Music at Webster

The Department of Music provides an unparalleled experience and unrivaled training thanks to our setting in a major urban area. Our program provides all Webster students an opportunity to perform in student ensembles, and to study music theory in classes and performance in private lessons. 

Webster University offers both undergraduate and graduate degrees in music. Twelve programs are designed for music majors. The graduate program includes the choice of either a Master of Arts in Music or a Master in Music. Classes include a core of music theory and history, performance lessons and ensembles, and specific courses in your area of interest — all essential to any music degree. Many music majors opt for a time in Vienna during the junior year of study. Students can take music classes designed for non-majors, such as jazz, world music, and art music appreciation courses. Our classes and programs of study offer real-world knowledge to help you prepare for immediate success.

Thirteen full-time faculty are joined by more than 65 dedicated artist/teachers who bring specific expertise in their fields of education and performance. Our music faculty includes outstanding professional practitioners: composers, teachers, performers, conductors, historians, artists.

The Department of Music is housed primarily in the Thompson Music Building and Community Music School Center, just a few steps down across the Quad. Many academic music classes are taught in the adjacent East Academic Hall.

Webster University is accredited by the National Association of Schools of Music. 

Webster is an arts-centered university. Over and over we hear "When I think of Webster, I think of the arts."

Presidents and trustees support the arts and believe in the importance of fine arts programs and education.

Webster boasts an enviable tradition in the arts, including flexible academic programs for students.

Webster's suburban setting and Midwestern location mean a close-knit, friendly campus, but the wonders of a larger city are just ten minutes away.

International travel and education are the norm for students, rather than the exception.

Music faculty are outstanding professional practitioners who love to teach. You have close working relationships with professors who practice their craft daily.

Webster University is one of around 150 All-Steinway Schools in the world.

Webster University hosts the world-class Dennis Owsley Jazz Recording Collection.

Webster University has been a full member of the National Association of Schools of Music (NASM) for the last sixty years, an important marker of our standing among music programs in the US.

Our class sizes are small — often fewer than ten in a class — so we will know your name, your strengths, your hopes. You will be expected to dig in, to venture into new ideas and processes, to embrace challenge. Our faculty will make you think. Within the intimate setting of Thompson House (our musical home), your vistas will be expanded!

And then, after four years of undergraduate study, the next steps hit. A final degree recital. The last projects. Commencement.

Webster helps you as you go forward too. The connections that you've made here will feed a network of friends, associates, and opportunities. Professors will write important letters of recommendation. You'll be guided toward graduate study, or toward studio and school teaching. We will help you with all the options out there.

Over four years of study you will acquire a comprehensive skill set, then integrate elements of that skill set into your daily music making. As you demonstrate assimilation of this skill set, you will also demonstrate the ability to use this new knowledge to make choices, and to perform with an authentic, intelligent voice.

The lifetime of music-making... across and around the world... has just begun!

As you look at various music programs across the country, please do ask these questions and use this outline as a guide in decision making.

A message from the Department of Music faculty:

As the news from around the country continues to expose deep racial inequities, including violence against and killing of Black Americans, often without accountability, the Department of Music realizes that we need not only to stand behind Webster's university-wide statements and initiatives, but also to speak directly to the students and faculty in our immediate community.

Black Lives Matter, and we stand with our Black students and colleagues and commit ourselves to antiracist action. An antiracist working group of departmental faculty and student leaders is currently working on an action plan for dismantling racism within our curriculum, policies, and procedures. Additionally, we recognize the grave emotional and psychological toll that continued news of racism and violence takes on our Black students, and we want those students to know that we see, hear, and stand in support of them.

We affirm students' need for space and time to process and heal. We commit to offering appropriate academic accommodations and support and are actively strategizing the best practices for doing so. We encourage students to seek the support of Webster's Student Counseling and Life Development center and we are happy to help students make contact and schedule appointments. We must and will be better.

Department of Music Faculty
October 2020

Mission Statement

The Department of Music is committed to the education of musicians through transformative experiences that promote versatility and engage the whole person in a collaborative environment fostering lifelong habits of excellence in performance, creativity, scholarship, and teaching. We focus on personalized, student-centered learning where developing musicians work closely with their instructors and each other.

We empower our students to achieve academic and artistic excellence by providing a broad, foundational music education that unites theory and practice. This foundation informs the creative process students experience in their individual projects, in the private studio, and in a range of solo and ensemble settings. We recognize that the value of effective foundational training is expressed in both its permanence and its adaptability.

Our faculty is a team of committed educators who maintain active careers as performers, scholars, and composers. As such, they serve as valuable role models for our students by showcasing the variety of professional paths available to developing musicians and through their ongoing commitment to discovery and renewal. Our faculty embraces a culture of academic freedom and intellectual curiosity which helps sustain our integrity and authenticity.

We are committed to the mission of the University which seeks to transform students for global citizenship and individual excellence. In service of this goal, our curriculum and events promote critical thinking, cross-cultural understanding, and a deeper appreciation for the role of the arts in the world. Our advocacy for a widely inclusive and transformative culture of education through the arts prepares our students to enrich the community through exceptional teaching, diverse musical performance, and engaging creative and scholarly work.

