You can’t teach professionally and perform professionally – misperceptions on both sides of the divide 23

I was flabbergasted today during a discussion in one of my teacher certification courses when the course instructor suggested…well, actually, the instructor flat out told this class of music education students that it was unwise and unrealistic to expect to be able to both perform and teach at a professional level. This instructor warned the students against pursuing a double major in performance and education, claiming that no one from the institution had ever successfully graduated from the program without dropping one of the two degrees (a fact about which I am extremely skeptical), and that it was impossible to put in the hours of practice required to be a successful music performance student while simultaneously doing school observations, instrumental methods classes, and education courses.

Here were some reasons this individual outlined as to why being a music performance and music education double degree student was unwise. I’ll give my own opinions regarding these statements in a bit, but let’s first take a look at them and chew them over mentally:

  1. One cannot practice enough to satisfy the requirements of a music performance curriculum while remaining sufficiently committed to a music education curriculum.
  2. Students who choose such a major often view the education degree as a “fallback” degree, which is unfair to their future students and themselves.
  3. Professional performance ambitions are a distraction from becoming a good teacher.
  4. Good K-12 teachers perform as an avocation, not a vocation – i.e. for relaxation and enjoyment; one should sort out their vocations and avocations.
  5. If a student wants to perform, they should be a music performance major.
  6. Teaching is a serious profession in its own right, and must be treated as such – people can’t dabble as teachers.
  7. Teaching must be a calling, not a fallback.

One quick note before I proceed–I do not believe that the individual making these comments was being mean-spirited, and while I basically disagree with all seven of the above points, I think that considering them is good food for thought.

These statements reveal an attitude and outlook common among teachers:

Teaching is a serious profession, and few are qualified to really do it well.

And that I really do agree with.


OK–now it’s time to dissect this business. I think that the above statements reveal a defensiveness and insecurity common among teachers, and not just music teachers, but teachers ranging from K-12 classroom teachers to golf pros, swimming instructors, personal trainers, instrumental instructors, middle school basketball coaches, and every other job associated with education. You all know this phrase….it produces smirks among regular (non-teacher) folk and raises the hair on the back of every teacher’s neck:

Those who can, do.

Those who can’t, teach.

This old saying, like many that have withstood the test of time, is 95% bunk and 5% truth. Most fields of study and activity do in fact have both a professional and pedagogical career track, although more often than not the two are hopelessly intermingled, with the “professional” frequently engaging in teaching activities and the “teacher” engaging in professional activities. Is a research scientist a professional? Of course. What if they also teach a course? Do they teach others their laboratory tasks and procedures? Professionals? Teachers?

At a high level, professional and teacher become one and the same. If this can happen in the sciences, why should music be any different?

It’s not.

Anyone involved in the world of professional music knows that these lines are blurry and of little consequence. I can count on one hand the number of colleagues I know who don’t teach. Most of my fellow Chicago classical music performers, in addition to teaching private lessons, also perform educational concerts for schools, conduct area youth orchestras, work in the local high schools as sectional and chamber music coaches. Heck, some of use even get stuck conducting the violas during a school-wide drug lock down!


Here are two somewhat disturbing realizations that I have had as a result of talking to hundreds of music performers and educators. These statements may not be accurate for other communities or other areas of the world, but they are based upon many conversations with performers and educators in all walks of life:

Almost all of my professional performer colleagues also teach.

Almost none of my professional educator colleagues also perform.

Why is this the case? Let’s take a closer look at the seven statements listed above and try to shine a light on this discrepancy:

1. One cannot practice enough to satisfy the requirements of a music performance curriculum while remaining sufficiently committed to a music education curriculum.

