Matt Roberson, Chair
ACU Box 28274
Abilene, Texas 79699-8274
Williams Performing Arts Center, Room 128
Samuel L. Cook, Associate Professor
Brandon Houghtalen, Assistant Professor
Rick Piersall, Associate Professor
Julie Pruett, Associate Professor
Mark Puckett, Interim Professor
Michael Rogers, Assistant Professor
Michael Scarbrough, Professor
Gregory Straughn, Associate Professor
Allen Teel, Professor
Susan Teel, Instructor
Kristin Ward, Instructor
Steven Ward, Professor
Kay Williams, Professor
The Department of Music offers the Bachelor of Arts degree and the Bachelor of Music degree (teacher certification and/or performance). See the Teacher Education section of this catalog for more information on teacher certification.
The mission of the ACU Music Department is to prepare musicians for service and leadership throughout the world. A dedicated and talented faculty work with students in a caring, Christian environment. They teach and mentor in the classroom and studio using a wealth of experience gained from their performing, conducting, teaching, and composing careers. The faculty assists students in becoming outstanding performers, teachers, conductors, composers, and leaders in the music industry who reflect God’s creative force and presence in their music and lives.
To accomplish this mission, the music department has established four primary objectives:
- To develop and inspire students artistically as comprehensive musicians;
- To prepare students to teach capably and effectively in the school and studio;
- To provide training and direction for students who desire to perform professionally or who wish to utilize their music degree in the music industry; and
- To guide and encourage young musicians in seeking ways to live a Christ-centered life and be a Christian role-model within the music profession.
ACU music graduates combine their love of music with a variety of careers including music sales, instrument repair, school administration, worship ministry, musical theater, and performance. They are teaching in their own private studios, composing scores for films, managing retail music stores, tuning and repairing pianos, testing musical instruments, writing and recording commercial jingles, managing touring musical groups, working with copyright laws, and teaching at colleges and universities.
Most graduates become music educators in the public schools and are highly sought after for positions throughout Texas. Directing a band, chorus, or orchestra is challenging and personally satisfying and generally receives a salary increment above state base. The Music Department also prepares students well for graduate study. More than 95 percent of the graduates who apply are accepted to the program of their choice and are consistently awarded outstanding performance and academic scholarships, as well as teaching assistantships.
The Department of Music at Abilene Christian University is an accredited institutional member of the National Association of Schools of Music and is a member of the Texas Association of Music Schools. Courses and degree plans satisfy requirements of the Texas Education Agency.
General Departmental Requirements
Each entering major, whether a freshman or transfer student, must appear for an admission audition, held the semester prior to the beginning of the fall term or by appointment. Students will be assigned to instructors on the basis of the audition. Those who audition for scholarships during the general scholarship auditions are not required to audition for admission to the department.
A junior recital is required of all performance majors. A senior recital is required of all music majors, except for those under the Bachelor of Arts degree. A student must be enrolled in major private instruction during the semester of this recital.
Majors must receive a grade of “C” or better in all music classes. A course with a lower grade must be repeated for credit. Majors must achieve a minimum GPA of 2.25 for music major courses.
Students studying privately in their major area of concentration are required to attend weekly performance labs and to appear for a jury examination before a faculty panel at the end of each semester.
Piano Proficiency Exam
Every music major is required to pass the piano proficiency exam except students working toward the BA degree and piano majors. Students who do not pass the exam by the end of the sophomore year will register for piano each succeeding semester until they have passed. The examination measures the student’s ability to play all major and minor scales with both hands over two octaves, to sight read a piece of moderate difficulty, to harmonize a melody at sight and to perform a prepared piece. The exam is given once each semester. The four-semester class piano sequence is designed to adequately prepare the student for the piano proficiency exam.
All music majors who are full-time students must successfully complete the requirements of Recital Seminar each semester, until eight semesters have been completed, whether for Credit or No-Credit.