Adopted by Department of Music faculty
October 20, 2017

Department of Music Outcomes — Undergraduate

A graduate of the Webster University Department of Music will be able to:

  • Access, navigate, and use appropriate music literature and music technologies for composition, instruction, performance, and research.
  • Describe the main characteristics of significant genres of music and identify representative works and composers associated with each genre.
  • Compare, contrast, and communicate the significant aesthetic principles of the major historical eras using representative works and composers.
  • Relate the socio-political contexts of the major historical eras to the composition and performance of music in each period.
  • Explain how compositional processes and aesthetic/stylistic properties shape and are shaped by artistic and cultural forces.
  • Analyze music using methods applicable to specific genre/style period, and use those analytical findings to enhance musical performance.
  • Critique existing and original compositions using structural analysis and aesthetic attributes.
  • Perform diverse repertoire, from memory and at-sight, on a primary and secondary instrument at a level appropriate to the student’s needs and interests, meeting departmental and degree standards.
  • Collaborate with a variety of musical ensembles, and organize rehearsals and performances.
  • Improvise within a defined structural framework.

Approved by Department of Music faculty, October 2018

The Department of Music offers a number of endowed scholarships and other special scholarship recognitions. These funds are usually awarded to sophomore, junior, or senior students who have demonstrated exceptional talent and contributed in significant ways to the life of the music program.

2021-22 Scholarship Recipients

Buder Foundation Scholarship
Erica Ancell
Ben Shafer
Addie Struckman
Mikaela Weston

Peggy Fossett Endowed Scholarship Fund for Music
Jarod Allen
Keion Lukes
Caleb McCarroll
Theresa Monteleone
Zach Tesch

TKT Endowment Fund
Tom Green
Kameron Huff
Ben Shafer

James Moroney Nigh Endowed Scholarship in Opera
Anthony Murgo

Suzy Shepard Endowed Jazz Scholarship Fund
Andrew Baker
Dannie Fuller

Donald O. Davis Memorial Endowed Scholarship for Jazz Studies
Jake Heberle

Carole Gaspar Endowed Scholarship in Vocal Performance
Kaitlyn George

Kevin Steincross Endowed Scholarship
Darek Kosinski

Sister Eloise Jarvis, Ph.D. Endowed Scholarship in Music
Erica Ancell

Monica M. Moore & David G. Fish Endowed Scholarship in Music
Zazzlyn Hall

Allen Carl Larson Endowed Scholarship for Instrumental Studies
Zachary Tesch

Jean Sinor Memorial Endowed Scholarship
Sam Mueller

Lynn & Thriess Britton Endowed Music Scholarship
Tess Brown

Sister Felicia Corrigan S.L. Endowed Music Scholarship
Madalyn Tomkins

Mary Ellen Smith Memorial Scholarship
Whitley Foehner

Walter Bowers Endowed Music Education Scholarship
Patrick Fanara

In addition to others, these guest artists performed, lectured, guided students, and otherwise enriched our musical life recently: 

  • Fattah Abbou & Mohamed Aoualou (AZA), Traditional Moroccan Tamazight music (Santa Cruz, CA)
  • Charlie Alterman, Music director (New York, NY)
  • Alan Alyas, Program coordinator for American Voices (St. Louis, MO)
  • Christine Brewer, Internationally renowned operatic soprano (Lebanon, IL)
  • Karen Brunnsen, President-elect of National Association of Teachers of Singing (Evanston, IL)
  • Jennifer Johnson Cano, Mezzo-soprano (New York, NY)
  • Audrey Chait, Director, writer and producer
  • Alexandre Dossin, Professor of Piano at the University of Oregon (Eugene, OR)
  • Melissa Dunphy, Composer (Philadelphia, PA)
  • Dr. Matt Edwards, Voice teacher (Winchester, VA)
  • Maria Ellis, St. Louis Children's Choirs Community Engagement Manager (St. Louis, MO)
  • Tecwyn Evans, Artistic director (Denmark)
  • Morgan Groteweil, Assistant professor (St. Louis, MO)
  • Michelle Hand, St. Louis Volunteer Lawyers and Accountants for the Arts (St. Louis, MO)
  • Corinne Hayes, Stage director (Fairfax, VA)
  • Phil Kennicott, Pulitzer-Prize winning culture critic for Washington Post (Washington, D.C.)
  • Harvey Lockhart, Saxophonist, educator and composer (St. Louis, MO)
  • Mary Alice Lovelace, Stowtown Records
  • Ashlee Mack, Piano (Galesburg, IL)
  • Kevin McBeth, Director of St. Louis Symphony IN UNISON Chorus (St. Louis, MO)
  • Donny McCaslin, Saxophonist (New York, NY)
  • Todd Mosby, Guitarist and composer (St. Louis, MO)
  • James Romig, Composer (Macomb, IL)
  • Rachel Seiler, Songwriter (Nashville, TN)
  • Howard Shalowitz, Cantor (St. Louis, MO)
  • Hana Sharif, Artistic Director of The Repertory Theatre of St. Louis (St. Louis, MO)
  • Yoko Shimazaki-Kilburn, Voice professor (Muncie, IN)
  • Leonard Slatkin, Internationally acclaimed conductor (St. Louis, MO)
  • Jayme Thompson, Songwriter (Dallas, TX)
  • John Truitt, Voice (Muncie, IN)
  • Dale Trumbore, Composer and entrepreneur (Azusa, CA)
  • Bryan Ward, A&R Rep and Artist Manager for Proper Management (Nashville, TN)

