How are the music teachers divided up in your schools?

My son is interested in music ed as a major/career, which has lead me to read some of the related posts here. It made me realize that it might be helpful to know what various school systems, to try and think about what skills would be valuable.

The elementary school has a general music teacher, who teaches each class once a week, and an instrumental teacher who teaches both band and string instruments. I think the instrumental teacher is shared with another school.

Here the middle schools seem to have two music teachers. One who teaches choir, and one who teaches strings and band, which are taught separately.

The closest high school has 4 performing art teachers. An instrumental teacher who teaches band, strings ensemble, jazz ensembles and an orchestra, and leads the marching band; a theater/chorus teacher who teaches choir, show choir, theater and music theater; and a general music teacher who teaches piano, guitar, and music theory, and a dance teacher.

I’m wondering if that’s a standard way of dividing things up, or if other schools do things differently.

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Music in elem is 1 teacher.
Choir and band in middle school each have their own teacher.
HS has 2 choir and 2 band teachers. We have 4 levels of bands plus jazz and pep bands. Our band marches and plays for the musical as well. We have 4 choir ensembles and do one musical a year. The teachers all split those up evenly.

Eta: At the high school level, students need to audition.

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No strings?

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Our school district does not do strings or orchestra, only pit for the musical.

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That’s kind of what I’m wondering. In my kids’ district, strings are more popular than band, and I can’t imagine there are that many jobs for instrumental teachers who don’t teach strings.

Elementary school - one full-time music teacher, one strings teacher who is shared with other elementary schools, one band teacher (all non-string instruments) who is also shared with other elementary schools.

Middle school - one choir teacher, one band (all non-string instruments) teacher, one strings (orchestra) teacher. I think that maybe the strings teachers is in two different schools, but I’m not entirely sure.

High School - Depends on the school. The largest school in our district with the largest performing arts and music program has two choir teachers, two band teachers, and one orchestra teacher.

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Im in the midwest and not many schools have strings near us at all. Off the top of my head I think maybe only 2 in our whole conference have an orchestra at any grade level.

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Interesting. We are in MD and the schools all have both.

This came up because DS (a trombone player) is thinking of adding another instrument, and was wondering if a string instrument makes most sense so he can teach both. I asked a music teacher friend in another area and they said that most band teachers don’t teach strings.

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@Sportsball around us in CT, it’s about 50/50 programs that have strings. String instruments aren’t something you can learn to play well without private lessons, in my opinion. Also leasing or purchasing a string instrument is costly around here.

Our school district had

Grades k-2 - a general music teacher who taught each class twice a week. Two elementary schools shared two teachers. Small district.

Grades 3-6- there was one instrumental teacher but instruments didn’t start until grade 5. That teacher also directed the school choruses and taught some general music.

Our middle and high schools are in the same building. There is a middle school band director and a high school band director (band is very popular). There is one chorus teacher who does both middle and high school choruses. These three teachers also split up a number of other music courses that are offered.

We are in suburban Philly - Things are pretty much as you describe except we have no marching band and drama is handled separately from the music department: Pit orchestra is student conducted and a sub-contractor is hired to coach vocals for the musical. The teachers rotate coverage of AP Music theory.

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In my part of Arizona our elementary schools have a FT general music teacher and strings and band teachers that either work part time or work at multiple schools. At the junior high level there are choir, strings, and band teachers and the same at the high school level. In our district some of the schools have the junior high teachers also work as an assistant director at the high school. I haven’t seen any cases where the same teacher has band and orchestra in the districts my kids have been in. I have seen a band guy hired to teach orchestra. He wasn’t happy and left after a few years.
My son is in college in Texas and says that many of the Texas schools have two or three choir or band teachers even at the middle school level. Not so much with orchestra.
Drama is separate from the music department in our schools.

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I think you may be over-thinking the second instrument question. I mean that very kindly - I wish I had had a parent who was as interested in assisting me in “my path” back in the Dark Ages when I was thinking of music school!

