Musicianship Skills and Capacity - Hebrew Union College - Jewish Institute of Religion
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Musicianship Skills and Capacity

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The DFSSM Musicianship Exam

Solid musicianship skills are extremely beneficial to cantorial students.  Although we currently provide six semesters of musicianship in the curriculum, a firm foundation at the time of admission is highly advantageous.  The musicianship exam assesses chords and scales, melodic dictation, harmonic analysis, and sight-reading ability.  To help applicants assess their level of preparedness, we provide a sample exam consistent with the form utilized during interview week (please contact for a copy of the exam).  In addition to this written and aural exam, there will also be a sight-singing exam as part of the interview process.  The Director will be happy to answer any questions you may have regarding these components.

Although piano, guitar or other instrumental skills are not currently a firm requirement for admission, such background is considered along with applicants’ other qualifications, and our experience is that some instrumental facility is quite valuable. 


There are many instructional tools for studying music theory.  Although it’s almost always best to learn with a teacher, you may want to take a look at or similar online resources.  An example of an effective music school level course is the series (text, workbook, anthology) anchored by “The Musician’s Guide to Music Theory and Analysis” (Clendinning and Marvin), which is pricy but can be rented or acquired in an earlier edition.  For sight-singing practice, our faculty recommends “A New Approach to Sight-Singing” (Berkowitz, Frontrier and Kraft), fourth edition (in preference to the newer fifth or sixth editions), focusing on the first section of the book.  There are also sight-singing apps – check with your musician friends to see what they may have found helpful.