People tell me the music in chapel has improved since the M.S.M. program began. If that is so, it's partly due to the quality and commitments of the musicians this program attracts.
Paul Westermeyer has worked with the music of choirs and congregations since his high school days. To use his words, "They voice the sung word in response to the Incarnate word." He came to Luther in 1990 to implement and direct the Master of Sacred Music (M.S.M.) program. One of only a few such degree programs in the country, the M.S.M. helps musicians in the church refine their craft and simultaneously study the theological foundations of their work. Students study music at St. Olaf College in Northfield, Minnesota, and theology at Luther.
A musician-theologian, Westermeyer majored in music at Elmhurst College, did his M.Div. at Lancaster Seminary, his M.S.M. at Union Theological Seminary in New York and his Ph.D. in church history at the University of Chicago. He served as choirmaster for congregations in Illinois, New Jersey, Maryland and Pennsylvania, and chaired the Music Department at Elmhurst College in Illinois. His book Te Deum: The Church and Music is an historical analysis of the church's encounter with music from the Old Testament to the present. Other books include The Church Musician; With Tongues of Fire; Let Justice Sing: Hymnody and Justice; The Heart of the Matter: Church Music As Praise, Prayer, Presentation, Story, & Gift; Hymns for Lent; Let the People Sing: Hymn Tunes in Perspective; Rise, O Church: Reflections on the Church, Its Music and Empire; and Hymnal Companion to Evangelical Lutheran Worship..
Westermeyer says that "religious communities approach music differently because they have different theological mindsets. For example, the prophetic punch a Lutheran congregation might give 'A Mighty Fortress Is Our God' is quite different from the more priestly pull a Roman Catholic community might give a chant based on the Kyrie."
The sacred music program has proved more popular and more ecumenical than Westermeyer had anticipated. Luther Seminary's M.S.M. students have come from ten different countries and various denominational groups. They form the nucleus of the chapel's musicians and the Schola Cantorum, the Seminary's choir, which is open to all students, faculty, staff and their spouses. "People tell me the music in chapel has improved since the M.S.M. program began. If that is so, it's partly due to the quality and commitments of the musicians this program attracts."