H. L. Miller Cantorial School and College of Jewish Music

H. L. Miller Cantorial School and College of Jewish Music

The H. L. Miller Cantorial School and College of Jewish Music offers a five-year course of study that fosters spiritual growth while leading to cantorial investiture. As a member of the clergy, the cantor leads the community in prayer; teaches liturgy, music, and a love of Judaism to young and old; officiates at life cycle events; and serves as a spiritual model and source of comfort. Cantors are authorities on Jewish music for the Jewish and general community.

The H. L. Miller Cantorial School and College of Jewish Music are two schools devoted to Jewish musical studies; they train selected advanced students as hazzanim for congregational service or to be teachers of Jewish music, choral directors, composers, or scholars. The H. L. Miller Cantorial School awards the diploma of hazzan, and the College of Jewish Music awards the master of sacred music degree (MSM). Students preparing for the cantorate are enrolled in both schools, and are expected to complete the diploma program and the master of sacred music degree simultaneously, preferably within a five-year period.

It should be noted that the curriculum of the H. L. Miller Cantorial School and the degree programs of the College of Jewish Music require full-time attendance. Part-time and nonmatriculated students may be accepted for admission under special circumstances and by permission of the director.

The demands of a rapidly changing world call for new approaches to the way in which we train the next generation of hazzanim. While there are many congregations looking for the hazzan who will specialize in the musical and liturgical life of his or her congregants, there are many synagogues that are looking for the multifaceted hazzan who can serve the congregation in a myriad of ways. Likewise, there are students in our school who themselves are looking to find different ways to reach out and connect with kelal Yisra'el, including training as cantor-educators, cantor-pastors, and cantor–military chaplains.

The H. L. Miller Cantorial School trains hazzanim to serve as both a sheliah tzibbur, a representative of the community, and as an agent of the Holy One. The curriculum of the H. L. Miller Cantorial School provides opportunities for all students to build on their strengths and explore the needs of the contemporary congregation. "Tradition and change" has been the motto of the Conservative Movement for generations, and it certainly applies when looking at the future of the cantorate.

Admissions Information

Faculty

Dean of the Division of Religious Leadership
Rabbi Daniel S. Nevins

Director, H. L. Miller Cantorial School and College of Jewish Music
Cantor Nancy Abramson

Associate Professor
Boaz Tarsi

Assistant Professor
Gerald Cohen

Adjunct Professor
Marsha Bryan Edelman

Adjunct Associate Professor
David L. Tilman

Adjunct Senior Lecturer
Ray Harrell

Adjunct Instructors
Ellen Arad Miller
Joel Caplan
Perry Fine
Natasha Hirschhorn
Robert Kieval
Jacob Mendelson
Joyce Rosenzweig
Faith Steinsnyder

Coaches of Hazzanut
Rafi Frieder
Robert Kieval
Alberto Mizrahi
Richard Nadel
Simon Spiro
Faith Steinsnyder

Admissions Information

Bruchim Ha'baim! Arriving at this webpage represents a significant "click" forward in your Jewish journey.

The decision to study for the cantorate is a serious one, but one that holds great excitement and opportunity. The chance to serve the Jewish community in such a rapidly changing environment is a thrilling and sacred task, and we at JTS are eager to help prepare you. Our world-class faculty, engaging students, and New York City location will all add to the depth and breadth of your cantorial training.

On the pages below, you will find the information that you need to apply for admission to the H. L. Miller Cantorial School. Feel free to call with any questions you may have, or simply to say hello and introduce yourself.

If you want to receive more information about the H. L. Miller Cantorial School, submit the web contact form.

Come Meet With Us

We encourage you to learn more about the H. L. Miller Cantorial School, and the director welcomes inquiries from Jews of all ages.

Preliminary discussions with potential candidates are a required part of the application process. It is best if these conversations with the director of Admissions take place at least six months to one year before applying to the H. L. Miller Cantorial School.

Contact us at (212) 678-8817 or at Admissions to arrange your preliminary discussion.

Prospective Students

Basic Criteria:

  • Undergraduate degree from an accredited college or university
  • A trained voice
  • Background in music theory and sight singing
  • Basic Hebrew proficiency

The H. L. Miller Cantorial School recognizes that prospective candidates may be at different points in their religious and spiritual journeys. The following list of religious commitments is an ideal. We hope that all of our students will achieve these goals over the course of the program.

