Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Advice for Future Music Teachers

A former student of mine  (and a very good player by the way) has 
decided after several years of applied instrument classes to be a
music education major. I am not certain of his motives, but I have 
no doubt that if he decides to go ahead with this decision, he can 
be a super teacher. I thought I'd put down a few thoughts for him 
and anyone else who might be considering music education as a career.

1. Don't choose music education as a 'fallback'. 
I've seen first-hand what a huge mistake this can be.  Most 
successful music educators are passionate about teaching or feel
it is a calling. Those who 'back-in' to education are often disappointed or worse, burned out after a short time. If you want to be a performer, then be a performer. If you decide to teach, make it a career decision and jump in with both feet. Your performing career will most likely become secondary.

2. Be ready for anything!
Anything? Yep...anything. If you are in a school setting you may be asked 
to monitor study halls and the lunch room. You may have only a handful of 
colleagues on your team and you may be working with students who care as 
much about music as they do math...which is to say about nil. I have taught
in a janitor's closet and a math classroom. And you may wind up outside of 
your comfort zone when someone asks you to design a half-time show or cover 
a French class. If you go the private practice route, be ready to learn book-
keeping and management skills, scheduling, and tuition collection. In fact, 
you may very well spend more time on the business end of things than on 
actual teaching. Who knows,you may be asked to write a blog.

3. Keep all of your options open.
The job market can be limited. Your ideal teaching gig may be at a small 
private school working with a jazz quartet, or as an instrumental teacher 
at a college.  But those specific jobs are tough to get aside from being 
few and far between. It's sort of like saying you'd like to coach basket-
ball... at Duke; it's probably not gonna happen for a while. However,
the future of music education is bright if you keep your options open. 
Consider the private instruction studio or starting a small private 
'practice' with colleagues. Innovations online have made this a tremendous 
option in many communities and even globally. Lastly, do not be defined or 
confined by your chosen instrument or area of expertise! Having a teaching degree
means you are the expert and should be able to work with students on
many levels, in many genres, and on any number of instruments.

Most of all have fun and enjoy the ride!