Introducing the NSA Conservatory of Music
by Michelle Bollen
Since the start, New Saint Andrews has stood out for its unique program. Although it offers only one degree in liberal arts for undergraduates, it offers a wide range of unique courses, from theological gastronomy to herpetology and oral Latin. While the liberal arts program provides a thorough education for students, in today’s job market that has tended to favor highly specialized degrees, a few resume-building extracurriculars never hurt. Aware of this, Dr. Merkle, the college’s president, has been working hard to offer students “rounded opportunities to help them enter the professional world.” This has been the incentive behind many of the new extracurricular opportunities the college has been making available to students. For over two years NSA has been running Wenden House—a translation fellowship program—and for the past year the college has been partnering with local businesses to offer unique internships to students. This year, however, the college has begun a completely new and ambitious program.
Under Dr. Erb’s leadership, the college is starting a music conservatory. Dr. Erb, who received his DMA in choral conducting from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, has wanted to begin a program like this for a long time. Not only is music one of the seven liberal arts, and therefore a key component to any collegiate level liberal arts program, music is paramount in the Christian tradition. While Pythagoras thought music was key to developing a man’s soul, Luther saw music as second to God’s Word alone. How could the college not strive to develop a solid music program?
This year, the conservatory will provide lessons—both instrumental and vocal—to beginner musicians in the community, as well as formally begin a college orchestra. Schola Cantorum, which is a music program for children four years and up that offers lessons according to the Kodály system, will now be a part of the conservatory’s work. The annual music camp for children will be hosted by the conservatory as well.
However, in future years, Dr. Erb plans to expand the conservatory’s programs to offer instruction for more types of instruments. Eventually, the conservatory will also provide advanced, not just beginning, training for musicians. In fact, the goal is to recruit instructors with sufficient teaching experience and high enough degrees to one day offer college level courses in the musical arts. The college will then be able to offer, alongside the traditional liberal arts degree, training that will qualify future NSA graduates to teach music at classical Christian schools and even to lead music in churches.
The broad vision is that the caliber of training the conservatory will provide will raise up a new generation of musicians in the tradition of Chenaniah (1 Chronicles 15:22). They will be so expert in their craft that they will be able to meaningfully shape church worship. In this way, the college can contribute to the culture at large by helping to create musical literacy within the church. As Dr. Erb says, “We know little with certainty what we will be doing in Heaven, but we know we will be singing.” So why not start to prepare?
To learn more about the conservatory and to become involved visit the conservatory website at music.nsa.edu