Man directing choir

Music Education

Music education majors go on to teach, conduct, compose, perform and shape music education in a variety of settings.

Why Study Music Education?

As a music education major at USD, you will participate in a well-rounded and creative curriculum designed for multi-disciplinary studies. The music education degree program provides a solid foundation in music performance, history, theory, and pedagogy to prepare students to teach in any K-12 general, instrumental, or vocal music classroom.

Become a leader with real-world experience through student teaching, and help aspiring musicians face tomorrow's challenges with expertise, poise and thoughtfulness as a music education major.


Degrees & Offerings

Music: Music Education (B.M.)

  Vermillion Main Campus

The music degree with an education specialization offers two paths: an instrumental or a vocal concentration. All music education students complete coursework in general, vocal, and instrumental music teaching methods. As part of the program, students complete student teaching, internship, and practicum placements in area K-12 schools.

Completion of the degree program will fulfill all requirements to become licensed and endorsed to teach K-12 music in South Dakota.

Learn more about the music program

Program Details






Known for Excellence

With qualities like small class sizes, specialized programs and incredible student opportunities, USD is not your typical university. What makes us unique is what makes your education exceptional.

Student Opportunities

As a student at USD, the opportunities available to you extend beyond the classroom. Explore your interests, find your community and experience your education to the fullest extent through the following opportunities.


The acclaimed choir program at USD provides students with the opportunity to be involved in a variety of outstanding vocal ensembles. Students are taught by dedicated and passionate faculty who believe in developing the student as a singer, musician and individual, as well as provide a quality choral experience.

Chamber Singers

The Chamber Singers is the premier vocal ensemble at USD. Performers are selected through audition from the entire university student body. The choir's repertoire, which is primarily a cappella, includes music from the Renaissance to the present in a wide variety of styles. The ensemble holds formal concerts on campus each semester, and its annual concert tour has taken the group throughout the United States and Europe. The Chamber Singers have been selected to perform at state and regional conventions, appeared on public radio programs, and received numerous national honors and distinctions.

Collegium Musicum

Collegium Musicum is a vocal ensemble exploring music from many genres and time periods, from early music to modern works. In frequent collaboration with other choral and instrumental groups at USD, the repertoire for the ensemble changes based on the unique group of vocalists who participate each semester. 

Symphonic Choir

The Symphonic Choir is a large, select mixed ensemble open to students of all majors, as well as members of the Vermillion community. The ensemble performs a broad range of music, with a particular focus on both large and small-scale choral masterworks. The Symphonic Choir regularly partners with the USD Symphony Orchestra, as well as professional ensembles such as the South Dakota and Sioux City symphony orchestras.

Vocal Jazz Choir

The Vocal Jazz Choir is an ensemble of 16 singers with additional crew and instrumentalists as needed. This choir performs a wide range of music from traditional jazz standards to contemporary a cappella, including the genres of pop and rock. The ensemble is intended for advanced vocalists who will utilize individual microphones and be required to perform tight harmonies.


The USD Opera offers students the opportunity to bring music and drama to life on the stage. The multiple national award-winning program trains performers to become believable and compelling singing-actors in operatic literature from the Baroque period through the contemporary lyric theater.

Every year, USD Opera produces a minimum of two productions. The fall production consists of a children’s opera, one-act or scenes program and includes outreach opportunities in the region. In the spring, USD Opera produces a full main stage opera with orchestra.

Opera students find out who they are as artists as they receive individual attention and personalized guidance from dedicated, highly skilled and acclaimed faculty. Find your voice, unlock your potential and discover your passion for a lifetime.

USD is proudly home to the largest strings and orchestral studies program in the state of South Dakota with a long-time tradition of excellence, internationally-recognized faculty and exceptional orchestral ensembles. Here you will develop the creeative process that will help elevate you into an accomplished musician.

Symphony Orchestra

With roots stretching back to the late 19th century, the University of South Dakota Symphony Orchestra is one of the oldest college orchestral ensembles in the United States and one of the most recognized university orchestras in the Midwest region.  The orchestra performs four to five times per year, featuring both faculty and guest soloists. Performances encompass selections from the great masterworks of the orchestral literature to holiday/pops concerts. Yearly, the orchestra presents the winners of USD’s Concerto/ Aria Competition featuring the best instrumentalists and vocalists on campus. The final performance of the academic year is devoted to a combined choral/orchestral piece.

