Westminster Choir College

A division of Rider University’s Westminster College of the Arts, Westminster Choir College is a four-year music college and graduate school that prepares aspiring musicians for successful careers in schools, universities, and churches; on concert stages and in professional and community organizations. It offers degree programs leading to a Bachelor of Arts in Music, Bachelor of Music, Master of Music, Master of Music Education and Master of Voice Pedagogy.  Several graduate programs are offered online, making a Westminster education accessible world-wide.

The choral experience represents Westminster’s most distinctive feature. Daily rehearsals, supported by intensive musical skills development and by the study of voice and conducting, constitute the foundation of the choral program. The large ensembles are at the center of all curricula: Westminster Chapel Choir, composed of all first-year students, and Westminster Symphonic Choir, composed of sophomores, juniors, and seniors as well as graduate students. Smaller ensemble experience is afforded by Westminster Choir, Westminster Jubilee Singers, Westminster Kantorei, Westminster Williamson Voices, Master Singers, Westminster Concert Bell Choir, and Westminster Opera Theater.

Celebrating 94 years of music excellence, Westminster Choir College of Rider University has significantly influenced the cultural life of our nation.

HISTORY

In the belief that a choir of volunteer singers could be trained to perform on a professional level, John Finley Williamson established the Westminster Choir in 1920 at the Westminster Presbyterian Church in Dayton, Ohio. The national prominence achieved by this choir and Dr. Williamson’s conviction that churches could best be served by dedicated, professionally trained musicians led him to found Westminster Choir School at the Dayton church in 1926.

In 1929 the college moved to Ithaca, N.Y., and became associated with what is now Ithaca College, where a four-year program leading to the Bachelor of Music degree was instituted. Relocated to Princeton, N.J. in 1932, a master’s program was added in 1934 and it became known as Westminster Choir College in 1939.     

The move to Princeton was motivated by a desire to provide ready access to the great metropolitan centers and orchestras of the eastern seaboard. Since then the Westminster Symphonic Choir has performed hundreds of times and made many recordings with the principal orchestras of New York, Philadelphia, Washington, Pittsburgh, Boston and Atlanta. Conductors of the choir have included Bernstein, Ormandy, Steinberg, Stokowski, Toscanini and Walter, and such contemporary figures as Abbado, Boulez, Chailly, Leinsdorf, Levine, Masur, Mehta, Muti, Nézet-Séguin, Ozawa, Robertson, Sawallisch and Shaw. The choir has also received numerous invitations over the years to sing with such touring orchestras as the Berlin Philharmonic, the Los Angeles Philharmonic, the Royal Concertgebouw and the Vienna Philharmonic.  

In 1992, Westminster Choir College merged with Rider University, and in 2007 it became a division of Rider University’s Westminster College of the Arts. In 2020, Westminster Choir College moved to Rider University’s main campus in Lawrenceville, N.J.

Mission Statements

Westminster College of the Arts

Westminster College of the Arts educates and trains aspiring performers, artists, teachers and students with artistic interests, to pursue professional, scholarly and lifelong personal opportunities in art, dance, music and theater. The College consists of three divisions: Westminster Choir College, the School of Fine and Performing Arts and Westminster Conservatory, a community music school. Through innovative and integrated programs and a commitment to discipline and excellence, the College serves as a cultural force within the university and community.

Westminster Choir College

Westminster Choir College Is a professional college of music with a unique choral emphasis that prepares undergraduate and graduate students for careers in performance, teaching, sacred music and composition. In an atmosphere that encourages personal and musical growth and nurtures leadership qualities, Westminster Choir College complements professional training in music with studies in the liberal arts. Founded for Christian service, Westminster Choir College was a pioneer in establishing the highest standards in choral performance and church music. Today, the curriculum teaches pluralism and holds service through music to be ennobling, liberating and integral to a rewarding and productive life.

The School of Fine and Performing Arts

The School of Fine and Performing Arts focuses on art, dance, music, music theater, theater and arts administration. Through programs that provide a historical, aesthetic, practical and professional perspective, students develop the skills to excel in a professional career while growing intellectually from a broadly based liberal arts curriculum. The School fosters meaningful engagement in the arts to students who wish to become professional artists as well as students who view the arts as an integral part of overall intellectual growth. The School nurtures and challenges the artist within all students and prepares them to contribute to an ever-changing global society.

Westminster Conservatory of Music

For more than 40 years Westminster Conservatory of Music has served the Central New Jersey/Eastern Pennsylvania area with on-campus and community-based music instruction. The community music school of Westminster College of the Arts, it offers a superior faculty and tailors lessons, workshops and classes to the needs of the individual student.

Music study at the Conservatory provides a unique opportunity for musical growth and is available to students of all ages and stages of advancement. It also offers many opportunities to perform through its community choral, orchestral and theater ensembles. In addition to its program on the Westminster Choir College campus in Princeton, the Conservatory offers classes at extensions in Lawrenceville and South Brunswick, N.J. and in Newtown and Yardley, PA.