Department of Music alumni live, work, and create in towns and cities around the world. Here's a look at a few of our alumni:

Douglas Major received his Bachelor of Arts degree in organ performance in 1974. An active composer and organist, he spent the next three decades at the National Cathedral in Washington, D.C., where he headed the music program at one of the most important churches in the country. A world-traveling recitalist, Doug focuses today on concert work on both organ and piano. He is the 2013 Outstanding Alumnus of the Leigh Gerdine College of Fine Arts.

Jennifer Johnson Cano is a rising star in the world of opera, art song, and oratorio. After completing her undergrad degree at Webster, she went on to graduate school in Texas and then directly into the Lindemann Young Artist Program at the Metropolitan Opera. She's now a Met artist, appearing on international telecasts and singing a variety of roles. She has appeared in recital at Carnegie Hall, and sings frequently as a concert soloist with the New York Philharmonic.

James Sedares has led many important orchestras throughout the US, the Pacific Rim, and Europe, with special affiliations with the Phoenix Symphony and with orchestras in New Zealand. A Chicago native with an undergraduate degree from Webster, Sedares' recordings are available on major labels such as Naxos and Deutsche Grammophon. He continues an active conducting career around the globe.

John Zorn is a multi-faceted composer and performer, now based in New York City. His college study at Webster focused on music composition, leading him to a reputation as a major avant-garde composer and arranger. He received the American Academy of Arts and Letter 2012 Arts and Letters Awards in Music. Notably, he received a 2006 MacArthur Foundation Fellowship, the so-called "Genius Grant."

Don Diekneite has developed a significant career as a composer of music for video games. His undergraduate degree in music composition morphed into the new world of Atari soundscapes, and eventually to life as an audio designer and producer. Don also has a doctorate in music from Indiana University.

Erin Bode is a leading jazz artist, performing worldwide from her base in Saint Louis. The Erin Bode Group creates music forged from the Americana of its members' Midwestern roots, infused with jazz grooves and made magic by Bode's bell-like voice. Sophisticated arrangements and attention to phrasing further distinguish the band's fresh sound.

Other outstanding alumni include:

  • Sandra Levy-Smith, Emmy®-winning composer, Saint Louis
  • Peter Mayer, vocalist/guitarist/composer with Jimmy Buffett
  • Robert Power, Grammy®-winning producer, New York
  • Mona Bagasso-Crane, contemporary Christian performer
  • Butch Thomas, saxophonist with Sting, New York
  • Nicolai Bica, violin, Saint Louis Symphony Orchestra
  • Carol Chapman, professor, Missouri State University
  • Linda Presgrave, jazz pianist, New York
  • Rie Suzuki, clarinet faculty, Peabody Conservatory
  • Dave Boonshoft, president, Aguilar Amplification, New York

One of Saint Louis' most avid jazz fans, Dennis Owsley, donated his entire 54-year collection of jazz recordings to Webster University  in 2012, to be housed in Emerson Library in the Dennis Owsley Jazz Recording Collection. This gift is a benefit to our students and faculty, to the community, to historians and researchers, and to all who love this wonderful art we call jazz.

Dennis Owsley has been hosting Jazz Unlimited, a weekly radio show on St. Louis Public Radio since 1983. He has been a jazz album collector, aficionado, and historian since 1958 and has seen most of the major artists in jazz in live performance. He is the author of an award-winning book, City of Gabriels — The Jazz History of St. Louis 1895-1973.

Nearly all the music heard on Jazz Unlimited is from Owsley's personal collection, a collection that now resides at Webster University's Eden Library.

This collection is of particular note because it includes LPs from the 60s and 70s that document Gaslight Square and the Black Actors Group. These LPs are a treasure for historians of Saint Louis.

Much of the Owsley Collection is available for circulation in the Emerson Library stacks.

Thompson House
Thompson House

Thompson House

The National Historic Register-listed music building was built in 1910, pre-dating the founding of Webster University by five years. Webster University acquired the building in the 1950s and re-purposed the building for music. The building now houses 12 full-time faculty, department office, office of the Dean of the Leigh Gerdine College of Fine Arts, practice rooms, classrooms, computer lab, student lounge, and the Recital Hall. Thompson House is the oldest building on campus and full of character. The Recital Hall is a combination of the original parlor and dining room (Eleanor Roosevelt once dined in this room) and features beautiful quartersawn oak paneling.

All-Steinway School

In December 2010, Webster University achieved designation as the 123rd All-Steinway School. Webster is one of just four All-Steinway Schools in Missouri and one of fewer than 250 All-Steinway institutions world-wide!

All Steinway School, Steinway & Sons logo
News & Events

Department of Music News and Upcoming Events