National Partnership to Strengthen Church Music Education at Duke and Beyond

The RSCM America Carolina Course at Duke Chapel
The RSCM America Carolina Course at Duke Chapel

A new relationship between Duke University Chapel and the Royal School of Church Music in America provides a foundation for nurturing church music, particularly choral singing, at Duke University and around the country.

Duke Chapel is the new administrative home for RSCM America, which will share office space and support staff with the chapel’s music program. The arrangement gives RSCM America a base of operations at a major research university with a vibrant sacred music program, and connects Duke Chapel more closely to RSCM America’s national training programs and network of church musicians.

Duke Chapel Choir during a Sunday service. “The music of the church shapes our imaginations about who God is and who God calls us to be,” said the Rev. Luke A. Powery, dean of Duke Chapel, in announcing the new agreement. “This partnership with RSCM America moves the chapel forward in learning from, and contributing to, a global canon of sacred music.”

The president of RSCM America, Joseph Causby, said, “The opportunity to locate our American branch office at a major ecumenical center, such as Duke Chapel, will broaden the reach of our educational and musical mission, training future generations of leaders in sacred music.”

The chapel’s director of music, Zebulon Highben, said, “The finalization of this relationship comes at a significant time: It is a hopeful reminder that the church’s song goes on. Despite the current pandemic, we know we will sing together again, and we will continue to nurture our children and each other in a life of faith and music.”

RSCM America is the branch in the United States of the international Royal School of Church Music, which is based in the United Kingdom. RSCM America provides musical education to singers through choral music programs and summer music courses. It also provides support to music directors by facilitating the exchange of knowledge and ideas. In addition to being president of RSCM America, Causby is the director of music and organist at the Episcopal Church of The Chapel of the Cross in Chapel Hill, North Carolina.

The RSCMA choir in performance, Duke Chapel’s music program dates back to the chapel’s founding in the 1930s and includes multiple choirs, weekly worship services, regular organ and carillon recitals, an annual concert series, recording projects, training for singers and organists, and a diverse catalogue of choral compositions published in the Music from Duke Chapel Series with ECS Publishing Group. Duke Chapel is a member of RSCM America and has been hosting its summertime Carolina Course for more than a decade.