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Liberty News

School of Music enrollment on rise; new building to open in 2015

December 31, 2014 : By Drew Menard/Liberty University News Service

Liberty University's chamber orchestra performs on Oct. 28, 2014.

Liberty University's Symphony Orchestra performs during a concert held on Oct. 28, 2014.

In the fall of 2012, Liberty University administration, with the approval of the Board of Trustees, merged two departments to create the nation’s seventh largest School of Music. Since then the school has experienced significant growth after adjusting its curriculum to focus on the needs of the job market and announcing the construction of a new, state-of-the-art facility, the Center for Music and the Worship Arts.

The school now houses two dynamic departments, the Center for Music & the Performing Arts and the Center for Music & Worship. Today, Liberty University School of Music serves over 1,200 undergraduate and graduate music students with 43 full-time and 25 adjunct or online faculty.

“Bringing the two departments together has been one of the most successful and healthy aspects for building and growing a thriving, artistic community at Liberty and in the general Lynchburg area,” said Dr. Vernon Whaley, dean of the School of Music. “I believe that this merger was providential; God intended this. So many incredible things have happened since the creation of the new School of Music.”

New School of Music building construction is well under way at Liberty University.
The new Center for Music and the Worship Arts begins to take shape near the Jerry Falwell Library.

One of the most anticipated developments is the 141,000-square-foot Center for Music and the Worship Arts, which broke ground in April near the Jerry Falwell Library. The center includes two connected buildings, a 1,600-seat fine arts concert hall and an educational center. The latter is scheduled to open in time for the Fall 2015 semester and the concert hall and administrative offices will open during the Spring 2016 semester.

No matter what area of music a student pursues, the facility is designed to suit their needs. The four-story educational wing includes 50 practice rooms, 42 teaching studios, and piano, songwriting, and music computer labs. There is also a recording studio and two recital halls, one with 50 seats and another with seating for 124. Every floor has a common area designed for vocal, guitar, piano, and instrumental studies, as well as casual gatherings and larger group classes.

Special construction considerations are being made to ensure the acoustic quality of each room. Every teaching studio room has special flooring and insulation, as well as double walls separated by specially treated sheetrock and insulation.

The goal of the School of Music is to produce music professionals who will serve churches, schools, musical theatre, film, Christian music industries, the media, and general marketplace communities as Champions for Christ.

“The School of Music faculty is actively engaged in establishing a community of God-honoring student and faculty musicians committed to a worship lifestyle, servant leadership, stylistic diversity, academic inquiry, skillful musicianship, artistic and creative expression, and sharing Christ through music,” Whaley said.

The Center for Music & the Performing Arts demonstrates these core values by training musicians to serve as performers and music educators in a variety of commercial and academic markets. In the last year, enrollment in the performing arts center has grown by 20 percent. The Center for Music & Worship supports these same core values by equipping highly skilled musicians to serve as worship leaders in the evangelical community and Christian music industry specialists. With more than 600 undergraduate students majoring in one of 13 worship programs, Liberty’s Center for Music & Worship is the nation’s largest program solely devoted to the training of worship practitioners.

The School of Music’s curriculum is designed to meet the demands of the job market, so that when students graduate they are ready to fill needed positions.

“In one sense, our market is not only the student, but also the employer,” Whaley said, noting that programs at other schools often focus only on what the faculty thinks students need academically rather than on what employers want. “If we can go to the employer and find out exactly what they want, we can ensure that our graduates can find jobs and meet expectations.”

Worship graduates have an 89 percent job-placement rate in their field and Whaley said he and his staff are working hard to see that those majoring in the other areas of music enjoy the same level of success in the marketplace.

Several worship concentrations are offered to give students a more targeted degree. Each concentration is developed by combining music with established programs within the university, including the School of Religion, Cinematic Arts Center, Department of Theatre Arts, and School of Business

“By partnering with other university programs, we provide options for our students to prepare themselves strategically to fill jobs without having to offer or create any new courses,” Whaley said.

Liberty University's Chamber Singers Choir performs at a recent concert.
Liberty's Chamber Singers perform at the Old Pate Chapel at 701 Thomas Road on Nov. 6.

In the last two years, the Center for Performing Arts has implemented several new B.M. degrees to focus on more specific areas of interest, completely restructuring the degree offerings. These include degrees in artist development, commercial music (film scoring and jazz studies), music education (choral and instrumental), leadership communication, music in world cultures, and songwriting. Other offerings include guitar performance, music instrumental, music vocal, piano performance, and performance (vocal, string, woodwind, brass, or percussion).

At the graduate level, the School of Music offers M.A. degrees in ethnomusicology, music education, music and worship, and worship studies, all of which are available online. A doctor of music in worship is currently in development.

The School of Music also offers 22 different instrumental and vocal ensembles, as well as a world class Marching Band.

“Our goal is to build the world’s largest and most influential school of music,” Whaley said. “We have dedicated ourselves to this end and believe God will grant it during our lifetime.”

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