother J. Irwin Miller, a Yale graduate, musician, and patron of the arts. Yale, the leading research university in the Northeast with professional schools of both music and divinity, seemed the ideal place to recreate the concepts and visions of the School of Sacred Music. Yale’s President Kingman Brewster worked with Colin Williams, dean of the Divinity School, and with the dean of the School of Music, Philip Nelson, to realize that ideal, and in 1974 the Institute’s first students were admitted to Yale.

The Institute of Sacred Music Today

In more than forty-five years at Yale, the Institute has grown from a group of three faculty and ten students to a community of more than one hundred staff, faculty, students, and visiting scholars and artists. In addition to our longtime partnerships with Yale School of Music and Yale Divinity School, our work extends to the departments of American Studies, History of Art, Medieval Studies, Music, and Religious Studies, as well as to various University collections and galleries. While most of our work remains grounded in Christian studies, a growing amount extends to music, ritual, and related arts of other religious traditions.

When the ISM was founded, our benefactors, Mrs. Tangeman and Mr. Miller, wrote these words to the University:

A peculiar danger of our own society is that so many of us are now so well off. The “do-it-yourself” society is in danger of developing a contempt for the minority of poor, and disadvantaged, and helpless. In recalling us to such concern and to the unpalatable truth that we save our lives only by losing them, the compassionate artist has often been the best preacher among us.

Since its establishment, the Institute has held to the conviction that the arts, especially the sacred arts, are much more than objects of aesthetic contemplation. They exist to articulate the innermost beliefs and principles by which people make sense of the world and their responsibility toward it. Our students graduate not only with knowledge gained and talents finely honed, but also with a sense of values to shape both the contributions they will make and the lives they will lead.

The Institute of Sacred Music and Yale School of Music

Joining forces with the considerable resources of Yale School of Music, the ISM trains musicians for careers in church music, performance, and teaching. Students majoring in organ, choral conducting, and voice will go on to careers in churches and schools, playing or conducting ensembles there or on the concert stage. Some students elect the specialized track in church music studies in order to study liturgy, Bible, and theology along with the more standard music curriculum.

All ISM music students receive a broad musical education equal to that of any Yale School of Music student, but they are also trained with an eye toward understanding the religious and liturgical roots of the music they perform. The young composer with a serious interest in writing sacred music and music for specific liturgical traditions is also occasionally admitted to the Institute. Seven concert and liturgical choirs (Yale Camerata, Schola Cantorum, Recital Chorus, Repertory Chorus, Marquand Choir, Marquand Gospel and Inspirational Choir, and ISM Vespers Choir) have their home in the Institute and count many Institute students among their members.

Institute faculty and students concentrate on the music of the churches through performance and through repertorial, analytical, and historical studies. As both performers and scholars, our faculty and students form a bridge between the School of Music and the Department of Music and are committed to demonstrating the connection of music with culture, liturgy, and religious thought. The repertories studied are of two broad types: (1) cantatorial and congregational song; and (2) Western art-music, including masses, motets, oratorios, art song, and vocal chamber music; and organ repertory in all styles and from all periods. The Institute also encourages serious study of music from other faiths and non-Western traditions.

At a time when the state of music in churches and synagogues pleads for various kinds of well-informed change, it is crucial that talented students who have vocations in sacred music be prepared for challenges both musical and theological. These students must have the finest musical training; they must also argue persuasively for music of authority, knowing enough of liturgical and church history, and of theology, to do so. Thus, although the Institute’s choral conducting, organ performance, and voice performance majors are fully enrolled in the School of Music, they are encouraged to elect courses in liturgics, theology, biblical study, and religion and the arts.

In its broadest sense, the Institute of Sacred Music’s presence at the heart of a major school of music is a reminder that secular repertories—from madrigals and opera to chamber music and symphonies—were brought to their first heights by musicians trained in the churches, and that composers make frequent and conscious returns to the traditions of liturgical music. Mendelssohn’s resurrection of Bach’s choral works, Brahms’s patient studies and editions of medieval and Renaissance repertories, Stravinsky’s use of Russian Orthodox chant in his Mass, and Ives’s deeply religious “secular” works all reclaim the musical materials of congregational song. The Institute thus upholds the importance of the churches and religious institutions for the teaching and preservation of great musical repertories, whether simple or complex, music of the past or contemporary compositions, the concert mass, fugue, hymn tune, or psalm setting.

The Institute of Sacred Music and Yale Divinity School

As the direct descendant of the School of Sacred Music at Union Seminary, the Institute is deeply committed to its affiliation with Yale Divinity School. Institute faculty appointed jointly with the Divinity School are concerned with the history and present life of the churches, and especially with worshiping congregations in a broad spectrum of Western Christian denominations, as well as Judaism and Eastern Christianity. The program in liturgical studies at the Institute and Divinity School has faculty who are historians of liturgical texts, music, and ceremony, but who are also keenly interested in and knowledgeable about the worship of the contemporary churches. The student who studies religion and the arts at the ISM has access to faculty and courses in the history of the visual, literary, and musical arts. Students at the Divinity School can matriculate through the Institute with concentrations in either of these two programs.