It might help to understand how Music Ed degrees typically work. (Forgive me if you are already aware.). Generally (and I don’t know every program in every State in the Union!!!), students have a concentration in Instrumental Music, General Music or Choral Music. There will likely be at least one class in each area and more coursework in the area of concentration. Again, this is a very general statement as I don’t know certifications in all states, but with that caveat, the states that I am aware of have teacher license/certifications for K - 12 Music - technically a graduate can be hired for any position although most job searchers/applicants will stick to their area of specialization. You do occasionally find a general music concentration student teaching high school choir or an instrumentalist teaching general music. Or, in smaller districts, a one-size-fits-all teaching school band, choir and general music in some combination of grades. If the State in question requires a national exam like the Music Praxis or has a state specific exam like in Texas or California for certification, the candidate is tested on all concentrations.

To get a smattering of job postings for Music Teaching positions across the country, you might look the standard posting sites - Ziprecruiter, Indeed, etc. Not many districts post on these sites, but there are some. You can also check “Employment” on district websites in your area or the area your son aspires to just to see what types of music teaching jobs are out there.

Within an Instrumental Concentration, the student will be required to take a number of methods classes where they are taught how to play different instruments - brass, woodwind, strings and percussion. The student typically learns to play at a very basic level but primarily is taught “how” the ideal should be so that they can instruct students. For example, learning different embouchures, fingerings, basic acoustics of brass overtones, snare drum rudiments, bow holds, etc. The expectation is that the student is proficient on one instrument coming into the Music Ed program, not that they have mastered multiple instruments.

If your S is interested in another instrument, piano is very valuable. Most, if not all, colleges require piano proficiency via their classes or a test or both. Having a headstart before college takes a load off! Additionally, if your S isn’t already a singer, joining the school chorus or church choir might be useful as background.

Another area he could prepare in high school is theory. AP Theory tests are often NOT accepted in lieu of the college course. There are many approaches to theory teaching and schools generally want a demonstration that you are on board with THEIR approach. However, the background with AP or other high school class or online self-instruction can make the course easier or possibly allow a student to start at a higher level. Many find theory challenging so a solid background can be quite useful.


My elementary school had one to two general music teachers, one band instructor, and one strings instructor. I believe choir was run by one of the general music teachers. I know that at least the band/strings instructors taught at multiple different schools.

The middle school had a full time band director, strings/orchestra director, and choir director. They also had an assistant band director, who I’m not sure whether taught at just one or at multiple schools. There was a percussion director who taught the percussionists in a separate class, and who definitely taught at multiple schools. The school also brought in instructors of specific instruments to teach sectionals every once in a while.

My high school has a full time band director, and a percussion director who I believe is part time. They also bring in half a dozen marching instructors during marching season. Sectionals teachers come in weekly. There is a full time strings/orchestra director and a full time choir director. I believe one of those two also teaches AP music theory (added after I graduated) and guitar class.

We are in a very music intense high level suburb of NYC with many kids who attend pre-college in NYC on the weekend both out of the middle and high school (and occasionally the elementary school). We also have a very high rated large Suzuki program in town that many kids attend. This is how it is broken up.
Two elementary schools share a teacher that manages the band and orchestra. There are 4 schools so there are two teachers that have this job. There is a different teacher who is in charge of the general music classes that all of the kids take in all grades about twice a week. Band/orchestra is an after school or lunch time extra activity.
The middle school has a teacher for each of the band, string orchestra and chorus (three teachers total). They all also teach some other music theory and non performing classes. Each kid must take some form of music each year in the middle school.
The high school has a band teacher who does marching band, regular band and theory including ap music theory, and an orchestra teacher who does all of the orchestras (which includes some woodwinds) and chorus and is the music director of the shows. So our district has 9 music teachers in total. I believe most only play one or two instruments.

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So, if a teacher teaches elementary band and orchestra, how do they teach instruments they don’t know how to play?

Do all the kids get outside instruction?

My kids were at a small private for elementary, so I don’t really know how this works.