Hearing this statement couldn’t help but make me smile as I recalled my own activities during the previous day. This has been a typical day for me for the past eight years–just substitute university teaching (my old jobs at the University of Wisconsin and Trinity International University) for the classes listed below:

Jason’s Schedule for Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Time Activity
4:45 a.m. wake up, blog and survey Internet projects
6:15 a.m. drive to Lincoln Park; fight for parking
7:30 a.m. practice double bass, trumpet, clarinet, guitar; read materials for three separate classes
8:30 a.m. clarinet class
9:40 a.m. return phone calls to contractors; schedule students
10:50 a.m. trumpet class
11:50 a.m. drive to Lyric Opera dress rehearsal
2 p.m. Lyric Opera dress rehearsal – La Traviata (Bande part backstage)
2:45 p.m. drive back to Lincoln Park; fight for parking
3:30 p.m. orchestra rehearsal
5:30 p.m. drive back downtown to Symphony Center
6:30-10:30 p.m. play gig at Symphony Center
10:30 p.m. drive back to Lincoln Park (3rd time of the day); drop off bass
11:15 p.m. get home; blog, return e-mails, survey Internet projects, get ready to wake up in five hours and do it all over again

I am concurrently in school full-time, teaching 25 students, playing gigs every week, doing weekly podcasts, and writing and operating this blog, as well as editing double bass videos, doing interviews, writing and submitting articles, setting up websites for people, teaching in an elementary school, running orchestra sectionals, and learning three new instruments.

My point (besides whining about my ridiculous life)? Don’t presume to tell me what my limits are or the limits of any other student.

More importantly, don’t discourage musicians from becoming proficient performers! But more on that later.

2. Students who choose such a major often view the education degree as a “fallback” degree, which is unfair to their future students and themselves.

Aside from using the argument articulated in response to the previous statement (namely, keep your business out of my business and let me determine my own limits), this statement reveals an insecurity about being taken seriously as a teacher. Many of the best teachers I know, when asked why they went into teaching, state practical reasons like security, a steady paycheck, and good benefits for doing what they love to do. Such practical reasons alone are likely not enough justification for going into teaching, but they almost certainly enter into most people’s list of factors.

Also, many people, when pressed, are not comfortable expressing all of the reasons that they have chosen to teach. Many of these reasons can be quite personal and emotionally charged, and, like discussing a medical condition or a sensitive event, some people may just not want to get into such reasons with relative strangers. Don’t assume that a statement like “it’s a fallback degree” reveals the whole truth–there may be much more there.

And even if it is just a “fallback”, does that mean that the individual will not place sufficient importance in their training and education, will not be genuine in their relations with students, and will not be a successful educator? Understandably, lots of people choose their professions for practical reasons, and it is unreasonable to expect teachers to operate with purely altruistic motivations. Practical decisions are not necessarily bad decisions, and while teaching is certainly more of a “calling” than, say, investment banking (at least for most people–there are some very passionate investment bankers out there), just because it is not someone’s first career choice does not mean that they cannot be successful educators and make a meaningful impact.

Need an example? Just watch Mr. Holland’s Opus. It’s all about this issue.

Want another example of this circuitous route to a teaching career? Just look at me. I never wanted to teach when I was doing my undergraduate and masters degrees in the 1990’s, and it was only after teaching for a prolonged basis (and not especially liking it at first) that I began to grow into it. Now I love it. Go figure.

Don’t assume that a practical reason is an insincere reason, and don’t assume that initially viewing teaching as a “fallback” will mean that this attitude persists.

3. Professional performance ambitions are a distraction from becoming a good teacher.

This statement really gets my goat, because it represents a completely backwards set of priorities in a future music educator. There is a perception among music performance majors that music education majors are infantile performers, with abilities only slightly greater than the high school students that they may soon be teaching. This perception exists because, all too frequently, it’s true, and it’s true because of this “you’re a teacher, you’re a performer” split that statements like the above encourage.

I can’t count how many times I heard a poor performance in studio class which was shrugged off with a statement like, “it’s OK, they’re a music education major, after all”. Conversely, I have frequently witnessed surprise and astonishment among music performance students when they find out that the really excellent player they just heard was an……education major!

What’s the typical performer statement when they discover a highly instrumentally proficient music education major?

“How come you’re not a performance major?”

The typical response?

“Well, this education degree is just a fallback…..”

Defensive posturing or genuine disinterest in their education program? You know what I think.

Here’s a scary fact:

I am playing in the university symphony orchestra at which I am doing this teacher certificate program. There are two orchestras–this is the top orchestra, and I’m playing principal bass.

I am the only music education student in the entire symphony orchestra.

I repeat–I am the only music education student in the entire symphony orchestra.

4. Good K-12 teachers perform as an avocation, not a vocation – i.e. for relaxation and enjoyment; one should sort out their vocations and avocations.

