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Do teaching assistants teach lessons at some schools?

MomOfSingersMomOfSingers 116 replies9 threads Junior Member
I meant to ask this on CC, but when we were at Oberlin, someone mentioned that because the school is almost exclusively undergrad, there are never teaching assistants teaching lessons. I hadn't even considered that having a grad student teach a music lesson is a thing (I know grad students teach in academic classes; I used to teach when I was a grad student). Is this a thing? Or is the school using the absence of grad students as a positive marketing point?
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Replies to: Do teaching assistants teach lessons at some schools?

  • bridgenailbridgenail 1176 replies6 threads Senior Member
    edited February 25
    Me again...lol. I have never heard of a studio teacher being a grad student at any reputable school. So NO they should not be teaching a lesson for your primary instrument (maybe your level 2 piano lesson required for a vocalist...that's a possibility).

    However the teacher for your theory lab portion at a large school...sure it could be a grad student. My D had a primary professor for the theory course and a grad student teaching the lab portion of that course. Some times that was fun and good...and once she "hated" the grad lab TA. At IU, my D always had a professor for the class...but grad student TAs were present. Note that could be a 40 year old TA or if you were lucky a super cute, 25 year old one!! It didn't hurt my D's education.
    edited February 25
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  • MomOfSingersMomOfSingers 116 replies9 threads Junior Member
    Ahhh... that makes sense! Thanks @bridgenail!
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  • MidwestMom2020MidwestMom2020 4 replies0 threads New Member
    What is the typical size of the theory class and theory lab at music schools? How important is it to have a smaller class size for these? Are you better off taking this (and the required piano class) at the music school you plan to attend or is it beneficial to take these beforehand at your local university/junior college?
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  • bridgenailbridgenail 1176 replies6 threads Senior Member
    edited February 25
    I can't speak for all schools...but the more piano you can get before college, the better, I think. In my D's case, she took a piano placement test and only passed the first level, maybe. So she had to take piano for awhile...maybe it was a 1 credit course...so it wasn't a big deal or a lot of time. All music AND ballet students HAD to take piano to a certain level (about 4 semesters maybe) at her school. You could pass out of it.

    You have to be more careful with theory however. Some schools will require that you take THEIR theory curriculum. My D had done AP Theory and got a good score. She still had to take the theory placement test which was "pass/fail". Pass meant you started the curriculum in Theory 1 (there was an honors level as well). Fail meant you took a remedial non-college credit course the first semester of Freshman yr. Then you had to wait until first semester of Sophomore year to begin the regular curriculum (since theory 1 was only offered in the fall). ALL schools are different so something to look into. A good foundation of theory is important for any music school...but there is a chance that at some schools you will be taking the full curriculum no matter what. So it may not make sense to "load up" on theory. Some kids even elect to take a more basic theory to be sure they have solid skills.

    As for class size, I really don't know. My D's experience was a large public school. Maybe some others can comment. I'm assuming Theory 1 was in a large lecture hall...and then the labs (2 or 3 times a week) were broken down to a classroom size. Not sure however...just guessing from conversations.

    Edit...and how important is the size? I really think it depends on the kid. How do they learn best. Do they need/want extra attn. My D was a good student and pretty self-sufficient. She came from a very large public school. So for her, it was no problem. Of course all kids are different. So if a kid does better or wants more individual attn, maybe smaller is better. Note my D had a LOT of attn from her studio teacher, coaches, director...so a large lecture hall for a course or two was perfectly fine for her...kind of a break from almost too much attn for her.
    edited February 25
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  • songbirdmamasongbirdmama 438 replies20 threads Member
    My D had a friend at Oberlin who was not in the conservatory. I believe she was doing music therapy in the liberal arts school and was being taught piano by an upper level undergraduate student! So there goes their marketing strategy!

    At Bienen as far as I am aware, my D has never had a graduate student teach an academic music class or give voice lessons. DMA students will conduct choral rehearsals from time to time as part of their degree requirement.
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  • MomOfSingersMomOfSingers 116 replies9 threads Junior Member
    @songbirdmama -- that is funny!!! I am beginning to pick up little things that schools say to parents that are what parents want to hear but may not be exactly true "in real life."
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  • Parentof2014gradParentof2014grad 1032 replies13 threads Senior Member
    My son is at UNT. I’m not sure how big his theory classes or his other music classes are. He has not complained at all about class size so whatever it is, it isn’t bothering him. He has had a teaching assistant for freshman English who was outstanding. He learned a ton in that class.

    He is a voice major and is also taking cello lessons (he auditioned in on both voice and cello so this was important to him). His cello lessons are with a grad student and he’s very happy with the quality of his lessons. They’ve tried to switch him to a full professor (thinking his concentration was cello and not voice) and he’s so far refused. TA’s aren’t necessarily a bad thing.

    @MidwestMom2020 i second the suggestion to make as much progress as possible on piano ahead of time, but theory it’s less helpful. My son tested out of all the piano requirements. It freed up room in his schedule for other things. UNT requires a two year theory and aural skills sequence. He tested out of aural skills 1 but not theory 1. Theory 1 was mostly review though. He’s now in theory 2, aural skills 2, and had a little bit of catchup to do in aural skills because he hadn’t learned the way things are done in that class in semester 1. Not a problem, but extra work for him. It’s unusual to test out of more than one semester of theory.
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  • MidwestMom2020MidwestMom2020 4 replies0 threads New Member
    @Parentof2014grad Thank you for the advice on piano! Did your son take piano through the years or just leading up to college with the goal of fulfilling the college music requirement? I appreciate the advice!
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  • flutenerdflutenerd 9 replies1 threads New Member
    I thought I might add what little info I have about this topic.

    I was recently accepted to the UT Butler School of Music as an MM flutist, and was offered a studio TA position should I accept the offer. I discussed with the professor there about what the studio TA responsibilities would be were I to accept, and they mentioned that their TA taught lessons to the Bachelor of Arts (BA) students while they taught the Bachelor of Music (BM) students.

    So I can confirm that TAs do teach music lessons at this school at least. But this may or may not be relevant depending on what specific degree being discussed.
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  • ViolinInOurHouseViolinInOurHouse 7 replies0 threads New Member
    Vanderbilt uses this topic as a selling point - that the music school is undergrad only so they don't have grad students teaching students.
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  • compmomcompmom 11343 replies80 threads Senior Member
    At Yale a grad student in the School of Music may teach undergrads. I am sure this is true elsewhere. The Oberlin selling point has some validity for composition at least, since at many universities and colleges the grad students get the attention and the best teachers (and may have grad student teachers).
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  • Parentof2014gradParentof2014grad 1032 replies13 threads Senior Member
    edited February 26
    @MidwestMom2020 my son was advanced on piano but quit lessons his freshman year of high school to focus on cello at the time. He took lessons again over last summer to freshen up his skills and go over the piano proficiency requirements with his teacher. The proficiency exam requirements for UNT are available on the website. There was sight reading (hymns as I recall), scales and arpeggios, and chord progressions, playing from choral scores (he never did that in his previous piano lessons!)—it wasn’t exactly proficiency in classical piano so the focused lessons were helpful.
    edited February 26
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