Questions relating to how I should approach Music Education

Hi, I’m a senior who is interested in majoring in Music Education! I love music, working with kids, and helping out others through teaching which is why I believe this major would be perfectly suited for me.

I was wondering if it would be a smarter idea for me to apply into a strong Music Education itself, such as ones in Syracuse and Rochester (if i can get in haha), or for me to apply as a performance major and gain a teaching certification after undergrad.

In either case, I would really appreciate some recommendations of schools! For a quick summary (I can provide more on request), I am a New Jersey based student with a 4.25 weighted GPA and am a strong piano pre-college student at a conservatory. Out of state public schools and Ithaca do not work under my net price calculation, but I am open for other suggestions!

I think the choice of undergrad performance versus music education really depends on how you want to spend those 4 years. Would you prefer the more narrow but deeper focus on one instrument?

If you are unsure, you can apply for both options and decide in April!

Are you in need of and do you qualify for financial aid? For music education you could certainly consider in-state public schools. You might also be able to get some merit aid. I think we need to know more about finances before suggesting schools.

Unless you have unlimited resources, and unlimited time, I would recommend going straight for the music ed degree. It is possible to do both performance and music ed together, which would be great, if you can handle the load. But I’d hate for you to pay for a BA in performance piano, and then have trouble finding work, yet not be able to get funding for a music ed degree at the MA level.

Finance-wise, identify your best in-state public option, and make that your safety, since it sounds as if you would be sure to get in. Then, consider money. In my opinion, it would be foolish to borrow much for a music ed degree. A good rule of thumb is to borrow no more than what one would earn in a year with that qualification. You might get serious merit money at some less competitive overall schools that have a good conservatory that offers music ed (U Hartford’s Hartt School comes to mind, and there are others, too). If your family qualifies for substantial merit money, you should also consider private schools that can offer good fin aid packages.

Take a look through the past threads on the music major forum, and you’ll get some ideas about schools to look at.

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Go for the music ed. The first few years are pretty similar to a BM. You can devote as much time as you want to honing your piano skills and still graduate ready to teach or start a MAT program. Or switch gears and go for a MM. I just think it’s the most flexible degree for those who aren’t sure and could see themselves teaching.

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I agree with the advice in posts 2 and 3 above - go for the music ed.

There was a previous thread similar to yours that might be interesting to you. My posts contain info based on family members’ and friends’ experiences in obtaining certification following BMs and MMs in performance from major conservatories: Paths to becoming a public school music teacher

If you know you want to teach, get the ed degree first. You can follow up with an MM in performance while working. There are online and summer program options out there for MMs. The MM, even if in performance and not in music ed, will most likely advance you on a school district’s pay scale. (Teachers pay is generally based on years of experience and degrees or hours of credit post-undergrad obtained.)

As far as schools go - often (and I don’t know NJ specifically), there is good mentoring and placement channels from the state “flagship” to jobs. I assume you’ve checked Rutgers for this? Talk with your school music teachers to get their ideas of the “best” in-state options; there may be other schools known for music as well. In state can be a great option - often very fine applied music teachers and easiest path to teacher certification.

From my own experience with graduates - Hartt (mentioned above) is another school in your area known for music and music ed. It may not fit your financial needs.

I assume you are well aware of the possible need for pre-screens, auditions, and December 1 deadlines for music and music ed? These months move fast!

Too late to edit, but something else just occurred to me.

You may be aware, but sometimes music ed majors are assigned to graduate students for their private lessons. Or, there may be variations on this theme - music ed majors auditioning very well are assigned to a faculty member, others are assigned to grad students. I’m not suggesting that all grad students are poor teachers - not at all. However, if knowing who you will study piano with before enrolling is important to you, get some clarification from the school upfront.

If you want to teach, get a degree in music Education.

My son is a music Ed major. He has hour lessons with a professor in his area of concentration and he also takes concentration level lessons on a second instrument (same level of lessons as voice) but with a grad student. I’m not sure if music majors are ever assigned to grad students on their primary instrument but it is a question to ask at each school.

