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Music Inside the Mass

“Is music something that merely expresses emotion, as many people believe? Is it something ephemeral, something mystical, beyond description? Is it something frivolous, something purely for entertainment? Or does music embody and represent a rational order?” 

In the book, The Music of Christendom, Susan Treacy discusses the treasury of Western classical music by diving into the lives and music of the great composers, and finding order as music advanced through the ages. Starting with the ancient Greeks and the transmission of the classical legacy to Christendom, Tracy organizes the heritage of Western music through the lens of composers’ artistic expression and their advancement of technique and style. This text combined with Melissa Surman’s book, The Virtues of the Great Composers for Children–where detailed stories of the composers brings forth life into their compositions–provide a backdrop to see that music does embody a rational order that presupposes goodness, truth, and beauty. 

I propose to explore composers of the Western musical inheritance whose moral virtues (such as goodness, truth, and beauty),  are embodied in their musical scores, technique, and style. As we look to the truths of the past we find a method for finding truths in the future, and from here, we find character building, honesty, and integrity that support intellectual foundations for creativity and artfulness. Moreover, the virtues of composers might be discovered in the musical depth of the compositions themselves, whereas praising God through music carves a path for Christians to worship and pray. We find these truths woven in the musical fabric of the heritage and history in Classical music (i.e. “Classical music” encompasses the Middle Ages, Renaissance, Baroque, Classical, Romantic, and Contemporary music genres).

Pope Benedict XVI said that when learning from the Biblical past, history might be applied today: “A voice greater than man’s echoes in Scripture’s human words; the individual writings—Scrifte—of the Bible point somehow to the living process that shapes the one scripture—Schrift.” In this course we learn the impact of Classical music from its heritage and history, and find implications for goodness, truth, and beauty in our world today.



Through storytelling and memory work, we begin with David’s harp soothing the soul and praising God by singing the Psalms. By imagining his defeat against Goliath seemingly happening in front of our own eyes, we memorize the sounds of instrumental music from 600 B.C. until the arrival of Christ. Then, by embarking on an imaginary journey that places conversations in our own living room, we learn about the composer’s intimate lives. Our imaginary conversations travel through a timeline that includes Pope Gregory the Great’s Gregorian chant, Ambrosian Chant, Guido of Arezzo’s DO (UT) -RE-ME, Palestrina’s Polyphony, Bach’s harmony, Beethoven’s immortal beloved, Franck’s “Panis Angelicus,” and Brahms’s beauty, to name a few.


Memorizing is key to the learning process of this course. Each composer’s name and a short melody will be memorized by using the process of imagining a personal connection to their virtues; placing the desire to be like them in our hearts allows our own stories to unfold inside their music. 

Listening to larger sections of repertoire allows for discussion and critique of styles. By making connections between composers in the timeline, we hear how the rules of composition changed and evolved over the different genres. Weekly “drop the needle” on the proverbial record player shows knowledge of music in our timeline. 

Reading the required textbook chapters on a given composer’s life and work enhances our perspective on the history of music, and how virtues of the composers were often shaped out of difficulty and struggle. A short essay and subsequent class presentation on a composer of choice will be required.

Reflecting on the ability to name composers by their melodies, virtues, and names will provide a backdrop for a final project that puts the students in charge of the story telling – from memory!



Dr. Ross Williams’ Syllabus- Coming Soon!

For each skill instructors have determined whether it is a prerequisite skill or a skill to be developed throughout the course. For lower school, instructors indicate where parent support is expected.

  • With Parent Support: Skills that most lower school students will need help with.
  • Developing: Skills that the instructor will help develop and emphasize throughout the year.
  • Mastered: Prerequisite skills that the instructor is expecting students to possess.


  • Be able to read material with attention to detail and identify areas which require clarification or further explanation from the instructor.
  • Be able to mark a text to indicate important terms, definitions, or concepts.
  • Be able to read with a goal to understanding an author’s argument even if the student disagrees with the conclusion reached or reasons given.