Good musicianship is a skill (like pitching), not an attribute (like having brown hair), and, like sports, it must constantly be practiced or it will atrophy. For most musicians, the conduit through which they explore and develop their musicianship is an instrument. Those who continue to work at their craft and strive to achieve the highest levels of proficiency (not just “pretty good for an education major” proficiency) have more doors open to them, resulting in more and higher quality experiences and, therefore, more to teach.

It can be hard to keep up performance chops as an orchestra director, band director, or other full-time educator, and for many people allowing those performance skills to recede into the background does not detract from their musicianship. For them, the act of conducting replaces the act of performing in their musical development.

But the good conductors almost without exception previously attained a high level of proficiency on a specific instrument, then moved behind the podium into an educational/directorial role. They didn’t just magically become a good conductor without paying their dues.

How can a music education student reasonably expect to attain a high level of musical proficiency without paying their performance dues in some way, shape, or form as well?

Like it or not, there is an attitudinal and experiential difference between musicians who have played professionally, whether in a jazz, classical, rock, or other setting, and those who have just “played for fun”.

And students can smell it. They know if you’re the real deal or not. And they are more likely to respond to you if you can back it up with life experience.

Working hard instrumentally –> more doors open –> higher quality experiences –> more to teach

5. If a student wants to perform, they should be a music performance major.

Yo-Yo Ma was a history major. Enough said. If you’d like to delve deeper into my thoughts on music performance degrees, just read Road Warrior Without an Expense Account Part IX – Rethinking Music Performance Degrees.

6. Teaching is a serious profession in its own right, and must be treated as such.

This statement is reflective of the insecurity many teachers feel which we earlier discussed–the “those who can, do…those who can’t, teach syndrome. I agree with #6. It is serious. Teaching, to me, is a much more “serious” profession than performing.

The complicating factor with teaching music is how our own performing experiences inform and direct our teaching, and how a wealth of foundational and significant (and I don’t consider playing in your high school band foundational and significant–maybe that makes me a snob, but that’s how I see it) performing experiences makes for a more interesting, deeper, and perhaps better respected and more motivating teacher.

Does this mean that you have to play with the Chicago Symphony? No, although it would be a great experience for you as a future teacher. If you’re planning on teaching instrumental or choral music, practice, take lessons, go to festivals, take auditions, and do something on your instrument. In the long run, you’ll be happy you did.

7. Teaching must be a calling, not a fallback.

My observations have shown that people usually figure out whether or not they have the “teaching bug”. Some do, some don’t–it’s fine either way. If, after teaching some lessons or working on education degree, you feel like you aren’t into it, don’t like working with students, are impatient, or daydream through each pedagogical encounter, get out of teaching! Although I basically disagree with all of the above seven statements, I somewhat agree with the sentiment of the statements. Teaching is serious business, and a lackluster teacher will do infinitely more damage (or, at the very least, fail to do good) to young minds, to the next generation of citizens and musicians. Now this is serious business. If you don’t like it, get out! Trust me, there are much easier ways to make a living.

For those of you who are in it for the long haul and committed to improving your craft, don’t let misguided statements like the seven articulated above muddy the waters for you. There are misperceptions and suspicions on both sides of the teacher/performer divide.


For more on this topic, please check out my post Advice for Aspiring Music Performance Majors.

About Jason

An active double bass performer and teacher, Jason teaches double bass at DePaul University and served on the Board of Directors of the International Society of Bassists for many years. Jason is the current President of the Illinois chapter of the American String Teachers Association. Jason has been a member of the Elgin Symphony since 2000 and has played with the Midsummer’s Music Festival in Door County for the past decade. He is a past member of the Milwaukee Ballet and IRIS Orchestra, and has performed with the Lyric Opera of Chicago, Grant Park Symphony, and numerous other professional ensembles.

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23 thoughts on “You can’t teach professionally and perform professionally – misperceptions on both sides of the divide

  • Kells Nollenberger

    Jason this is really right on. We have talked about this a lot in the past but I really feel strongly about it. It is becoming harder and harder for artist to make a living without teaching and institutions need to start supporting all types of artists to become the next teachers oh a new generation. Then maybe we can hope to make a difference and share something thats worth teaching and preserving.