Opera Orchestra

The USD Opera Orchestra is composed of an elite group of strings and wind/percussion performers who are contracted to perform in the pit for the performances of the nationally-recognized University of South Dakota Opera Theater (Please add a link to the USD Opera page). The USD Opera offers orchestra students the opportunity to learn and study operatic repertoire from the Baroque to the modern times in a professional setting. A multiple national award-winning program, the USD Opera is directed by Dr. Tracelyn Gesteland and conducted by Dr. Luis Víquez. Auditions for the USD Opera Orchestra take place in the Fall Semester.

Chamber Orchestra

The USD Chamber Orchestra is an elite conductor-less strings ensemble with members chosen by audition from the Department of Music and across campus. The concept of performing without a conductor is an innovative approach that creates individual musical responsibility and exact roles in achieving exceptional quality performances. The USD Chamber Orchestra tours the region regularly, performing throughout South Dakota, Minnesota, Nebraska and Iowa. The group has been selected as a performing ensemble for the South Dakota Music Educators Association Conference and the Iowa Music Educators Association Conference.

You'll have the opportunity to perform on campus as well as tour annually in the region, work with world-renowned guest artists, and learn the skills necessary to become outstanding performers, scholars, educators, and lifelong musicians.

Concert Band

The USD Concert Band is an outstanding ensemble consisting of highly talented woodwind, brass and percussion players, including both music majors and non-music majors. The Concert Band performs the finest pieces available for winds, including traditional wind band repertoire, marches, transcriptions and the newest 21st century works. The Concert Band typically performs one concert in the fall and two in the spring. 

Coyote Pep Band

The Coyote Pep Band performs in the Sanford Coyote Sports Center for USD men’s and women’s basketball games. As a member of the pep band, you provide the soundtrack and high-energy atmosphere that leads the teams to victory. Performing the finest pop, jazz and traditional USD arrangements. The Coyote Pep Band is composed of approximately 35 energetic brass, woodwind and rhythm section musicians who receive a scholarship for their participation.

Jazz Band

USD boasts two jazz ensembles where you may gain big band experience and perform in small group settings with an emphasis on improvisation. The jazz bands also host some of the top artists in the country each year. Both ensembles perform on-campus concerts each term and tour off-campus within the state and region. 

Percussion Ensemble 

The University of South Dakota Percussion Ensemble offers any student who shows the ability and desire to play percussion the opportunity to perform. The group performs in a wide range of genres: modern avant-garde, steel drum music, indoor drumline, ragtime music, pop and jazz arrangements, and many more. Through the ensemble, students are allowed the opportunity to grow as a percussionist/musician through the experience of performing exciting and challenging works written specifically for percussion instruments. The ensemble is active in the area and performs concerts throughout the region. 

Symphonic Band

The Symphonic Band is USD’s premiere wind band and the flagship ensemble of the university band program. The band is comprised of the finest woodwind, brass and percussion players at the university including both music majors and talented non-music majors. Concert repertoire for the band consists of the highest quality music written or transcribed for wind instruments representing all periods of music history.            

The SOUND of USD Marching Band

Building on over 130 years of tradition, The SOUND of USD Marching Band is the largest and most visible ensemble on campus. You will perform for over 60,000 fans and spectators each season and bring spirit and energy to Coyote football games in the newly renovated Dakota Dome! In addition to football games, the band performs exhibitions at regional and international contests, festivals and parades.

USD is home to more than 170 student organizations, including several that are housed in the Department of Music. You may be interested in inspiring and strengthening music in local communities or sharing your passion of music with others to make friends, develop new skills and explore your interests.

outREACH mUSic 

Inspire, uplift and strengthen local communities by performing in locations where access to live music may be limited, such as community centers, assisted living facilities, hospitals, homeless shelters and group homes.

Join outREACH mUSic

National Association for Music Education (NAfME)

Engage with guest speakers or activities that promote music teaching and learning, such as the annual USD Field Marching Competition, USD Coyote Jazz Festival events, Dakota Days and more.

Join NAfME

Music scholarships are available to music majors, music minors and music participants. Scholarships are renewable upon meeting the criteria listed in the scholarship acceptance letter and based upon funding.

All music majors must audition for entrance into the program. Students seeking a music scholarship will use that audition process as meeting the requirement. If you are not seeking a music scholarship or are applying after the scholarship process is complete, email David Holdhusen to set up an audition. A late audition may take place during the summer months or at the beginning of the semester.

Set Up an Audition

Departments & Facilities

Explore the departments, facilities and centers that contribute to your education in music.
the cello section of the USD Symphony


Develop the skills necessary to be successful in your musical career while gaining lifelong friends and mentors. Whether you are interested in teaching, music performance or music history — or some combination of the three — the Department of Music will provide you with real-world experiences and connections to help you succeed.