The teachers “know” how to play all of the instruments. In strings obviously it is easier but the elementary band teachers have a general idea of how all of the intruments work and give the kids a basic understanding. Most kids who take band at school are very limited players and that is enough. Anyone who wants more takes private lessons and some communities have older, more advanced kids helping the young ones


@Sportsball - Music Ed students are TAUGHT how to teach and play woodwinds, brass, percussion and strings in their required methods classes. This is a large portion of a Music ED major’s program. They do NOT graduate from a Music Ed program without passing these Methods Classes and thus demonstrating sufficient knowledge to begin teaching in an instrumental program. You could pull up a college catalog that lists the Instrumental Methods course requirements to review this. In my experience, the requirements are extensive and often have very low credit hours. A student must complete quite a few method courses in a number of instruments (virtually all those studied by kids in public schools) to fulfill requirements.

As I said above, no matter what a Music Ed major plays as their main instrument, in Methods Classes they are taught (for instance) proper embouchure for brass (including the differences between horn and trumpet embouchure and adjustments for low brass); the difference between a violin/viola bow hold and a cello bow hold; how to tune double bass strings in 4ths instead of tuning in 5ths for violin/viola/cello; the difference between a snare drum stick hold(s) and playing a timpani; clarinet fingerings, flute fingerings, oboe fingerings; dealing with reeds for clarinet/sax and double reeds for oboe/bassoon; how to produce a sound on a reed or double reed instrument vs the flute. On and on. Students will most always have actual experience playing these instruments with instruments provided by the college for use during the class. Their exams in each of the courses will likely include a playing test proving they can produce an acceptable sound, can play a scale and perhaps a short piece. They may also be required to pass a written test on specific pedagogy for the instrument being studied, method books, instrument repair and all the other instrumental concerns that an instrumental teacher encounters. Sometimes students “teach” a classmate as an evaluation.

All kids do NOT get outside instruction in their school music programs. School instructors are generally tasked with starting children on instruments and guiding their progress. Private instruction is a parent decision - sometimes at the public school teacher’s suggestion. Every year, even some Music Majors enter various US colleges without ever having had private lessons. They have been mentored by public school teachers. For private lessons, norms vary by community expectations, the availability of private instruction, the costs, etc.

I personally know a woodwind major who fell in love with strings. First job out of college was in a great suburban district of a major city - Elementary Strings. Following a Masters in conducting, is now an orchestra director at a major suburban high school district in a different state. This teacher would never attempt to promote their string playing ability, but definitely knows what is correct vs what needs correction and conveys that well to the students.

There are any number of clarinet players out teaching band, having had the first trumpet experience only in college. You can substitute any instrument for “clarinet” and “trumpet” in the above statement - ask any instrumental band instructor. Double bass playing is vastly different than violin playing - yet, again, I personally know a bass player doing great things with a middle school orchestra. Teachers do not leave college teaching instruments they are totally unfamiliar with.


If they are majoring in music education and intend to teach instrumental music, they will take courses in college teaching them the basics on each instrument. Someone else mentioned this upstream.

If someone is applying for an instrumental music position, one of the first things asked will be about this.

Don’t forget Student Teaching and other fieldwork as well. A Music Ed student with an Instrumental emphasis is likely to have spent the student teaching and observation hours working with and observing many different instruments being taught in a band or orchestra situation.

A job seeking Music Ed student is likely to be targeting jobs that mirror their interests and strengths. Often, this comes down to orchestra for string players, band for wind and percussion specialists and general music or choral for voice majors. So, there is some self-selection when it comes to applying for positions - no different from other fields, I suspect.

But, (as I noted above) depending on individual states, new teachers, having passed all the certification/licensure requirements are likely to be eligible to be employed for any open “Music teacher” position. And, I have, indeed, known flute players taking middle school General Music jobs when the rent needed to be paid and the dream job didn’t materialize.

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If my s23 does choose music ed, he would likely do choral. He wouldn’t mind helping with a musical. He also plays flute and could easily pick up other instruments pretty quickly. He plays some guitar and piano as well.

From what I’ve seen, the graduating classes of music ed majors is pretty small so they don’t seem to be masses of them competing for the few jobs open.

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