These programs of study intersect with and augment the work of colleagues in other disciplines at the Divinity School. Thus, students at the Institute learn through programs at the Divinity School how canonical texts have gone forth to the assembly, and how, from patristic times to the present, these texts have been learned and reinterpreted by the worshiping community. Classes at the Divinity School in liturgical subjects, including music history, religious poetry and drama, iconography, and architectural history, stress encounters with primary source materials, manuscript and archival study, as well as trips to museums, galleries, and architectural sites. All are possible through Yale’s great libraries and collections, the many historic churches in the region, and New Haven’s proximity to New York City.

Students at the Institute may also participate in daily worship in Marquand Chapel. The chapel program is a partnership of Yale Divinity School and the Institute. It is rich in variety, and the ecumenical nature of the Institute and Divinity School is expressed in the leadership and content of the services. In keeping with the esteemed heritage of preaching at Yale and the Divinity School, sermons are offered twice a week by faculty, students, staff, and invited guests from beyond campus. On other days the rich symbolic, artistic, and musical possibilities of the Christian tradition are explored and developed. The assembly’s song is supported by the Marquand Chapel Choir, the Marquand Gospel and Inspirational Choir, two a cappella groups, many and various soloists, and occasional ensembles. Many avenues for musical leadership are open to the student body by volunteering, as are many avenues of leadership through the spoken word.

The Common Experience

Students at the Yale Institute of Sacred Music and either professional school, Music or Divinity, have many unparalleled opportunities for interdisciplinary exchange: through Colloquium, in which all Institute students enroll, through courses taught by Institute faculty, through team-taught travel seminars, and through other offerings including faculty-led study tours approximately every two years open to all Institute students. Tour participants have traveled to Mexico (2006 and 2023); Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia, and Croatia (2008); Germany (2010); Greece and Turkey (2012); Italy (2014); the Baltic states (2016); and Spain (2018). These tours offer rich opportunities to see, hear, and learn in the primary areas of the ISM—sacred music, worship, and the arts. The ISM covers most expenses of the tours for its students.

Performing Ensembles Sponsored by the Institute

Yale Camerata Felicia Barber, conductor. Founded by Marguerite L. Brooks in 1985, Yale Camerata is a sixty-voice vocal ensemble whose members are Yale graduate and undergraduate students, faculty, staff, and experienced singers from the New Haven community. The Camerata performs a widely varied spectrum of sacred choral literature, with a special commitment to choral music of our time. The Camerata has collaborated with Yale Schola Cantorum, Yale Glee Club, Yale Philharmonia, Yale Symphony, Yale Band, Yale Chamber Players, Yale Collegium Musicum, the New Haven Chorale, and the symphony orchestras of Hartford, New Haven, and Norwalk. The ensemble has also performed for Yale Music Spectrum and New Music New Haven. The chamber chorus of the Camerata is a subset of the larger chorus and performs more specialized repertoire. The Camerata has been heard on Connecticut Public Radio and national broadcasts of National Public Radio’s program Performance Today. Guest conductors have included Marin Alsop, Simon Carrington, Matthew Halls, David Hill, Craig Hella Johnson, Nicholas McGegan, Erwin Ortner, Stefan Parkman, Grete Pedersen, Krzysztof Penderecki, Helmuth Rilling, Jaap Schröder, Robert Shaw, and Dale Warland. The Institute of Sacred Music has commissioned works for Camerata by Martin Bresnick, Daniel Kellogg, Aaron J. Kernis, Robert Kyr, Tawnie Olson, Stephen Paulus, Daniel Pinkham, Robert Sirota, Julia Wolfe, and Ellen Taaffe Zwilich, among others. The chorus has sung premiere performances of works by many other composers, including Kathryn Alexander and Francine Trester.

Yale Schola Cantorum David Hill, principal conductor. Yale Schola Cantorum is a chamber choir that performs sacred music from the sixteenth century to the present day in concert settings and choral services around the world. Masaaki Suzuki is principal guest conductor. Open by audition to students from all departments and professional schools across Yale University, the choir has a special interest in historically informed performance practice, often in collaboration with instrumentalists from Yale School of Music and Juilliard415. Schola was founded in 2003 by Simon Carrington, and it has worked with a host of internationally renowned conductors, including Matthew Halls, Simon Halsey, Craig Hella Johnson, Paul Hillier, Stephen Layton, Nicholas McGegan, James O’Donnell, Stefan Parkman, Grete Pedersen, Krzysztof Penderecki, Helmuth Rilling, and Dale Warland. In addition to performing regularly in New Haven and New York, the ensemble records and tours nationally and internationally. Schola’s recordings appear on the Delos, Gothic, Hyperion, and Naxos labels. On tour, Schola Cantorum performed in China, England, Estonia, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, India, Italy, Japan, Latvia, Russia, Scandinavia, Singapore, Spain, South Korea, and Turkey.