  • Belief that Torah—written and oral—is the inspired and authoritative guide to Jewish life
  • Commitment to grant equal opportunity for men and women to study Torah, participate in the mitzvot, and assume leadership positions in the Jewish community
  • Committed, questioning, and loving engagement with God
  • Commitment to traditional communal prayer throughout the day, starting with tallit and tefillin at weekday Shaharit
  • Commitment to observing kashrut
  • Commitment to observing Shabbat and festivals
  • Commitment to holiness in relationships, including halakhic and ethical parameters of sexual intimacy
  • Commitment to uphold the Cantors Assembly's Standards of Practice
  • The practice of honest, ethical, and compassionate behavior toward other people
  • Responsibility for the welfare of one's fellow Jews
  • Advocacy for a peaceful future for the State of Israel and its inhabitants

At the time of application, candidates must demonstrate that they are growing into these observances. We recognize that religious growth is not necessarily a linear progression. We hope to provide a safe space for students as they grow more Jewishly observant.

The Admissions Committee meets in February. Entrance examinations include an audition, an individual interview, and tests aimed at determining musical aptitude and levels of Hebraic and general musical knowledge. Candidates for admission are requested to prepare two musical selections: one classical secular piece to be prepared for performance with piano accompaniment, and one prayer setting from the Jewish liturgy to be chanted a cappella.

The material necessary for application must be submitted by January 1 for February auditions. Submissions should include:

  • A completed application form together with the $65 fee
  • Official transcripts of all post-secondary studies
  • A demo CD
  • GRE scores

Dual-Degree Opportunities

Students have the opportunity to expand and tailor their learning experience by crafting individualized study tracks at JTS and neighboring institutions, including Columbia University, Union Theological Seminary, Hebrew Union College – Jewish Institute of Religion, and Teachers College.

Students earn a master of sacred music degree as part of the H. L. Miller Cantorial School program. Those interested in the MA program of the William Davidson Graduate School of Jewish Education or The Graduate School, or in the certificate program of the Center for Pastoral Education must apply separately to those programs once admitted to the H. L. Miller Cantorial School. Credits earned in the H. L. Miller Cantorial School may be applied toward these degrees.

Course of Study

Students acquire skills in the following areas: Hebrew, nusah and Jewish and general music, Jewish studies, and professional skills.

The results of a Hebrew language placement examination will determine the courses a student will need to complete the Hebrew language requirement. Students are expected to place into HEB 2201 or higher. If necessary, a student will be required to attend a JTS summer session prior to Year Two to meet this requirement. After completion of HEB 5203, two semesters of liturgical Hebrew are required for all students, as well as a course in Hebrew grammar.

Four one-year courses in nusah are required. These courses are team-taught and consist of theory, practicum, and individual coaching sessions. Each year, students will participate in nusah presentations representative of their work in a simulated synagogue atmosphere. The nusah faculty and the director will evaluate performances and counsel the students.

Required courses in general music include ear training, music theory and harmony, choral conducting, choral singing, and piano. Students may be exempted from some of these courses on the basis of a proficiency examination and the permission of the instructor.

Fifth-year cantorial students will enroll in two seminars as a part of their professional skills training: a fall-semester course with the director, and a yearlong joint seminar with their fellow senior rabbinical students.

Students are required to attend the weekly H. L. Miller Cantorial School Minyan and Mifgash.

In addition to their course work, students are expected to continue their voice training privately with voice teachers, and are responsible for the costs involved over and above the costs of the program itself. To assist students in judging their vocal progress, the faculty will sit as a vocal board once each year. Students will be notified early in the term regarding dates and preparation for vocal board sessions.

Summer experiences are expected to include attendance at the North Americam Jewish Choral Festival, work at a Ramah camp, and a summer unit of CPE.

Students studying at the H. L. Miller Cantorial School must complete their classwork and a master's thesis or project. A thesis advisor will be chosen by each student with the approval of the director in the fourth year of study.

Graduation Requirements

Graduation requirements include the successful completion of required courses, comprehensive examinations, master's thesis, and a recital in sacred and general music. Candidates for the academic degree and the diploma of hazzan are expected to complete all course work and examinations within five years. An extension of one year may be granted upon written application to the director.

Good Standing Within the H. L. Miller Cantorial School

The ideals and practices of Conservative Judaism are an integral part of the lifestyle and program of The H. L. Miller Cantorial School. All students in the school are expected to be committed to and live an observant Jewish life. Standards of personal and professional conduct and interpersonal relations are a significant part of the tradition to which the school is committed. Accordingly, the director of the H. L. Miller Cantorial School reserves the right to deny admission, registration, readmission, or investiture to any student who, in the judgment of the school's Faculty Committee, is determined to be unsuitable to the profession of the cantorate.

Investiture

Assuming good standing, as defined earlier, investiture as a hazzan will be conferred upon completion of all academic and other requirements.

