Saint Michael's Music

The music program at St. Mike's offers you many opportunities to study closely with faculty and other professionals and to gain performance experience. Our well-known and well-traveled wind, jazz, vocal and instrumental ensembles have been an important asset for the college throughout the history of the fine arts program. These performing groups allow you to apply what you're learning in class about music theory and history as you develop your musical talents and repertoire. Greater Burlington also has a rich music scene, from clubs and coffee-houses to big-name acts, musicals and festivals.

Courses required for the music major cover theory, history and performance. Most meet in our beautiful McCarthy Arts Center, a stimulating creative space anchored by a professional-quality theater that is home to one of New England's leading and longest-running summer-stock companies, the Saint Michael's Playhouse. During the academic year, student shows in this same theater sometimes are musicals that you can be part of as a singer, accompanist or even composer. McCarthy also has a busy recital hall, practice rooms and art galleries along with class rooms.

The Department of Fine Arts sponsors the Chorale, Concert Band, Jazz Orchestra, Chamber Music and the Akoma Drummers. All of these groups perform on campus and tour extensively.

Your St. Mike's music courses will focus on understanding music as a liberal art. Music is a central pursuit of human culture related to other fields in the humanities that study the variety and meaning of human artistic expression. Through the study of music you can gain insight into many other aspects of culture.

By senior year you'll have knowledge and experience of the theory and analysis of music, familiarity with the styles and repertory of European music from the Middle Ages through the present and characteristics of American and non-Western music. You'll also have had performance experience in music of various styles and acquired educated tastes and opinions about a wide range of musical repertory.

While a student here you'll have the opportunity for private study for credit with a local teacher on a variety of musical instruments or in voice. The additional fee for private study under this program is partially subsidized for music majors and minors (instrument or voice) and for theater majors (voice lessons only).

Your first-year music theory courses cover basic tonal materials: scales, intervals, chords; melody and counterpoint, moving into harmony, introduction to form and analysis. Musicianship lab includes ear-training, sight-singing and keyboard skills. Later you'll survey different genres of music and writing about that music; you'll read and write descriptions, reviews, reports, and essays about music of a variety of styles including live performances.

The senior seminar gives you the opportunity to undertake a culminating project in the study and performance of music. Topics and projects vary according to interests and include a combination of original research, musical analysis, a final paper, an oral presentation, and a musical performance. For the major you'll take five electives in music theory or music history and repertory along with ensemble work and private lessons most semesters.

Sample Four Year Plan for Music Majors*

First Year
Fall Spring
MU 201 Introductory Music Theory MU 203 Intermediate Music Theory
Private Lesson 1 Private Lesson 2
Ensemble 1 Ensemble 2
  Foreign Language I    Foreign Language II 
  First Year Seminar    Liberal Studies course 
Fall Spring
MU 209 Reading and Writing About Music Music Elective 1
  Private Lesson 3 Private Lesson 4
Ensemble 3 Ensemble 4
  Liberal Studies courses    Liberal Studies courses 
Fall Spring
MU 301 Advanced Music Theory  Music Elective 3
Music Elective 2 Private Lesson 6
Private Lesson 5 Ensemble 6
Ensemble 5 Junior Seminar
  Electives    Electives 
Fall Spring
MU 491 Music Senior Seminar and Project  Music Elective 4 
Private Lesson 7 Private Lesson 8
Ensemble 7 Ensemble 8
  Electives    Electives 

Your faculty advisor will work with you to select Music electives and other courses that match your academic interests and career goals.

* For students who enroll in the fall of 2018.

William Ellis, PhD

Associate Professor of Fine Arts: Music
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Ph. D., Musicology-Southern Regional Studies (with Art History minor), University of Memphis, Memphis, Tennessee; Dissertation, "I Belong to the Band: The Music of Reverend Gary Davis."
M. M., Classical Guitar Performance, University of Cincinnati-College Conservatory of Music, Cincinnati, Ohio.
B. M., Classical Guitar Performance, Kentucky Wesleyan College, Owensboro, Kentucky.

Areas of Expertise:

I specialize in traditional and popular music of the American South including blues, gospel, soul and early rock & roll. I also play guitar professionally and write and lecture on self-taught and folk art, notably African-American vernacular art of the Deep South.