Battell Chapel Choir Conducted by graduate choral conducting students, Battell Chapel Choir is open by audition to all Yale students. The choir sings for Sunday services of the University Church in Yale during term time and offers two or three additional concerts. Members are paid for singing in the choir.

Marquand Chapel Choir The choir, conducted by graduate choral conducting students, sings for services in the Divinity School Chapel as well as for two special services during the year. Members of the choir, chosen by audition, receive credit for participation; section leaders may elect to receive either credit or remuneration for their participation.

Marquand Gospel and Inspirational Choir Mark Miller, conductor. Open to all Yale students, the choir sings for services in Marquand Chapel biweekly as well as for special services during the year. Section leaders are paid for singing in the choir.

Repertory Chorus and Recital Chorus Conducted by graduate choral conducting students, these choruses give up to six performances per year. Members are chosen by audition and may elect to receive either credit or remuneration for their participation.

Yale Voxtet Members of the Voxtet are current students of James Taylor at the Institute of Sacred Music and School of Music, where they are candidates for graduate degrees in voice. The ensemble sings as part of the Yale Schola Cantorum and presents two chamber concerts a year.

Lectures Sponsored by the Institute

The Institute sponsors three annual lectures. The Tangeman Lecture is named for Robert Stone Tangeman, professor of musicology at Union Theological Seminary, in whose name the Institute’s founding benefactor endowed the Institute at Yale. Christopher Anderson will present the 2023 Tangeman Lecture on November 19.

The Kavanagh Lecture, named for the late Professor Emeritus of Liturgics Aidan Kavanagh, is often given in conjunction with Convocation Week at Yale Divinity School. Juliette Day will present the 2023 Kavanagh Lecture during the Yale Divinity School Convocation in October.

The Lana Schwebel Memorial Lecture in Religion and Literature was established in 2008 in memory of former faculty member Lana Schwebel, who died suddenly and tragically in 2007. An announcement of the 2023–2024 lecturer is forthcoming.

International Activities and International Representation in the Institute

The ISM draws its students, faculty, and fellows from all over the world. Currently, more than fifteen percent of students come from outside the United States, as do five faculty members. ISM Fellows and postdoctoral associates have come to the Institute from Austria, Canada, the Czech Republic, Egypt, France, India, New Zealand, Pakistan, Serbia, and the United Kingdom.

Faculty and students at the ISM work together to create a vital network of international exchange between performing musicians and scholars in theology and the arts. The ISM Colloquium has examined questions pertaining to the enculturation and adaptation of worship and artistic practices worldwide and frequently brings guest speakers from abroad. As noted above, approximately every two years ISM students and faculty travel together on international tours, and Yale Schola Cantorum embarks on an international concert tour to a different destination in alternate years.

The Institute has a tradition of sponsoring—sometimes in collaboration with other Yale entities—musicians, artists, and scholars from around the world to perform, exhibit, and lecture at Yale. Recent visitors have included ensembles, artists, and scholars working in many disciplines from South Africa, Ethiopia, India, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Bali, China, Japan, Taiwan, Thailand, South Korea, Canada, Mexico, Panama, Turkey, Greece, Albania, Croatia, Slovenia, Russia, Estonia, Sweden, Denmark, and many of the countries of western Europe.

The ISM Fellows

Long-Term Fellowships

The Institute selects a group of fellows from around the world to join its community of scholars and practitioners for one-year terms. Scholars, religious leaders, and artists whose work is in or is moving to the fields of sacred music, liturgical/ritual studies, or religion and the arts are invited to apply. Scholars in the humanities or the social or natural sciences, whose work is directly related to these areas, are also encouraged to apply. Fellows are chosen for the quality and significance of their work and have the opportunity to pursue their scholarly or artistic projects within a vibrant, interdisciplinary community. The Institute maintains a commitment to living religious communities and seeks diversity of every kind, including race, gender, and religion.

The international cohort of scholars and practitioners joins the Institute’s community of faculty and students to reflect upon, deepen, and share their work. Fellows collaborate together in weekly meetings and have access to the extensive Yale collections and facilities, and some may also teach in various departments or professional schools.

Short-Term Collections-Based Fellowships

The ISM also supports short-term fellowships for research on the aural, material, visual, ritual, and textual cultures of religions. These fellowships are restricted to work on Yale’s noncirculating collections, particularly at the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, the Collection of Musical Instruments, the Yale Center for British Art, the Yale Peabody Museum of Natural History, and the Yale University Art Gallery. They are residential for one to three months; researchers must free themselves of most other work during the period of the fellowship and are expected to reside in the vicinity of Yale. Yale faculty, staff, and students are not eligible for these fellowships.

Information about both of the ISM Fellows programs is available online at For additional information, please call 203.432.4434 or email