  • Cellogal


    I love your post- it’s interesting and thought provoking! As someone who desperately wanted to work in the field of music as a teenager but who knew she didn’t really have it to perform specially as I played piano – I was going to train as a schools music teacher… then one day I had that moment (aged 17) when I realised that what happened in state schools in the uk just wasn’t for me!
    20 years on – I work in community learning(nothing to do with music) -teaching and learning are passions for me just in a different way. I took up the cello a few years ago and now play in community/amateur orchestras… I love it! I still hanker after a career in music but as my very smart bloke tells me – you are a musician… just not a professional one! Back then noone told you about the other options – music therapy etc….! lol
    I hate the statement those that can do and those that can’t teach – demeans a very demanding and challenging jobs. We all remember our good teachers – the ones who challenged and excited us! I was away on a week long music course in the summer! What struck me was that so many amazing professional tutors and inspiring teachers were also some amazing cutting edge perfomers too! Envious- yes but also greatful as I as an adult get to come across these folk – who are lovely, real down to earth people who touch my life and insprie me! And as one cello tutor and performer told me – working with us reminds him of his passions and excitment re his insrtument and why he got into it!

    Music eh? Wonderful life expanding stuff ! 😉


  • Matthew Wengerd

    Wow, Jason – what a charged subject! After reading your opening comments, I was prepared to completely disagree with you, but your points were valid.

    I could not hack it as both in real life. The double major is rather manageable, and I agree that music educators must have a higher level of skill in their own right (my wife and I have had this discussion many, many times). There are two things that you should consider if you have not already:

    1) As a K12 educator, you do not have the luxury you do now to spend an hour (9:40-10:50 in you schedule) in the middle of the day balancing your schedule or the ability to leave before noon to make a rehearsal. They have you from 7:30 to 3:30 (or whatever your school needs). I spent a year trying to practice during my “free time” the year I taught; I have no doubt that you would be more successful in this than I am, but meetings and lesson prep always got in the way.

    2) Where’s your new wife in this schedule? If this is the kind of schedule you run 4-5 days a week, will your wife always be OK with this? I thought mine would, but the minute that nesting instinct kicks in, things change.

    The fact that you’re in school again kicks my butt. I’m amazed that you’re keeping this level of activity up and still blogging! Stay strong.

  • Scott Chaurette

    As someone who went through pretty much the same process (ie – performance degrees/career, discovering teaching and falling in love with the process) I agree with you arguments totally. I’m always amazed when people about music ed as a backup plan. If you don’t love teaching, it is the worst job in the world. It’s tough, and if you don’t give it your all you are doing more harm than good. Kids have an amazing way of seeing right through teachers who do not really want to be there and the also have a way of making life very difficult for those people. On the other hand, if your there 100%, kids will be completely devoted and wonderful. It is a very rewarding profession in ways that some people find hard to understand.

    The best teachers I have met are usually active performers. I’ve found that I can not maintain the same active performance schedule I could pre-teaching but performing is still and always will be an important part of my life. And it makes me a better teacher!

    I do some work with the music teacher prep program at UConn and as a fellow teacher educator I would have some very strong words for your methods teacher. This is exactly the opposite of the attitude I try to inspire in the education students I work with.

  • Scott Chaurette

    I just had one more thought. Just so you know I am writing this while I am waiting for students to set up for a chamber coaching at my almost full time high school gig. I also teach bass at UConn, am enrolled full time in the grad conducting program there, teach some string methods classes, assistant conduct the orchestra, music direct a community orchestra, have a studio of community bassists, and still play gigs and recitals. I also am married with a house, dogs… You can do anything you really want to do. All of these professional activities compliment each other. They do not detract from each other.

    Good luck on your journey, Jason.

  • Joshua Nemith

    This is a superb defense of what most performing musicians do to make a living through a number of related and rewarding professional activities. Jason, you hit the many nails of this issue square on the head!

