2022-2023 Catalog With Addendum 
    May 21, 2024  
2022-2023 Catalog With Addendum [ARCHIVED CATALOG]


Rick Piersall, Chair
ACU Box 28274
Abilene, Texas 79699-8274
Williams Performing Arts Center, Room 128

Phone: 325-674-2108
Fax: 325-674-2608
Email: rick.piersall@acu.edu
Web: www.acu.edu/music


Samuel L. Cook, Associate Professor
Jeff Goolsby, Assistant Professor
Brandon Houghtalen, AssociateProfessor
Rick Piersall, Professor
Matt Roberson, Associate Professor
Michael Rogers, Associate Professor
Michael Scarbrough, Professor
Gregory Straughn, Associate Professor
Allen Teel, Professor
Susan Teel, Instructor
Kristin Ward, College Associate Professor
Steven Ward, Professor

For a complete listing of music faculty, please visit the department’s website at acu.edu/music.

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 ACU Department of Music provides a welcoming liberal arts experience rich with cultural, social, and intellectual diversity, in a Christian environment. We desire to graduate informed and inquisitive musicians, who embrace diverse musical styles and cultures, while pursuing a career in a rapidly evolving musical environment.

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.

Abilene Christian University is an accredited institutional member of the National Association of Schools of Music, and the music department is a member of the Texas Association of Music Schools. Courses and degree plans satisfy requirements of the Texas Education Agency.

General Departmental Requirements

Admission Audition

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.

Degree Recitals

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.

Jury Examinations

All music majors enrolled in major applied lessons in their field of study are required to attend weekly performance labs and to appear for a final jury examination as stipulated by their division.

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 and pass class piano each succeeding semester until they have passed the proficiency exam. 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.

Recital Attendance

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.

A Cappella Chorus

The Abilene Christian University A Cappella Chorus is dedicated to the study and performance of the finest choral literature of all musical eras. Established in 1932 by the late Dr. Leonard Burford, the choir serves as the university’s premier vocal ensemble. The A Cappella Chorus has performed before the conventions of the Texas Music Educators Association and the National Association of Teachers of Singing and regularly collaborates with the Abilene Philharmonic Orchestra on major choral-orchestral works. 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, including regional, national, and international tours.

Membership is open to all students of the university through a competitive audition process. Auditions are held annually.

ACU Opera

The ACU Opera is a training seminar for voice majors and non-majors designed to equip students with the skills to become competent performers on stage. 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 the ACU Opera have been exposed to world-class experiences such as the “World Premiere” performance of A New Nation in Fort Worth and a trip to Avignon, France, where they served as interns for a performance of The Secret Agent at Opera Avignon.

Big Purple Marching Band

The Big Purple Marching Band is one of the oldest and most storied organizations on the ACU campus. It is a vital part of campus life, performing at Opening Assembly, football games, parades, in exhibition at invitational and UIL marching contests, concerts, and more. Each student receives a participation scholarship and one P.E. credit.

Big Purple Colorguard/Acuity Winterguard 

The Big Purple Colorguard vital part of campus life, performing at football games, parades, in exhibition at invitational and UIL marching contests, and more. Each student receives a participation scholarship and one P.E. credit.  Acuity Independent Winterguard is a performing group of flags, rifles, sabers and dance that competes in the Independent A class in the North Texas Colorguard Association, and is dedicated to sharing Christian values and service through the art of performance. 

Big Purple Basketball Band

The Big Purple Basketball Band performs for home and tournament games, enthusiastically supporting men’s and women’s basketball at ACU. Each member receives a stipend for participating in the group.

Chamber Music

The department of music encourages a high level of involvement in chamber music, including brass quintet, woodwind quintet, string quartets, brass choir, and other ensembles coached by members of the ACU faculty.

Gospel Choir

The ACU Gospel Choir is an ensemble of 12-16 members and is open to all students. The choir performs a variety of Gospel music literature with a primary focus on contemporary African-American Gospel and traditional spirituals. Auditions are held annually. 

Civic Orchestra of Abilene

Sponsored by the music departments of Abilene Christian, Hardin-Simmons and McMurry universities, the Civic Orchestra of Abilene is committed to providing an excellent orchestral experience for its students. It partners with Big Country K-12 schools through concerts and joint projects, and has a strong educational mission and focus of serving Abilene as an artistic ensemble. Additional collaborative efforts include musicals, opera productions, Christmas Vespers and holiday concerts, and chamber music. The COA sponsors a biennial Tri-Collegiate Concerto/Aria competition with the winner(s) performing a concert with the orchestra.  

Concert Band

The Concert Band provides a wonderful outlet for musical creativity in the spring semester, performing high-caliber music and often partnering with the Wind Ensemble for concerts and guest artists, but with a less demanding schedule.

Jazz Combo

The ACU jazz combo focuses on improvisation with a small group of five to eight students. The combo performs a broad range of jazz standards as well as new compositions and arrangements by the students and faculty.  The students perform in a wide variety of settings, from on-campus concerts to less formal “gigs” around and out of town.  

Jazz Ensemble

The ACU Jazz Ensemble is comprised of 17-20 students, both music and non-music majors. This ensemble performs many different styles of music, from the Swing Era to the present. Along with formal concerts in the Fall and Spring, its active performance schedule includes an annual swing dance (known as “Fall Stomp,”) serving as host band for ACU’s campus-wide “Sing Song” extravaganza, as well as other performances on and off campus. In recent years the band has performed with guest artists such as Jeff Coffin (from the Dave Matthews Band), Christian McBride, Dan Miller (trumpeter of Maynard Ferguson and Harry Connick Jr fame), and others.

Percussion Ensemble and Steelband 

The Abilene Christian University Percussion Ensemble and Steelband is a single organization that offers both music majors and non-majors the opportunity to perform a wide range of musical styles and genres. In the category of percussion ensemble music, the group performs everything from standard literature to brand-new compositions. Additionally, the ensemble presents a variety of music for steelband, including socas from Trinidad & Tobago, contemporary popular music, Latin jazz styles, and more. The percussion ensemble is also fortunate to have an outstanding inventory of instruments from around the world, allowing members the opportunity to explore West African drumming, folkloric Afro-Cuban music, and various Brazilian samba traditions.

University Chorale

The University Chorale is dedicated to the study and performance of choral music from a variety of styles, genres, and cultures. The choir regularly performs on campus and in the community. University Chorale meets three days a week during each semester and gives several major concerts a year, including the annual Homecoming Concert, Christmas Vespers, and combined performances of major choral works with the A Cappella Chorus. Membership is open by audition to all students.

Wind Ensemble

The Wind Ensemble comprises the most outstanding wind and percussion students, including music majors and non-majors. Maintaining an active performing schedule, it frequently collaborates with renown guest composers and conductors, tours annually throughout Texas, and regularly performs at conventions and similar venues. 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. Resident composers and conductors have included Carter Pann, Scott McAlister, John Mackey, Steven Bryant, David Maslanka, Fred J. Allen, John Whitwell, and Frank Ticheli.

Special Events

Concerto/Aria Competition

The biennial Concerto/Aria Competition sponsored by the Civic Orchestra 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.

Honors Recital

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

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.

Admission Requirements

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.


    Bachelor of ArtsBachelor of MusicMinor


      Music TheoryPage: 1 | 2