Master of Music: Organ Performance

Program Overview

The Organ Department at Westminster Choir College educates students in many facets of organ playing and related topics. Courses in performance, collaborative skills, choral conducting, improvisation, and literature are offered each semester. Westminster is home to a collection of 18 pipe organs built by Aeolian-Skinner, Beckerath, Casavant, Flentrop, Noack, and others. Students are encouraged to seek church employment during their time at Westminster; the organ faculty and sacred music office maintain a list of available positions in the area. For more information, including audition requirements and instrument specifications, visit the Organ Department Website.

Curriculum Overview

The graduate curriculum includes four semesters of applied lessons, three semesters of organ literature, two semesters of organ improvisation, and courses in choral conducting, worship planning, and accompanying.

Degree Recital Requirements

One fully-memorized recital or two non-memorized recitals:

  • Recitals must be at least 60 minutes.

  • Students are required to be enrolled in organ lessons at Westminster during the semester of a degree recital, without exception.

Performance Class Requirements

For each semester a student is enrolled in organ lessons as a performance major, these requirements must be met:

  • Three solo works, one of which must be memorized.

  • Two hymns, one of which must be memorized.

  • One collaborative work (i.e. anthem, vocal/instrumental solo, concerto, etc.)

Jury Requirements

  • A jury must be performed at the conclusion of any semester that does not include a degree recital. 

Degree Offered

  • M.M. in Organ Performance


Margaret Cusack
Acting Chair, Department of Conducting, Organ and Sacred Music
609-921-7100, ext. 8253

Program Website:
Associated DepartmentDepartment of Organ, Conducting, and Sacred Music

Related Programs


Michael Diorio  • Adjunct Assistant Professor, Organ, 2019. B.M., Westminster Choir College; M.M., Yale University School of Music and Institute of Sacred Music; D.M.A., Boston University College of Fine Arts, School of Music

Learn more about General Graduate Requirements.

Major Area
OR 587
OR 589
Organ Improvisation
and Organ Improvisation II
OR 590Accompanying at the Organ2
OR 629Seminar in Organ Literature2
OR 641AOrgan Primary (4 terms)8
OR 723Organ Literature Before 18003
OR 724Organ Literature since 18003
SM 511Sacred Music Lab (1 term)0
MH 731Intro to Musicology3
CR 509Symphonic Choir (2 terms)2
Theory or music history elective (1 course)3
Core elective 13
Free electives3
Total Credits36


The following educational plan is provided as a sample only.  Rider students who do not declare a major during their freshman year; who change their major; or those who transfer to Rider may follow a different plan to ensure a timely graduation.  Each student, with guidance from his or her academic advisor, will develop a personalized educational plan.

Plan of Study Grid
Year 1
Fall SemesterCredits
CR 509 Symphonic Choir 1
MH 731 Intro to Musicology 3
SM 511 Sacred Music Lab 0
OR 723 Organ Literature Before 1800 3
OR 641A Organ Primary 2
 Semester Credit Hours9
Spring Semester
CR 509 Symphonic Choir 1
Theory or Music History elective 3
OR 724 Organ Literature since 1800 3
OR 641A Organ Primary 2
 Semester Credit Hours9
Year 2
Fall Semester
OR 587 Organ Improvisation 2
OR 629 Seminar in Organ Literature 2
Core elective 3
OR 641A Organ Primary 2
 Semester Credit Hours9
Spring Semester
OR 589 Organ Improvisation II 2
OR 590 Accompanying at the Organ 2
OR 641A Organ Primary 2
Free electives 3
Graduate Recital  
 Semester Credit Hours9
 Total Credit Hours for Graduation36

Courses and Descriptions

OR 587 Organ Improvisation 2 Credits

A laboratory in the keyboard disciplines of modulation, transposition, improvisation and vocal score reading. Required for undergraduate Organ Performance majors; others may elect the course by permission of the instructor.

OR 588 Organ Pedagogy 2 Credits

Pedagogical approaches to organ playing. Required for undergraduate Organ Performance majors; others may elect the course by permission of the instructor.

OR 589 Organ Improvisation II 2 Credits

Continuation of OR 587.

OR 590 Accompanying at the Organ 2 Credits

Development of accompanying techniques essential to the professional organist. Arranging and transcription from piano reductions and orchestral scores; standard choral/organ literature. Leading congregational song; appropriate methods of instrumental registration.

OR 623 Organ Music of J.S. Bach 3 Credits

A study by genre of Bach’s organ compositions will include background, overview of the influences of Buxtehude, Pachelbel and Böhm, and performance practice issues. The question of the "Bach organ" will be explored. Prerequisite(s): MH 731, OR 433.

Corequisite(s): MH 731, OR 433.

OR 629 Seminar in Organ Literature 2 Credits

An intensive study of an area of organ literature or its performance practice. Specific content will change with each semester. Emphasis upon in-depth study of the works of a selected composer or genre.

OR 641A Organ Primary 2 Credits

OR 641B Organ Primary 1 Credits

OR 641C Organ Elective 2 Credits

OR 641D Organ Elective 1 Credits

OR 641E Organ Primary 2 Credits

OR 641F Organ Primary 1 Credits

OR 690 Independent Research and Study 1-4 Credits

Students may pursue a special topic for which they have prepared through prior course work. Only one project may be scheduled in a semester. The project may involve 1-3 credit hours. Approval of the faculty sponsor, department chair, and dean required prior to the first day of the semester in which the project is to be completed. Minimum cumulative GPA of 3.0 required.

Prerequisite(s): graduate standing.

OR 723 Organ Literature Before 1800 3 Credits

Historical study of the organ literature coordinated with a study of the development of the organ as a musical instrument.

OR 724 Organ Literature since 1800 3 Credits

Study and research into the style, form, and interpretation of representative organ works composed after 1800. Study and research into national styles of organ composition and construction in France, Germany, England and North America.