In 1741, a small group of members of the religious sect known as the Unitas Fratrum, also called Moravians, settled along the banks of the Monocacy Creek. According to local legend, their settlement went unnamed until Christmas Eve of that year, when, inspired by the words of one of their hymns ("Not Jerusalem, lowly Bethlehem..."), the solution came to them. The following year, the Moravians founded a school for girls, and thus Moravian College was born.

From the earliest times, music has played a role in the Moravian community in Bethlehem. Those familiar with the Moravian religious practices and culture know that music is of the utmost importance. No Moravian service is without music. Music was -- and is -- for the Moravians not merely an enhancement of prayer and worship, but is an essential part of both, and is a natural means of building community outside the church walls. So, too, the study and performance of music has been a part of Moravian College since its founding.

The Music Department is housed on the Church Street Campus of Moravian College, in the heart of the historic district of Bethlehem. Faculty offices and studios, departmental offices, and classrooms are found in the Single Brethren's House, a stone-front building constructed by the Moravian Community in 1748. Originally the residence of the single men of the Moravian Community and later a center of trades, the building served as a hospital during the Revolutionary War, and George Washington himself came to visit in 1783. (Perhaps some of the ghosts which reportedly still roam the building at night spent their last moments of their mortal lives in the Brethren's House during its service as a hospital.)

Attached to the Single Brethren's House is West Hall, an 1859 addition. This building is home to numerous practice rooms, several lounges, an organ studio, and the music library. The Brethren's House and West Hall were renovated and restored in 1976-1977. In addition, the music facilities on the Church Street Campus include William Randolph Hearst Hall (built in 1848 as an 80-seat chapel for the Moravians), Peter Hall (the 1867 chapel, seating 150), and the newest facility, Foy Concert Hall, a 425-seat concert and rehearsal hall which opened in 1982.

While music had existed at the College from the start as part of the worship services for Moravians, music instruction formally began in 1744 with the formation of the Collegium Musicum. Music was added as a major in 1956, with the arrival of Richard Schantz, who for more than thirty years taught music at the College. Under the leadership of Richard Schantz and his wife, Monica Schantz (who joined the faculty three years later), the department grew in size, scope of offerings, and reputation. In 1982, the College added the Bachelor of Music to its degree programs. Students pursuing studies in Music Education, Composition, and Performance enroll in programs offered under the B.Mus. The College still offers the liberal arts degree (Bachelor of Arts) for students interested in musical studies but wanting a more general education. (Visit the Music Degree & Admissions Page.)

The faculty has grown as well over the years, and now includes five full-time faculty, six full-time administrative and support staff, and more than forty adjunct instructors of music. Music majors now number over eighty, and minors include more than twenty additional students. The Department currently offers more than forty different courses each year, lessons in more than twenty performing areas (from bagpipe to violin), three vocal ensembles, and more than ten different instrumental ensembles. (Visit the Choral and Instrumental pages!)

In 1993, the Music Department applied for membership to the National Association of Schools of Music. Their application was accepted, and they became members in good standing the following year. All degree programs currently offered (B.A. in music, B.Mus. in Music Education, B.Mus. in Composition, and B.Mus. in Performance) are accredited by the NASM.

Choral and instrumental ensembles from Moravian College have travelled throughout the United States and beyond, including: Antigua, Austria, Bahamas, Barbados, Czechoslovakia, England, Germany, Israel, Jamaica, Russia, St. Kitts, Switzerland, and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

Among Moravian's former students in music are:

  • Francis F. Hagen: Moravian minister and composer, who composed
    "Morning Star"
  • Emma Cecilia Thursby: world-renowned soprano
  • Willard Martin: harpsichord builder
  • Martha Weaver: San Diego Opera Company soprano
  • Jeffrey Kneebone: New York City Opera baritone
  • Vanessa Schukis: National Company of "Nunsense," Boston Lyric Opera, and Utah Festival Opera Company

Recent graduates of the Music Department have gone on to graduate studies at some of the country's finest academic and professional music programs, including:

  • Academy of Vocal Arts
  • The Boston Conservatory
  • Cornell University
  • Curtis Institute of Music
  • Eastman School of Music
  • Indiana University
  • Ithaca College
  • Mannes College of Music
  • New England Conservatory of Music
  • New York University
  • Northwestern University
  • Stanford University
  • Temple University
  • University of Denver
  • University of Michigan
  • University of Northern Colorado