Scholarships in music are available for voice, piano, band and orchestra. Interested students should contact the Department of Music for information, applications and audition dates. Auditions for the following school year begin in February and continue through April with scholarships being awarded before May. Instead of appearing in person for this audition, a video audition may be recorded and emailed to the administrative coordinator prior to May 1.
Sophomore Proficiency Exam
At the close of the fourth semester of private instruction, all music majors are required to take the sophomore proficiency exam. Majors may not enroll in upper-level private instruction and music core courses until the exam has been passed.
Theory Placement Exam
All freshman music majors specializing in music must take the theory placement exam prior to registration. Students can receive credit for MUST 131 , depending on the results of the exam. This exam also helps to identify students who may need special help in theory.
Music Performance Ensembles
The following ensembles are available to majors and non-majors. They may be taken for Credit/No-Credit (0 hours, but requires a participation fee). Marching Band may be taken once for P.E. Credit. Ensembles are available for lower or upper level credit. The student does not have to be a music major to participate in any performance ensemble. See the Department of Music for details and information about auditioning for ensembles. Music majors are required to successfully complete the requirements of a major performance ensemble every semester. Music Education students are exempt from this requirement the semester during which they student teach. Band and orchestral instruments may be rented for a fee.
The Big Purple Marching Band is a dynamic and exciting ensemble comprised of both music and non-music majors. One of the largest co-ed organizations on the ACU campus, the band is a vital part of the ACU Opening Assembly each year, performs at all home football games, presents exhibition performances at invitational and UIL marching contests, and other venues. The camaraderie among Big Purple Band members is legendary on campus, offering great social opportunities and friendships that last a lifetime, as well as the pride of performing in one of ACU’s best-loved music traditions.
The Wind Ensemble is comprised of outstanding undergraduate wind and percussion players on the ACU campus. Including almost equal numbers of music and non-music majors, the Wind Ensemble presents many local and statewide concerts. Annual tours throughout Texas include performances in high schools, churches and other concert venues. In its history, the Wind Ensemble has performed at seven TMEA conventions (most recently in 2017) and four CBDNA conferences. In 2010, the group toured internationally to Brazil for a Spring Break concert tour and campaign. The Wind Ensemble has hosted many composers and conductors, including Carter Pann, Scott McAlister, John Mackey, Steven Bryant, and David Maslanka, and will host Frank Ticheli as composer-in-residence in 2018.
The Concert Band is open to all students with no audition required. The goal of the band is to provide an outlet for musical creativity offering maximum enjoyment with limited performance demands. Students are challenged with high caliber music to continue their musical growth while pursuing their majors.
The Jazz Ensemble is comprised of 16 to 19 students, both music and non-music majors. Directed by Michael Rogers, this ensemble performs many different styles of music from the Swing era to the present. Its active performance schedule on and off campus consists of annual appearances at Sing Song, various social events and community activities, as well as on campus concerts. The group has performed at the Wichita Jazz Festival and with professionals such as Allen Vizzutti, Ernie Watts, Carl Fontana, Bill Watrous, Jon Faddis, Christian McBride, Jeff Coffin, and Vince DiMartino. Auditions are held on campus during the first week of classes.
The Jazz Combos offer an opportunity for students to learn about jazz styles while performing in a small group of four to seven students. These small ensembles consist of both music and non-music majors on various instruments. They perform a broad range of jazz standards, as well as new compositions and arrangements by students and faculty. Vocal Jazz opportunities are also available for vocalists who are interested in this idiom. They perform in a wide variety of settings, from on-campus recitals to less formal gigs in Abilene and out of town.
Civic Orchestra of Abilene
Sponsored by the music departments of Abilene Christian University, Hardin Simmons University, and McMurry University, the Civic Orchestra of Abilene is committed to providing an excellent orchestral experience for University students (music majors and non-majors) and faculty; being a partner with AISD and other schools in the greater Big Country region through joint projects and concerts, membership in the orchestra, and other efforts; an educational mission and focus, reaching and serving the community of Abilene as an artistic ensemble. Additional efforts between the COA, the Universities, schools, and community include musicals, opera productions, special holiday concerts or similar events, chamber music, and other collaboration. The COA sponsors a biennial Concerto/Aria competition for students from the three Universities, and the winner(s) perform on a concert with the COA.