Accreditation

Westminster has been fully accredited by the National Association of Schools of Music (NASM) since 1941. It has held accreditation by the Middle States Association of Colleges and Schools since 1966 and remains accredited as a college within Rider University. The undergraduate program in music education was approved by the State of New Jersey in 1961 and leads to certification to teach public school music, K-12. This program was also approved in 1974 by the National Association of State Directors of Teacher Education and Certification (NASDTEC), facilitating transfer of teaching certificates to any of the participating states, and in 1995 by the National Council for the Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE), which now is known as the Council for Accreditation of Educator Preparation (CAEP).  

Continuing Education

Westminster offers summer workshops and festivals covering a wide range of subjects and techniques within the field of music. Workshops are open to all Westminster students, to professional musicians and teachers and to the general public. Graduate credits may be earned through participation in workshops. The Office of Continuing Education also presents residential high school and middle school summer programs in the form of a two-week Vocal Institute and a series of one-week programs in voice, organ, piano, composition and music theater.

Westminster Conservatory

The Westminster Conservatory is the community music school division of the College of the Arts. It serves Central New Jersey and Eastern Pennsylvania with high-quality music instruction in piano, voice, brass, woodwinds, strings, theory, composition, and percussion. Westminster Choir College students receive a discount on lessons through the Conservatory. Non-credit instruction is open to all ages and levels of ability from 12 months of age through senior citizens, for the serious musician and for the amateur. Students at the college have the opportunity to observe lessons, to study privately those instruments not taught within the college curriculum, and in some cases, to teach on the junior faculty of the Conservatory.

Westminster Choir College Library

Westminster’s Talbott Library is located in Rider University’s Moore Library.  Its collections comprise more than 67,000 music-related books, music scores and periodicals, approximately 5,400 choral music titles in performance quantities, a choral music reference collection of more than 80,000 titles, 200 current periodical titles in print, as well as access to more than 12,000 titles electronically. The library’s 25,000 sound and video recordings are supplemented by more than 338,000 audio tracks available electronically from the Classical Music Library and the Naxos Music Library.

Special collections include the Erik Routley Collection of hymns and hymnological literature; the D. deWitt Wasson Research Collection of Organ Music; and the Archives of the Organ Historical Society, a comprehensive collection of organ research materials.

Talbott Library’s score and sound recording collections cover all musical styles, genres and periods at a basic level, but are concentrated more heavily in the areas of choral, vocal, keyboard and sacred music. Of note are collected works of many individual composers, masterworks of music, an extensive piano pedagogy collection, instructional material for music education in primary and intermediate schools, and holdings both broad and deep in choral music, keyboard music and hymnals. The library collects multiple print editions of many music titles for comparison of editing practices and multiple recordings of many titles for comparison of performance practices.

Westminster Choir College Administration and Staff

Marshall Onofrio • Dean, Westminster College of the Arts
Frank Abrahams • Associate Dean of Administration
Kimberly Apadula • Assistant Director of Admission
Christopher Botti • Associate Dean of  Students
Carol Conklin • Manager ITT and Finance, Westminster Conservatory
Dax Finley • Manager, Creative Services 
Stephanie Gerstenhaber • Assistant Director of Admissions
Scott Hoerl • Director of Westminster Conservatory and Continuing Education
Marjory J. Klein • Academic Coordinator
Marianne Lauffer • Assistant Director, Westminster Conservatory Faculty and Extensions
Natalie Pollard • Director of Alumni Relations
Carolyn Sauer - Production Coordinator
Anne M. Sears • Director of External Affairs
Judy Simmons • Assistant to the Dean
Laura Wilson • Assistant Director Box Office Manager

National Association of Schools of Music Code of Ethics

As a fully-accredited member of the National Association of Schools of Music, Westminster Choir College abides by the NASM Code of Ethics, which establishes deadlines for the consideration and acceptance of talent-based scholarship awards from member institutions. Having accepted a financial aid offer from Westminster Choir College, undergraduate students must receive written permission from Westminster to consider an offer of financial aid from another institution after May 1. Having accepted a financial aid offer from Westminster Choir College, graduate students must receive written permission from Westminster to consider an offer of financial aid from another institution after April 15. Students accepted into Westminster Choir College after those dates must inform Westminster of any offer(s) they have accepted.

Study Abroad

Study in a foreign country provides a unique opportunity for students to grow intellectually through exposure to the customs, habits, and languages of different cultures.  Study abroad helps prepare students for the global community in which they will live and work, increasing their employment and earnings potential. Study abroad experiences are available in many locations through Rider exchange and affiliate programs. Westminster semester-long programs offer courses in a variety of subjects, including voice and theory. An exchange program with the University for Music and Dramatic Arts in Graz, Austria, allows Westminster Choir College students to do voice, composition, and keyboard courses abroad.  Besides our semester programs, students can select summer programs through study abroad providers and faculty-led short-term international travel projects that are offered for credit during January intercession, spring break, and in the summer.

Additional information is available on the Rider University Study Abroad Web site. Information is also available in the Center for International Education, located in the office of the Associate Dean of Students in the Scheide Student Center.