About the ISM

Yale Institute of Sacred Music

ISM students and faculty outside of the Orvieto Cathedral on the 2014 Study Tour to Italy. Photo by Melanie Ross.

ISM students and faculty outside of Orvieto Cathedral on the 2014 Study Tour to Italy. Photo by Melanie Ross.


The Yale Institute of Sacred Music, an interdisciplinary graduate center, educates leaders who foster, explore, and study engagement with the sacred through music, worship, and the arts in Christian communities, diverse religious traditions, and public life. Partnering with the Yale School of Music and Yale Divinity School, as well as other academic and professional units at Yale, the Institute prepares its students for careers in church music and other sacred music, pastoral ministry, performance, and scholarship. The Institute’s curriculum integrates the study and practice of religion with that of music and the arts. With a core focus on Christian sacred music, the ISM builds bridges among disciplines and vocations and makes creative space for scholarship, performance, and practice.


The Institute of Sacred Music is a vibrant community of 100 students, faculty and staff. Students admitted to the Institute are also admitted to either the Yale School of Music or Yale Divinity School (or both), from which they receive their degrees. Students pursuing music degrees receive rigorous conservatory training in choral conducting, organ, or voice, and will typically go on to careers in church music, public performance, or teaching. Students who pursue degrees in divinity with an emphasis in liturgy or religion and the arts may join the ordained ministry or pursue careers in the academy, in the arts, or in public service.

The ISM certificate that students receive at graduation signifies that the core curriculum of the chosen degree path has been enriched and deepened through study with the renowned, interdisciplinary Institute faculty. For example, music students will learn about the theological and liturgical roots of the sacred music they perform. They study the historical context and meanings of the texts used, and they learn about the modern contexts in which this repertoire appears, whether in liturgies or on the concert stage.

Likewise, divinity students learn to make connections between theological concepts and artistic expression. They look at the historical roots and aesthetic constructions of the art and liturgies they study. Institute graduates who enter the pastoral ministry do so having gained a broad concept of music, worship, and the arts, and having experienced the lively worship life in many of Yale’s chapel programs, including Marquand,Berkeley, and Battell.

Institute students receive a full-tuition scholarship and have the opportunity to compete for additional grants and merit awards.  As a major arts presenter in New Haven, the Institute sponsors over eighty events attended by more than 15,000 people throughout the year, including recitals, concerts, liturgies, poetry readings, films, art exhibits, symposia and conferences.

The Institute of Sacred Music proudly builds upon the heritage of its parent organization, the Union School of Sacred Music in New York City. Now, uniquely situated in one of the world’s great research universities, the ISM is a global center for the liturgical and religious arts.


Previous ISM Study Tours can be found here: http://ism.yale.edu/academic-life/study-tours