BISMARCK, ND — The University of Mary in Bismarck, ND, has launched a new Master of Arts in Music (MA) degree with an eye to the personal and professional needs of Catholic school music teachers. The MA degree at Mary is available this summer for any professional or graduating college senior looking to advance their skills in a number of professions — teaching, performing, directing, composing, church music, or doctoral studies.

Dr. Rebecca Raber
Director of Graduate Studies in Music

Dr. Rebecca Raber serves as director of graduate studies in music and leads this program. Prior to the University of Mary, Raber taught music at Shanley High School in Fargo, ND, for 14 years.

“I have been part of Catholic school music education for the majority of my teaching career — and what a treasure it has been to me. Working on an advanced degree while I was teaching inspired my teaching and my love of learning, as an example for my students. It was a tangible way for me to do something for my students, and impact hundreds of them! I remember a homily that Bishop John Folda gave to open our school year.  He said, ‘to teach is to touch eternity.’ He’s right. We have that special opportunity any time we step into a classroom, but especially in a Catholic School.

“It allowed me to connect and build relationships with other teachers, which is so important when you may be the only teacher in your department. Our new Master of Arts program is uniquely designed to work cooperatively with the music educator’s schedule. Students go at their own pace and they can tailor their electives toward their particular interests. The degree is open to all educators and church musicians, but we also have specific elements that can support and inspire Catholic school music teachers in particular. While there’s likely and increase in both salary and teaching opportunity, the greatest benefit to earning an MA for a music teacher, is the inspiration and expertise that is passed on to generations of your students.”

The MA in music is a 30-credit degree that balances the development of knowledge and skills in musicianship (music theory and history) and applied music (performance, conducting, ensembles, and/or composition), and encourages students to explore courses of personal and professional interest. The University of Mary developed a unique course, music in Catholic schools, to address Church teaching as well as its practical implementation for K-12 Catholic school music teachers. The program also promotes the aspects of prayer and community, two of the foundational Benedictine values of the University of Mary. Students can also take elective courses from the education or business schools if they desire.

Tom Porter, PhD
Chair, University of Mary Music & Choral Director

“We created a program in which Catholic school music teachers can develop their professional skills, and earn credits and a degree to advance them in rank,” says Dr. Tom Porter, chair of the Department of Music. “But more importantly, we offer an opportunity for these teachers to get to know other Catholic school music teachers from across the country, to share ideas, to pray together, to become friends and colleagues, and develop a support system — a network of peers — that often does not exist geographically for many people. As we looked at other MA in music programs across the country, we identified that potential to build community as a tremendous opportunity.”

The MA in music at the University of Mary is designed with the working professional in mind. Students take the bulk of the required 30 course credits during summer residencies (2 weeks in July) and as much or as little as they desire during the academic year, depending on their own schedules. This blended format allows students to load up on courses in the summers, but then also take a smaller load if they choose during the fall and winter months while working in their teaching profession through lessons and ensembles.

“The degree is tailored to fit your teaching schedule and individual interests. You will have the great opportunity to grow in collegiality and community while learning from inspiring instructors at our beautiful summer campus on the banks of the Missouri River,” added Raber.

The University of Mary also offers a Thank You Scholarship that provides a teacher their first MA class at Mary for free during the summer of 2021. The scholarship is a way of saying thank you to all the teachers for their efforts during the COVID-19 pandemic.

University of Mary is hosting a Virtual Q & A Session for the MA in music Feb. 11, at 6:30 p.m. Also, look for the Master of Arts in Music (MA) degree information at the virtual American Choral Directors Association (ACDA) event.

Learn more at or contact Michael Raber at