Percussion Ensemble and Steelband
The Percussion Ensemble and Steelband is made up of music and non-music majors and maintains an active performance schedule. This outstanding ensemble performs a wide variety of literature, ranging from standard works to brand-new compositions. Their excellent inventory of percussion instruments from around the world allows them to explore musical styles from West Africa, Cuba, Brazil, and Trinidad-Tobago.
A variety of chamber music ensembles, including brass quintet, brass choir, trombone ensemble, instrumental ensembles, piano ensemble, piano trio, flute choir, string quartet, and woodwind quintet are open to qualified performers. Interested musicians should contact the faculty director.
The A Cappella Chorus of Abilene Christian University is dedicated to the study and performance of the finest choral literature of all musical eras. Begun in 1932 by the late Dr. Leonard Burford, it serves as the premier vocal ensemble on the ACU campus. In addition to major performances throughout the academic year, the A Cappella Chorus performs for university and community events and travels on an extended tour each year. The choir has traveled to Germany and Eastern Europe in addition to regular tours throughout Texas. The A Cappella Chorus has performed before the conventions of the Texas Music Educator’s Association (1982, 2005) and the National Association of Teachers of Singing (2004) and regularly collaborates with the Abilene Philharmonic Orchestra. In 2008, the choir performed on a national broadcast of Garrison Keillor’s A Prairie Home Companion. Membership is open to all students in the university through a competitive audition process. Auditions are held at the end of each spring semester.
The University Chorale is a large chorus that is open by audition to all students. The choir regularly performs on campus, including the annual Homecoming Concert, Christmas Vespers, Opening Assembly, its own concerts, and combined performances of major works with the A Cappella Chorus.
The Chamber Singers is a select ensemble whose purpose is to explore the gamut of choral music with particular emphasis on early music and contemporary chamber music. The Chamber Singers perform at campus and community events, contributing to the artistic and academic life of the university. Auditions are highly competitive and are held at the end of the spring semester. Membership is open to all ACU students.
The ACU Opera is a training seminar for voice majors and non-majors designed to equip the student with the skills to become competent performers on the stage. Under the direction of Dr. Rick Piersall, ACU Opera produces at least two operas a year, one in the fall and a full production each spring semester. ACU Opera’s repertoire ranges from new works to the standard operatic repertory. Members of ACU Opera are exposed to world-class experiences such as the “World Premiere” performance of A New Nation in Fort Worth and a trip with Dr. Piersall to Avignon, France where they served as interns for his performance of The Secret Agent at Opera Avignon.
The biennial Concerto/Aria Competition sponsored by the Civic Orcheestra of Abilene affords gifted vocalists, instrumentalists, and pianists the opportunity to perform as soloists with the Orchestra in a spring concert. Any private lesson student with the approval of their private instructor may audition to participate. Auditions are held in November.
An Honors Recital is held in the alternating years to the Concerto/Aria Competition. Faculty and guests judge the competition among interested music majors. The final program features the selected vocalists, instrumentalists, and pianists in a public performance.
Guest artists are frequently invited to present concerts for students and guests. Recent guest artists have included Jazz professionals such as D.J. Logic and Christian McBride, and composers such as David Maslanka, Steven Bryant, John Mackey, and Robert Chumbley. Respected musical artists and clinicians with varied musical backgrounds are invited regularly to perform and to interact with students in master classes and as guest conductors and lecturers. Recent performers include the Permian Basin String Quartet, the Key City Winds, Jolente DeMaeyer, the Haven Trio, and Maraca2.
Before being admitted to this program, a student must audition and satisfy the requirements listed in the ACT/SAT Placement Information section of this catalog.
ProgramsBachelor of ArtsBachelor of MusicMinor
CoursesMusic TheoryPage: 1