    I’m afraid I wouldn’t have been as temperamentally even-handed as you with this list of critically misinformed hash that your instructor foisted upon you and your classmates. Most of it wouldn’t be taken seriously by any widely-experienced pedagogue and I can safely assume that the implications would be refuted vehemently by many of the educators I’ve known over the years, including conductors, applied instrumental/vocal teachers, pedagogy professors, and respected music theorists and musicologists who excel as performers. I don’t know if I can add much to your quite complete rebuttal, but for the sake of supporting a position worth defending, here goes:

    I can’t speak for numbers 1 and 2, because I did not pursue a music education major. But the compartmentalization dynamic of “us” (educators) versus “them” (performers) inherent to this list denies a fundamental reality in musical communities around the globe and throughout history: Most performing musicians teach. It is (as you state so clearly in this post) more often than not an integral part of our whole path as professional musicians. A lot of musicians take it very seriously and do it extremely well, because so much of the future of our art form absolutely requires the successful transmission of musical knowledge in all of its various forms. Teaching is not separate and distinct from our performance activities. The lines, at least for me, between performance and education are not merely blurred but thoroughly entangled and interwoven.

    Numbers 3, 4, and 5 in the list are hopelessly silly, overly defensive, ignorant, and unnecessary. Perhaps your instructor is not mean-spirited, but these statements reflect a carefully cultivated inner attitude that is uncharitable to hard-working, teaching musicians who happen to also care for their students’ education. I’ve taught hundreds of students (95% of whom were/are K-12). Yet according to this instructor, my activities as an educator have been preemptively “hindered” by my professional performance ambitions.

    Nonsense. Here’s a statement I think most educators could agree with for the most part:

    Teaching well takes experience, knowledge, training, preparation, sensitivity, communication skills, and engagement.

    Does this refer to the music education major or the performance major? Or are these general facets so overwhelmingly intermingled in music education as to be attributes needed in teachers who are not performers as well as for those teachers who do perform? Don’t these attributes require and demand some level of proficiency at an instrument (or at the podium)?

    And why leave this criticism just at the doorstep of performers? Let’s see what numbers 3 through 5 look like for composer educators, who also dedicate substantial portions of their daily time to creative activity:

    3) Professional compositional ambitions are a distraction from becoming a good teacher.
    4) Good K-12 teachers compose as an avocation, not a vocation – i.e. for relaxation and enjoyment; one should sort out their vocations and avocations.
    5) If a student wants to compose, they should be a music composition major.

    Hmmm, pretty absurd, right?

    Numbers 6 and 7 do have their merits. But the present context poisons and twists their meaning. Do the intensely dedicated applied music teachers in universities and conservatories merely “dabble” in their teaching duties? Many not only teach their primary instrument but also teach music theory, history, music appreciation, ear training, orchestration, electronic music, world music, etc. I don’t think many of these educators would appreciate being labeled as “dabblers”. Tenure files at universities require a wide variety of service components that involve EDUCATIONAL activities. Those files are not filled with meaningless exercises. Number 7 is redundant: I don’t believe anyone “falls back” on teaching. Wouldn’t it be more positive and inspiring just to simply say, “Teaching IS a calling, not a fallback”?

    I think that the issue of crafting useful and positive messages for music educators is indeed part of what is at stake here. I should also make it clear that I do not want to offend or diminish “pure” music education majors: upon employment those individuals make massive, incalculable contributions to the field that help keep me in business as a performer. But I think this instructor’s list will only continue to inspire ill will between educators and performers, even as those vocations become more and more deeply intertwined in social reality. It is unfortunately banal and tragic that this instructor insists on taking the divisive stance when so many of us have to play the role of “educator” and “performer” day in and day out in our pursuit of a meaningful career in music today.

    Sorry about the long comment. This kind of thing really gets my goat, too! Again, great post and thanks a lot for sharing this.

  • kivi

    This is eerily close to a conversation I had just the other day with a fellow bass player. We came to the conclusion that, the people who view teaching as a fall back, don’t realize all the professional options a musician has.
    You mentioned the “those who can, do…” phrase, which I think is unfortunately a higher a higher percentage of truth. I find there is a mentality in students that if you’re not “good enough”(usually as a self-assessment) to perform, then you have to teach. Also, I have found that these students will rarely share these assessments with someone at the school who can help steer them right. They don’t realize there are things like music therapy,audio engineering, composition, recording editing, etc. available as careers until after they have a degree.

  • Dr. Phillip W. Serna, Double Bass & Viola da Gamba

    We couldn’t ask for a more offensive bunch of outdated assumptions about education and performance. Keep up the good work breaking down these barriers and poving that art will wil out in the end.