Faculty & Staff

Get to know your professors in the Department of Music. Our faculty are experts in their field, contributing research and creative scholarship throughout the music field. 
Bio Image for Faculty Member David Holdhusen

David Holdhusen

Chair-Music Dept


Chair, Dept. of Music
Director of Choral Activities
Bio Image for Faculty Member Timothy Campbell

Timothy Campbell

Associate Professor


Choirs & Voice
Bio Image for Faculty Member Todd Cranson

Todd Cranson

Associate Professor


Director of Athletic Bands & Low Brass Studio
Bio Image for Faculty Member Alessandra Feris

Alessandra Feris

Associate Professor


Bio Image for Faculty Member Ioana Galu

Ioana Galu

Associate Professor


Violin/Viola Studio, Rawlins Piano Trio
Bio Image for Faculty Member Tracelyn Gesteland

Tracelyn Gesteland



Voice & Opera
Faculty Default

Beverly Gibson

Music Lessons Adjunct


Bio Image for Faculty Member Susan Gray

Susan Gray



Piano, Collaborative Piano, Rawlins Piano Trio
Bio Image for Faculty Member Christopher Kocher

Christopher Kocher



Director of Jazz Studies & Saxophone
Bio Image for Faculty Member Stephanie Kocher

Stephanie Kocher


Bio Image for Faculty Member Sonja Kraus

Sonja Kraus

Associate Professor


Cello, String Bass, Rawlins Piano Trio
Bio Image for Faculty Member Amy Laursen

Amy Laursen

Associate Professor


Bio Image for Faculty Member Paul Lombardi

Paul Lombardi



Music Theory / Composition
Bio Image for Faculty Member Darryl Martin

Darryl Martin

Conservator-National Music Museum
Bio Image for Faculty Member Juan Mendoza

Juan Mendoza

Assistant Professor


Voice & Opera
Bio Image for Faculty Member David Moskowitz

David Moskowitz



Director of Graduate Studies, Music History
Bio Image for Faculty Member Eric Mosterd

Eric Mosterd

Assist Director CTL
Bio Image for Faculty Member Jared Ostermann

Jared Ostermann

Music Lessons Adjunct


Bio Image for Faculty Member David Sanderson

David Sanderson

Associate Professor


Music Education
Faculty Default

Loretta Thomas

Adjunct Instructor
Bio Image for Faculty Member Darin Wadley

Darin Wadley

Associate Professor


Bio Image for Faculty Member Deanna Wehrspann

Deanna Wehrspann


Collaborative Pianist
boy singing a solo on stage in front of a piano

Join Our Live Events

Student and organization performances are livestreamed online, which all are free to "attend" virtually or in-person!


View Our Livestream

The USD Symphony orchestra performing.

Personalized Information for You

Want to learn more about the music opportunities that await you at USD? Answer a few questions about your interests so we can send you more information.

Connect with Us
National Music Museum

National Music Museum

Founded in 1973, the National Music Museum and Center for Study of the History of Musical Instruments is one of the great institutions of its kind in the world. Its renowned collections, which include more than 14,800 American, European and non-Western instruments from virtually all cultures and historical periods, are the most inclusive anywhere.

Students have opportunities to work in the museum, study historic instruments and perform in the concert hall.

Surprisingly Affordable

USD offers low tuition rates for in-state and out-of-state students, as well as scholarships, financial aid and employment opportunities to help make your education even more affordable.

Undergraduate Tuition & Costs

Learn more about tuition and fees for undergraduate students and see how your out-of-pocket costs at USD compare to those at other colleges and universities. Visit the Undergraduate Tuition & Costs Detailed page for program specific costs and fees. 

Financial Aid

Navigating options for how to pay for college can be challenging, but you are not alone. The Office of Financial Aid will work with you and your family to explore how you can make your college education even more affordable.


USD awards nearly $9.5 million in scholarships each year. View our scholarships to see which ones you may qualify for and how you can apply.

Student Success story

Success story Maleah Wright smiling.
The Music Education path is one of the most complex, but one of my favorite parts is how flexible it can be to suit your wants for the program! Every time I sit in one of my classes, I leave feeling excited about my future and it causes me to want to work harder to help myself reach those goals. The faculty at USD is one of the main reasons that I ended up attending here. They are always there if I need to ask a question whether it is related to in class topics or just about the profession in general.

Maleah Wright

BFA Music Education '25
Kearney, NE

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