Investiture will not be recommended if a grade of INC remains on the student's record in a course required for completion of the H. L. Miller Cantorial School's degree program. Investiture takes place in May of each year at JTS's Commencement Exercises. All students to be invested in any one year are expected to be present at all ceremonies on Commencement day. Students who complete academic requirements early in the year may receive a letter noting that fact, but they will be invested only at the next Commencement Exercises.

William Davidson Graduate School of Jewish Education

Students of the H. L. Miller Cantorial School may earn a concurrent MA degree in Jewish Education while pursuing their cantorial studies. In addition to the courses required for the diploma of hazzan, please see the MA requirements in the Davidson School section. Students interested in this program are encouraged to meet with the director of the H. L. Miller Cantorial School and the dean of The Davidson School as early as possible to outline the necessary course of study.

Joint Graduate School MA / Cantorial Investiture Program

For details, please see the Special MA Programs in the Graduate School section.

College of Jewish Music

List College Jewish Music major

The College of Jewish Music also offers the master of Sacred Music degree to qualified Rabbinical School students only.

Certificate in Pastoral Care and Counseling

The Certificate in Pastoral Care and Counseling represents an integrated pastoral care curriculum that includes academic learning, professional skills, and religious and personal identity formation. Students who are interested in preparing themselves for the world of professional chaplaincy will be in an excellent position to become leaders in the field. Students who wish to become clergy or religious professionals in agencies or schools will have the in-depth pastoral training to serve the needs of their congregants, clients, and students on a high level and with expertise in the rich pastoral resources of Judaism.

The new Certificate in Pastoral Care and Counseling can be earned by anyone enrolled in any MA program at JTS.

View a more detailed description of the program and its requirements.

Academic Standards

Attendance

Regular, punctual class attendance is required. Instructors shall have the right to stipulate attendance requirements within the first two weeks of the semester, and to indicate the penalties that may result from failure to comply with these requirements.

Grades

Letter grades indicate the following: A, excellent; B, good; C, fair; D, poor; F, failure; R, auditor. No credit will be given for grades of D+ or lower.

A letter grade is assigned for each course unless (1) it is indicated at registration that a course will be graded only on a Pass/D/Fail basis, or (2) a request for Pass/D/Fail grading is submitted in accordance with the procedure outlined below.

Students electing to take courses on a Pass/D/Fail basis must indicate their preference at registration or on the appropriate form, which must be submitted to the Office of the Registrar no later than two weeks after the first day of classes, the exact date to be indicated on the Academic Calendar. After this date, students may not alter the basis under which they have registered for their courses that semester.

Instructors will not be informed which students have elected to take their courses on a Pass/D/Fail basis. At the end of the semester, the instructor will submit letter grades for each student; the Office of the Registrar will transcribe letter grades for students who requested a Pass/D/Fail option as follows:

  • The grade of P will be assigned for students who have earned a letter grade of C- or higher
  • The grades of D and F will be so transcribed

Once the grade of P has been recorded, the instructor's letter grade will not be available to any individual, committee, or institution under any circumstances.

The grade of R will indicate that a student has registered for the course as an auditor and agreed to do all course work except a written paper and/or final examination. Such a course will neither yield academic credits nor meet departmental requirements in the H. L. Miller Cantorial School.

Once a grade has been received in the Office of the Registrar, it may be changed by the course instructor only upon written application by the instructor to the director. The director's approval is required.

Academic Probation

Any one of the following situations results in being placed on academic probation:

  • A student receives one F
  • A student receives two grades of D in one semester
  • A student receives one D in each of two consecutive semesters
  • A student compiles a semester grade point average of less than 2.7

The period of probation extends through the student's next semester of full-time status, though the student can become subject to dismissal by receiving a grade lower than C- during a probationary semester, even if enrolled only part-time. Courses may not be taken on a Pass/D/Fail basis during a probationary semester.

Students who receive grades of INC should be aware that they may be placed on probation in the following semester depending on the resolution of the INC.

A student on academic probation shall be restored to good standing if the following requirements are met:

  • No grade lower than C- is earned during the probationary semester
  • No grade of INC is granted during the probationary semester
  • A grade point average of 3.0 is compiled for all courses in the probationary semester
  • A full academic load (of at least five courses at JTS) is taken during the probationary semester

Semester grade point averages for purposes of academic probation shall be calculated according to the following numerical equivalents:

A+ 4.33 A 4.00 A- 3.67
B+ 3.33 B 3.00 B- 2.67
C+ 2.33 C 2.00 C- 1.67
D+ 1.33 D 1.00 D- 0.67
F 0

When calculating semester grade point averages for purposes of academic probation and restoration to good standing, all courses shall be given equal weight irrespective of the number of credits assigned. As stated above, courses may not be taken on a Pass/D/Fail basis during the probationary semester. If, however, probation occurs retroactively, and courses have already been taken on a Pass/D/Fail basis, the interim director shall determine whether the student should be restored to good standing on the basis of work done in the probationary semester. In the case of probationary semesters coinciding with the required year of study in Israel, the same rules shall generally apply, but in cases in which grading policies result in any ambiguity, the interim director's discretion shall be applied in the determination of whether good standing has been achieved.