  • Be able to use proper capitalization and punctuation.
  • Be able to spell at grade level and employ course vocabulary cumulatively throughout the course.
  • Be able to form a paragraph which includes a topic sentence, transition sentences, and clear linear thinking.
  • Be able to write a five-paragraph essay with direction from the instructor.
  • Be able to manage assignments, submissions, and notifications on Canvas.
  • Know what plagiarism is and how to avoid it.

Class Discussion

  • Be able to engage respectfully and wisely with other students and the instructor.
  • Be prepared to generate thoughtful questions to enhance the class discussion and identify areas needing clarification.
  • Be prepared to answer questions when called on during class.
  • Be prepared to volunteer comments and ideas during class.
  • Be able to follow directions on note-taking and other exercises during class.

Required Course Materials:

  • Treacy, Susan. The Music of Christendom. Ignatius Press.
  •  Serman, Melissa & Ken Fryer. The Virtues of the Great Composers for Children. Gloria Music Press.

Dr. Ross B. Williams is excited to join Scholé Academy as an instructor for the 2022-2023 school year! Dr. Williams is currently the Director of Music and Principal Organist at St. Brendan the Navigator Catholic Church in Hilliard, Ohio, and he is the Director of Music at St. Catharine School in Bexley, Ohio. Dr. Williams and his wife, Elizabeth, maintain a very active household of homeschooling their nine children. Dr. Williams’ research investigates sacred music of the Catholic Church, as participation in rituals such as classrooms, rehearsals, concerts, and worship services draw a closer relationship to Christ through song. In addition to directing choirs and playing the organ, Dr. Williams holds a bachelor’s degree in percussion performance from the Oberlin Conservatory of Music, a master’s degree in percussion performance from the University of Southern California, and he recently completed a doctorate in music education from Boston University. His performance experience tends toward creative and improvisatory idioms such as such as Ngoma (singing-drumming-dancing) in Nairobi, Kenya, dragon lantern drumming and dancing in Hong Kong, and the hammering of almglocken from ancestral apprenticeships in Barau, Switzerland. In 2022, Dr. Williams and his family launched a YouTube channel called DRUMNBUDDIES, as an educational resource for children learning how to play the drums!



Red checkmarkComputer: You will need a stable, reliable computer, running with a processor with a speed of 1 GHz or better on one of the following operating systems: Mac OS X with Mac OS 10.7 or later; Windows 8, 7, Vista (with SP1 or later), or XP (with SP3 or later). We do not recommend using an iPad or other tablet for joining classes. An inexpensive laptop or netbook would be much better solutions, as they enable you to plug an Ethernet cable directly into your computer. Please note that Chromebooks are allowed but not preferred, as they do not support certain features of the Zoom video conference software such as breakout sessions and annotation, which may be used by our teachers for class activities.

Red checkmarkHigh-Speed Internet Connection: You will also need access to high-speed Internet, preferably accessible via Ethernet cable right into your computer. Using Wi-Fi may work, but will not guarantee you the optimal use of your bandwidth. The faster your Internet, the better. We recommend using a connection with a download/upload speed of 5/1 Mbps or better. You can test your Internet connection here.

Red checkmarkWebcam: You may use an external webcam or one that is built in to the computer. Webcam Recommendations: Good (PC only) | Best (Mac and PC)

Red checkmarkHeadset: We recommend using a headset rather than a built-in microphone and speakers. Using a headset reduces the level of background noise heard by the entire class. Headset Recommendations: USB | 3.5mm

Red checkmarkZoom: We use a web conferencing software called Zoom for our classes, which enables students and teachers to gather from around the globe face to face in real time. Zoom is free to download and easy to use. unnamed-e1455142229376 To download Zoom:

  1. Visit
  2. Click to download the first option listed, Zoom Client for Meetings.
  3. Open and run the installer on your computer.
  4. In August, students will be provided with instructions and a link for joining their particular class.



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First, read the available course descriptions, noting prerequisites, target grades, and course objectives. If you think your student is prepared for the course, go ahead and register. After registration, a placement assessment may be provided to students, depending on the course and the student’s previous enrollment with Scholé Academy. Registration is finalized when the student’s placement assessment has been returned by the course instructor with placement confirmation.


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