    Bravo Jason!

  • gsarchet

    J- One of your best posts ever. I double majored undergrad and have no regrets, and only benefited and grew from doing so.

  • Fierce Wolf

    Can’t add much to your astute post and the numerous positive comments other than: I think you got it right, as usual! Can you SUBTLY send a link to this post to your so-called teacher? He/she needs their consciousness raised on this subject!

  • Jerry Fuller

    I found your comments on performance/education very interesting and I would like to push the conversation even further. I find professional performers too often are very highly, and narrowly, trained technicians.
    The artist can rise above being merely highly skilled with exciting and provacative musical interpretations. I hope and believe that the next frontier for the artist is to be an integrated, contributing member of the community which to me means performing at a very high level, teaching, providing hope by introducing the joy of music to the less privileged among us, and to be able to critically think about and articulate the role of the artist in society. So rather than an increasingly narrow technical focus, I believe we are being called on to do more than anyone (certainly your instructor) had previously thought possible. And I think it will be those among us who teach well that can and will inspire that possibility.

  • Anonymous

    As a performer and teacher with many years experience, I would offer the following extremely unpopular comments:

    1. If you want to have respect and a good living as a teacher, go into the K-12 field rather than college teaching. You’ll generally get a better salary, benefits, and more professional respect than if you go into the den of wolves that is college teaching, where chances are you’ll be toiling away at the sessional level for less than $2000 per course with no benefits.

    2. Whether teachers or performers, schools of music are churning out waaayyyy to many music majors. Where on earth are these people going to work? It’s simple Marxist economics. With a surfeit of highly qualified teachers and performers on the market, their value will go down. I already see a trend towards self-employed contractors teaching at college programs with little or no benefits, on year-to-year contracts, to be hired without due hiring process and let go as soon as they cease to become flavor of the month.

    Getting back to the subject of your post, a working musician simply has to both teach and perform if they wish to survive. If anyone tells you otherwise I would question if they have ever been in the real world.

    –Name withheld

  • Stan Haskins

    I think everyone here is in agreement that professional players can and should teach. However, no one seems to be noting the distinction between “teaching your instrument” (private studio or college) and “teaching in schools” (elementary through secondary). A teacher certification course is very clearly aimed at teachers going into schools, which will severely limit their availability to pursue a professional performance career. Auditions usually happen during the school day, you know . . .

    I can’t help but chuckle every time I reread the above comment (from anonymous) stating that k-12 teachers “get more respect”. That’s pretty funny. Are they hiring in your district? Yes, the living is better than that earned by an untenured or adjunct professor, and there’s certainly more job security. However, that’s usually because most people don’t want to go into the schools, or if they do go, they get out as soon as they can. Pension be damned.

    Seriously, from where I sit, I would say that anyone with a university teaching job gets loads more respect than any K-12 educator I’ve ever worked with.

    The grass is always greener, I guess.

  • Anonymous

    I feel very fortunate to run across this blog for the first time. I just restarted my music education as a performance major at a university, and going into my second semester in January, I decided to double major in both performance and music education.

    I took a look at several students who are graduating, or have graduated with performance degrees and they just don’t seem to have any kind of future mapped out, or, in one case, they have an unrealistic goal of practicing a few extra years so they can get into one specific orchestra. I keep wondering… what are they going to do now to pay the rent?

    I also took a look at the level of performance of a variety of students in various performance organizations. I really did not see any strong pattern suggesting that performance (classical and jazz studies) majors here perform at a higher level than education majors, or even better than a few students who are not music majors at all!! I have also taken a look at a number of working pros, and they all are teaching on some level and are really out there doing some kind of marketing for themselves. Even if I end up not going for the teaching credential itself, I will have a solid base of knowledge in teaching that I can apply to many situations.

    I think its time to bury to maxim that those who can’t teach. Its silly and outmoded and certainly does not reflect that quality and level of professionalism that has existed in playing and teaching abilities of my music teachers.