A student who receives a grade of D or F in a probationary semester shall be subject to dismissal from the school. If a grade of INC granted during the probationary semester becomes either D or F, the student is subject to immediate dismissal.

Under normal circumstances, no student can be on academic probation for more than two (including nonconsecutive) semesters during his or her career in the H. L. Miller Cantorial School. A student who is to go on academic probation for the third time faces dismissal. In addition, a student who goes on academic probation a second time loses eligibility for financial aid in the probationary semester.

The permanent transcript of a student will list each semester of academic probation.
Disciplinary procedures, including appeal procedures, are detailed in the Student Disciplinary Procedures Guide, available in the Office of the Registrar.

Incompletes

A student who, for compelling reasons, finds it necessary to postpone the submission of required course work may petition for the grade of Incomplete (INC). The student must obtain a Request for Incomplete form from the Office of the Registrar. This form must contain all information requested, including a description of the work to be completed and the due date. The form must be signed by the student, instructor, and director. The form should be returned to the Office of the Registrar. The last day to request an Incomplete and submit the form is indicated in the Academic Calendar.

All remaining course work must be submitted to the Office of the Registrar no later than the date specified in the Academic Calendar. Generally, this date is six weeks from the end of the final examination period.

The registrar shall record that the work has been submitted and provide a written receipt to the student for the work received. A copy of the receipt from the registrar should be brought to the H. L. Miller Cantorial School Office. The registrar will transmit the completed work to the instructor. The student is advised to retain a copy of all work submitted to the Office of the Registrar.

The grade of INC shall remain on the student's transcript until a grade has been submitted by the instructor.

If a student fails to submit the outstanding work to the Office of the Registrar by the specified due date, the grade of INC will be converted to the alternate letter grade previously submitted by the instructor. This alternate grade reflects the instructor's assessment of a student's performance, taking into account the fact that work is missing. Students should be aware that the missing work may have been counted as an F (or 0) in the computation of the final grade for the course.

In special circumstances, the director has the authority to grant an extension for the submission of overdue work as long as it is agreeable to the instructor. This extension must be sent in writing by the director to the Office of the Registrar.

Students may carry no more than one INC on their transcript at any one time. Students carrying more than one INC may not be permitted to register for subsequent semesters. Students may not request an INC for any course during the semester of their investiture.

Absence from Final Examinations

A student who, because of illness or personal emergency, cannot be present for a scheduled final examination must inform the Office of the Registrar as soon as possible and indicate the reasons for the absence. The Office of the Registrar will inform the instructor and the director of the student's absence. The student must arrange with the instructor for a makeup examination if the student still cannot be present for the regularly scheduled makeup examination day. The instructor will inform the Office of the Registrar of the arrangement, and provide the office with the exam so that it can be given to the student.

Students may not request Incompletes in advance for an in-class final examination. The student must take the makeup examination as soon as possible, but no later than the date indicated in the Academic Calendar governing the completion of outstanding work.

Withdrawal

With the permission of the director, students may withdraw from a course by the date listed in the Academic Calendar. Students who discontinue attendance in a course but who fail to withdraw formally within the designated period will receive the letter grade earned, usually an F, having completed only a portion of the class.

Leave of Absence

Students who wish to discontinue their studies temporarily may request a leave of absence.
The director may approve such requests for a period of two semesters with a possible extension for a maximum of two additional semesters. Students must register for a leave of absence each semester for which it applies, and pay the appropriate fee, until studies are resumed.

Academic Calendar

Graduate Placement

Prior to investiture, the senior class of the H. L. Miller Cantorial School meets with representatives of the Cantors Assembly to discuss procedures for placement.

The Sabin Family Music Library

The Library of The Jewish Theological Seminary has a steadily growing music collection that is housed in the Sabin Family Music Library. It contains manuscripts, printed materials, and recordings of cantorial and general music of interest to music students. The Sabin Library offers opportunities for serious research as well as listening pleasure. The excellent audio equipment, complete with earphones for private listening, is augmented by a library atmosphere conducive to the appreciation of rare material, as well as of more current recordings. Hours are posted in the Sabin Family Music Library.

The Beit Shirah

The Beit Shirah provides an additional, informal outlet to explore sacred and secular Jewish music through its growing collection of scores, CDs, and LPs. The Beit Shirah is organized and run under the auspices of the Cantorial School Student Organization (CSSO).

View Norms of Religious Identity and Practice