Courses I Teach:

  • History of Rock
  • History of Jazz
  • Music Theory I and II
  • Reading and Writing about Music

I have also taught various undergraduate and graduate level courses at other institutions including: World Music, Western Art Music, American Popular Music, Filed Methods in Ethnomusicology, and guitar instruction.

Nathaniel Lew, PhD

Department Chair, Professor of Fine Arts: Music
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Contact Professor Lew

McCarthy Arts Center 201
Box 377
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M.A., Ph.D. University of California, Berkeley
B.A., M.A. Cambridge University
B.A. Yale University

Areas of Expertise:

Twentieth-century British music, particularly opera, and its relationship to institutions and the broader culture. The music of English 20th-century composers Ralph Vaughan Williams and Benjamin Britten. Choral conducting. The music of Richard Stoehr (1874-1967).

Courses I Teach:

  • Medieval and Renaissance Music
  • Classical and Romantic Music
  • American Music Theater
  • Opera
  • Advanced Music Theory
  • Instrumentation and Orchestration
  • Techniques of Contemporary Composition
  • Chorale
  • Humanities: Modern Civilization
  • Honors Colloquium

My Saint Michael's:

I teach music history, music theory and humanities, and direct the College Chorale. I enjoy the creative freedom to teach a wide variety of subjects in a department where faculty and students are open to experimenting with new topics, materials and methods. In all of my courses on musical repertory I take the entire class to live performances. I love working closely with my students, and I love it when they respectfully disagree with one another in really productive ways. The music department also works hard to facilitate all our students' performance projects, some of which are ambitious and impressive.

Susan Summerfield, DMA

Professor Emerita of Fine Arts: Music

Contact Professor Summerfield

McCarthy Arts Center 202
Box 387
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D.M.A. Stanford University
M.A. Mills College;
A.B. Douglass College and Rutgers University;

I specialize in early music performance practice. I teach courses in music history of the Baroque and Twentieth Century and music theory. I also offer private lessons in piano, organ and harpsichord; and I coach the chamber ensemble.  I include theory, history and performance in the courses that I teach with the goal of teaching students to be informed writers, listeners and musicians.

I present solo and ensemble concerts, performing on the organ, harpsichord and fortepiano. I serve as the Saint Michael's College Organist and often participate in community musical events.

Erin Grainger

Lecturer in Music
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MMus, McGill University

Bed, University of Toronto

BMus. Hon. Music Education, University of Western Ontario


Areas of Expertise:



Music Education

Diction for Singers

Choral Conducting and Literature

Singing in Theater


Courses Taught:

Applied Voice

Ear Training Lab


Canadian mezzo-soprano Erin Grainger is active as a soloist, ensemble singer, teacher, and choral conductor. Erin works with singers in a range of settings, from public school to university and in the community.

As a singer, her repertoire includes choral-orchestral works as a soloist and professional chorister as well as character roles in opera. She strives to find vocal chamber music as a means to collaborate with small pockets of other musicians. As a teacher and conductor, Erin has a particular fondness for preparing choruses and soloists for the stage, in addition to working the standard and contemporary choral repertoire.

In Vermont, Erin has performed with the Burlington Chamber Orchestra, Middlebury Bach Festival, Counterpoint, the Opera Company of Middlebury, and Barn Opera. She currently teaches at Saint Michael’s College and Johnson State College, and is the Music & Choral Director at First Congregational Church of St. Albans.

Brian McCarthy, MM

Lecturer in Music
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Contact Professor McCarthy
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M.M. Jazz Composition/Arranging, William Paterson University
B.M. Jazz Studies Performance, William Paterson University

Areas of Expertise:

Saxophone, Jazz, Composition and Arranging

Courses I Teach:

  • Jazz Orchestra
  • Private Lessons
  • Piano Lab
  • Wind Ensemble

Josselyne Price, MA

Lecturer in Music
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M.A. Ethnomusicology, Tufts University
B.A. Musicology, San Jose State University

Areas of Expertise:

My focus is on the music and dance of Ghana and other areas of West Africa, Haiti, Cuba, and also contemporary, "globalized" spiritual/ecstatic drum and dance traditions within the United States. In addition to Ghanaian music, I perform as a vocalist and percussionist with various world fusion groups in New England. I act as a coordinator and facilitator at many folk and music-based festivals throughout the U.S. during the summer months.