    Another plus I have going for me… I once received formal training in marketing in the securities field. I learned that this is a skill that I can apply to music. My suggestion.. take a course or two in marketing and get your hands on books that have been written on how to be a professional musician. There are some books that have some very good information that can be applied to building a career. I am no monster player yet, and I am older than many of my student peers, but I understand the music business enough to know how to get out there playing gigs in a variety of genres. Now I think I am also going to take a look at some kind of part-time teaching job I could get as an education major. even if its only a few hours a week, to get going in teaching activities.

    Finally, it surprises me how unwilling many of my peers are to make efforts to market themselves and get out there. These are the folks who will end up in another field or just end their musical activities. What a loss.

  • View_from_above

    Jason, you are bringing up very pertinent and often amusing issues. I have this to say regarding the comment that “it is unwise and unrealistic to expect to be able to both perform and teach at a professional level.”
    Regardless of whether or not you are going to play professionally a music education major should strive to become the best player you can on your primary instrument. This means practice as best you can, despite taking all those required courses and secondary instruments. Jump through the hoops and do what you have to do. In the summer after your first year of teaching you can practice all you want. In fact, you can practice EVERY summer and any weekend of the year. You’ll also be able to ENJOY making music without the pressure of playing that PERFECT audition.
    I have an undergraduate performance degree and a graduate music ed degree. I have been teaching instrumental music in a public school for seven years. Do I teach full-time? Yes. Do I play professionally? Yes.
    Finally, we all have to remember that we make music because we (hopefuly) love to play. Music education requirements are so burdensome that one can really become overwhelmed. But the people who make those requirements need to really evaluate what is going to help the student really become a good string teacher. (I say “string teacher” because I’m assuming we are all mostly in the orchestra, not the “band” camp.)

  • Nick Scales

    Hi Jason,
    I am so slow to get to read a lot of blogging etc, but I really appreciate the topics and information you are covering! I think you are right on and I can add one thing for students to think about when they are looking for schools. If someone is interested in doing a music ed degree (for the RIGHT reasons as you allude to- no fallback!) and they want to perform, there is some self introspection that really needs to happen. If you are self motivated to the level of Yo-yo Ma, you can major in just about anything and still have great performance career. For those who say, get a late start, or know that they need more nurturing, but want to do both I would strongly recommend looking at schools that have a recital requirement for music ed majors in their degree requirements. This shows a commitment on the part of the school that ALL music majors have to understand what goes into preparing for a recital. I don’t want to over generalize, but I find that these schools tend to be a little smaller with more individualized attention and push for overall musicianship. Schools that do not have this requirement seem to have a bit more of the “those who can can…” (arrgh!) I have taught at both kinds of schools and one reason I came to where I am now is that this school does treat ALL music majors the same: music performance, ed, business and therapy all have to be literate musicians to graduate. At previous schools I have worked, performance teachers who saw any spark of performing ability in an Mus Ed student would encourage them to switch to performance. I was dead set against it unless the student really didn’t have their heart in the Ed degree. Some teachers at these schools were more worried about their reputations if Ed majors did recitals, than teaching the students themselves. It also makes no sense to advise a motivated student away what is basically a guaranty of employment after college to try the lottery of performance life, but I see it all of the time. Every college would LOVE to be Julliard, but it does a HUGE disservice to students to push them in a direction where they will have limited success at best. This also can cause the music ed majors to feel inferior to their stand partners in the college orchestra even though they may hae the same basic gifts.

    On our instrument, we know the stories of folks, myself included, who got a late start in music, and have had successful careers. With fewer jobs and more students graduating- along with the level going through the roof (Graduate literature when I was in school is now High school and undergrad lit!), it makes sense to be marketable! When I have students inquire about performance degrees, I try to be absolutely honest about career options and difficulties from the start before I even hear them play. I am not trying to dissuade them, just prepare them for what is expected of them. In our school, a lot of our music business, Education and therapy majors are auditioning for major grad schools in performance and moving on that way and many of these folks did not even consider performance when they first came to school… with the right environment, anything is possible. I hope this rant makes some kind of sense. You can tell this is a subject close to my heart!! :mrgreen: Thanks again Jason for keeping this all going!!

  • aaron

    I like your post very much. Regarding teaching instrument instruction, I wish more teachers would perform. I currently teach at a community music school in Cambridge, MA and I find the teachers who perform regularly (recitals, solo, duo, ensemble) do a substantially better job at preparing their students for performance.