The Catholic University of America

History of the School of Music

The Catholic University of America has long been committed to educating musicians, scholars, and composers. In 1927, the university first began offering music courses. A music department was established in 1950 with the late John Paul as chair. Under his leadership, the department became the School of Music in 1965. The school was named the Benjamin T. Rome School of Music in the spring of 1984, in honor of alumnus, trustee emeritus, and longtime friend and benefactor, the late Benjamin T. Rome. Dean Paul and his successors Thomas Mastroianni, Elaine R. Walter, the late Marilyn Neeley, Murry Sidlin, and Grayson Wagstaff have shaped a school where performance and scholarship receive equal attention to benefit undergraduate and graduate students who come from throughout the United States and many foreign countries. The School of Music is fully accredited by the National Association of Schools of Music and is Washington, D.C.'s only university school of music. Students are encouraged to take advantage of all the resources, cultural and intellectual, that Washington, D.C., and the surrounding area offer.

Today, with some 35 distinct curricula offered, music students are admitted to programs leading to the degrees of Bachelor of Music, Bachelor of Arts, Master of Arts, Master of Music, Master of Music in Sacred Music, Doctor of Musical Arts, Doctor of Musical Arts in Sacred Music, and Doctor of Philosophy. They work with an impressive faculty of artists and scholars and participate in master classes offered by some of the world’s most respected performers including Leon Fleisher, Leiv Ove Andsnes, Peter Frankl, Claudia Catania, Daniele Tirilli, and Susanne Marsee. The school houses The Latin American Center for Graduate Studies in Music, the Institute of Sacred Music, and the international Centre for Ward Method Studies in Gregorian chant. The Summer Opera Theatre Company was a professional and independent company in residence for more than two decades at the university.

With an approximate enrollment of 300 music majors, the school schedules numerous concerts, recitals, and special events throughout each academic year. Recent opera and musical theatre productions include Mozart's Don Giovanni and Magic Flute, Puccini's La Bohéme and Madama Butterfly, Gounod’s Roméo et Juliette, Sondheim's Sweeney Todd and Sunday in the Park with George, and Kander and Ebb’s Cabaret. One of the highlights of each year is the annual Christmas Concert for Charity, performed by the CUA Symphony Orchestra and combined choruses in the Great Upper Church of the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception and broadcast worldwide throughout the Christmas season on the Eternal Word Television Network. Starting in 2010, students and faculty from the School of Music performed a series of concerts in Carnegie Hall’s Weill Recital Hall. In 1987, 1993 and 1999, student musicians traveled to Rome for a series of concerts, including performances for Blessed Pope John Paul II. Students and alumni have performed for Presidents, Heads of States, and all the American Cardinals.

More than 2,000 music alumni have won many competitions and awards and maintain high professional visibility on six continents as performers, music educators, composers, liturgical musicians, conductors, and scholars. Among those who have received national and international recognition are tenor John Aler, who won Grammy awards for recordings of Handel's Semele (best opera) and Bartok's Cantana Profana (best classical album) and composer Mark Adamo, whose opera Little Women is one of the most frequently performed twentieth-century American operas. Graduates perform with the Metropolitan Opera, Vienna Opera, Glyndebourne Festival, New York City Opera, and with many major symphony orchestras throughout the United States.

The Benjamin T. Rome School of Music remains the preeminent Catholic center for music study in the United States and is internationally recognized for perpetuating the Church’s historical role in uplifting the human spirit through the study and performance of music. The Institute of Sacred Music integrates the comprehensive study of music with the worlds of liturgical, theological, classical, and humanistic studies. The school welcomes applications from women and men of character, intelligence, motivation, and talent, regardless of race, creed, nationality, ethnic background, or disability.