The Metropolitan Cantor Institute

The Metropolitan Cantor Institute exists to support and foster liturgical singing in the Byzantine Catholic Metropolitan Church of Pittsburgh. At the direction of our bishops, and in cooperation with our clergy and experienced cantors, the Institute trains and certifies cantors for the service of the church, prepares music and educational materials, and provides workshops and seminars in church singing.

The mission of the Metropolitan Cantor Institute is To ensure that each parish in the Byzantine Catholic Church has a cantor who can lead the liturgical singing of the parish well, to the glory of God and in support of the prayer of the faithful.

The Institute trains and equips cantors for service in the Byzantine Catholic Church. From 1997 to 2016, it provided classes in Pittsburgh and a small number of other locations. While we will continue to offer these classes from time to time (see below), our main efforts are going into a new distance education program for cantors: MCI Online.

The MCI Online Program

This program is for cantors and prospective cantors at all levels of experience. The entire program is organized around a set of cantor certification standards, which provide an outline of the knowledge and skills that a cantor needs in order to lead our church singing throughout the year. We have developed a series of classes that cover this material.

As a an MCI student, you will sign up for online classes and use the Cantor Institute website and the Moodle distance learning software to access lessons on liturgy, plain  chant, and spirituality. Lessons are accompanied by exercises and frequent quizzes. You will use the Theta Music online ear training course to learn pitch matching and correct singing of intervals and rhythms.

You will learn chant melodies from recordings and prepared lessons, and work with an online teacher to master each one. As you learn each service, you will submit recordings of your singing to the MCI, and its instructors will provide personal (private) feedback.

Some leadership techniques can be taught with online instruction or classroom sessions – but the real learning takes place in the day-to-day worship of your parish, as you begin to take on the work of cantoring. When you are ready, an MCI instructor and one other experienced cantor will watch as you lead the singing at a complete service in your parish. When you have completed the complete cycle of MCI courses and passed this examination, you will be awarded a certificate of completion for the MCI cantor education program.

Experienced cantors can use the MCI program to polish and improve their liturgical knowledge, musical ability, and leadership skills. In some cases, cantors who have served for many years may never have learned to serve important services such as Vespers or the funeral service, or mastered the eight samohlasen tones. These are all an important part of the cantor's job.

Finally, both new and experienced cantors can access material on the MCI website to learn particular services, gain greater knowledge of liturgy and chant. Subscribe to the MCI blog to stay abreast of the latest news.

How long does it take?

New students taking an MCI classes are encouraged to spend 30-60 minutes per day to establish competency and learn the necessary skills. Experienced cantors will probably not need to spend more than 3-4 hours per week on any given class, and in some cases may have the opportunity to "test out" of a particular class. But all students are held to the same minimum level of competency required for cantor certification.

The program is designed so that a new cantor with an ordinary singing voice and a willingness to work can complete the entire set of courses in three to five years. An experienced cantor might complete the entire program in two years or less.

How much does it cost?

When you register for a course, you will pay a tuition fee which reflects the costs of providing instructional materials and feedback. Course tuition will generally range from $50-75 for an eight-week course. We have found that students who pay for a course are much more likely to complete it, and finish in a timely fashion, than those who don't.

Students who intend to serve in parishes with no current cantor are eligible for a substantial discount.

How do I get started?

If you would like to become a cantor, see Becoming a a cantor.

If you are already a cantor, see Improving your skills.

For more information

Contact MCI Director Jeffrey Mierzejewski at (412) 735-1676, or by e-mail at mci@archpitt.org.