Courses I Teach:

  • Akoma World Music Ensemble (Ghanaian Drum/Dance)
  • Beginning Ghanian drum ensemble
  • Ghanian Arts and Culture
  • Global Electronica
  • Music of Ghana
  • Music of India
  • Music of Latin America
  • Music and Trance
  • World Music

Fran Taylor, BA

Lecturer in Music
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B.A., Wesleyan University

Areas of Expertise


Courses I Teach 

MU 261
MU 372

"But with art comes empathy. It allows us to look through someone else’s eyes and know their strivings and struggles. It expands the moral imagination and makes it impossible to accept the dehumanization of others. When we are without art, we are a diminished people — myopic, unlearned and cruel."
- Dave Eggers

Vocal and Instrumental Ensembles


The Music Department runs several instrumental and vocal ensembles, all of which are open to qualified student musicians in any class year and in any major. These ensembles perform on and around campus several times a year.


The Chorale is Saint Michael's large vocal ensemble. This group presents several public concerts throughout the year, and sings at college functions and local churches. The Chorale's Christmas Lessons and Carols Concert in December and Spring Family Weekend Concert draw a large audience from throughout the Burlington area. Most years the Chorale also joins forces with the choruses of other local colleges (Castleton University, Johnston State College, Middlebury College) to perform a masterwork with orchestra. Tours in years past have taken them around New England and to New York City and Washington D.C. Their repertory spans the centuries from the Middle Ages to the present day, including works by living composers, from different nations and cultures, and in a variety of languages, including classical works, spirituals, folksongs, and show tunes. In addition, there are several student-run a cappella vocal ensembles on campus, including The Sleepless Knights and Soulful Harmony (mixed), Mike Check (men), and the AcaBellas (women).


For instrumentalists, the Concert Band performs concert and symphonic band music embracing a wide spectrum of styles, the Jazz Orchestra performs music of the big band and swing eras, and the String Orchestra performs a variety of genres of classical music from the 18th through the 20th centuries.  The Akoma Drumming Ensemble performs music and dance from West Africa, focusing on the tradition of the Ewe people of Ghana and related traditions. In any semester, there are numerous student bands playing at the Turtle Underground, the on-campus coffee house, and in downtown Burlington venues.


Another option for students interested in singing and playing is the Liturgical Ensemble, a part of Campus Ministry. This group of singers and instrumentalists is primarily composed of undergraduate students, but also includes adult members from the greater worshipping community. It provides vibrant contemporary music for worship and facilitates sung prayer in the Chapel of Saint Michael the Archangel at all Sunday liturgies and all major feasts, with an original and eclectic musical style utilizing African, Latin American and Irish flavors to compliment traditional hymn singing.  The group’s leader Jerome Monachino is a skilled guitarist across jazz, rock and popular genres and frequently offers lessons or jams with students in his office.



Chorale - Nathaniel G. Lew -
Concert Band - Brian McCarthy

Jazz Orchestra - Brian McCarthy -
String Orchestra - Fran Pepperman-Taylor - 
Akoma Drumming Ensemble - Josselyne Price -
Liturgical Ensemble - Jerome Monachino -


Music All Around You

Opportunities to experience music as part of the lively greater Burlington arts scene are plentiful. Take advantage the St. Mike's Cultural Pass deal to see live professional big-name traveling shows and performers of every variety at downtown Burlington's Flynn Performing Arts Center. Musicians frequently perform recitals and concerts on the Saint Michael's campus too, whether in the McCarthy Arts Center, the Chapel or at the beautiful Elley-Long Music Center on our North Campus, home of the  Vermont Youth Orchestra and a site for other musical events. Coffee houses on campus and around Burlington are another venue to hear music (or to be heard), and headline acts appear periodically at the nearby Fairgrounds in Essex Junction and Higher Ground in South Burlington. Burlington hosts a major summer jazz festival as well as other music festivals on the city's waterfront, and the city has a notable music club scene in general (Phish got its start on this circuit!).


Music majors at Saint Michael's go on to become music teachers, film and television composers, professors, professional performers, voice coaches, entertainment company executives, and music publishers. Other have become dentists veterinarians, chemists pharmacists and experimental psychologists. Graduates have pursued graduate studies at major schools including New York University, the University of Edinburgh, the University of Illinois, the University of Southern California, and many other institutions. Check out our Alumni-Spotlights!

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