At my son’s university a music Ed major has an area of concentration—vocal, instrumental, elementary and a couple of others. It is worth asking at each college how having piano as your primary instrument will affect your options as far as area of concentration. All of them lead to the same K-12 licensure in his state and many others, but may afffect access to job opportunities later

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Look at The College of New Jersey and their music education degree program.

https://music.tcnj.edu/music-education/

It’s a public university in your home state with a very well regarded music education program. Music ed majors there still take instrument lessons and still play on ensembles. But they also meet all the requirements for a music education certification in NJ.

Thanks for answering! In terms of finances, we have one large asset (house) and a pretty middle class to lower middle class income. Interestingly for me, many colleges have similar net price calculations for me, regardless if they are in-state-public or private. However, it is true that the private schools do come out a few thousand or so more in average compared to my in-state-public schools barring Rutgers (which is actually one of the more expensive options for me in general).

I was unaware of Hartford’s Hartt School before, thanks for letting me know! I’ll definitely be taking a look into it. And yes, I agree, I will be trying to be quite reasonable with the schools I decide on so that I am not borrowing too much money.

The house you live in is not counted in determination of financial aid on the FAFSA. It may be that a private could be more affordable than a public, but for music education it might be good to do your in-state public if you want to teach in that state.

I am not sure which option, performance or music ed, gives broader options. I would have said that performance does, but I get the idea of doing music ed so you can work, and then do the MM.

I must say that if you were my kid, I would ask you to make this decision regardless of future career- though you seem passionate enough about teaching. Do you love piano? I really believe that things can work out for you either way, and that you should do what you “want” to do" rather than what you “should” do. But without a lot of loans!

Another option is to do a BA in music or even a bachelor’s in something else and continuing lessons and extracurricular performance. And if you still want to do music ed, do it afterward, depending on cost.

Have you read the Double Degree Dilemma essay posted in the Rad Me thread up top?

Since you are in NJ - take a look at Boyer @ Temple - they have an excellent music ed department and tend to be quite generous with their scholarships for those students (and merit aid too!). One other item to note is ensuring whichever school you choose will allow you to teach in the state you’d like eventually to reside in.

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Sorry - in this business, unless funds are unlimited or the appetite for debt is unlimited, I would not advise someone who loves kids and is happily contemplating a career teaching in the schools to consider a less direct path (BA in music or BM in piano performance with the thought of getting certified later) to that goal.

The OP seems pretty clear on the career goal. It is also getting very close to deadlines for applications. Given the concern about finances expressed by the OP, I think they are being very practical and realistic in the situation. (Would you like me to name piano international competition winners from major conservatories with multiple performance degrees that I am personally acquainted with that have not been able find piano/music jobs in academia or as concert performers? I certainly can. Multiple.)

It is fine to encourage certain students to dream big - but this student seems to have determined a life goal of a career in music ed working with the kids they love. That is just the kind of enthusiasm that is needed in the field. Why discourage or confuse that goal? If it is not the right path, the OP will recognize that during the undergrad years.

Not all students and families have the luxury of believing that a college career should be decided “regardless of future career”. And, some students (and families) are more comfortable leaving college with a degree that can lead to a defined career path and job upon graduation. Nothing wrong with that.

Again…I suggest this poster look at the well regarded music education program at the College of New Jersey.

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No need to disagree here. I just like to offer alternative viewpoints in case the OP feels pressure to do music ed versus performance. I know many performance majors who are employed so our experiences are different. Believe me, my viewpoint is hardly from a position of privilege financially.

Thank you everyone for the suggestions! TCNJ would be a really good option to add to my list, and I plan on doing so immediately. I do have a close relationship with both the choir and band teachers so I plan on talking to them for their advice as well.

One thing I should have mentioned earlier but did not notice until now is that all of the schools that have music education options end up on the higher end of financial cost on my net price calculator, including TCNJ and Rutgers. Would any of your opinions change based on this new information?

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Miami/Frost could be a good addition to your list if the location works for you.

As with Temple, U of Cincinnati can be quite affordable with merit; the Music Ed BM in CCM could be worth a look. WVU can be an OOS bargain as well, and I’ve known some very successful music educators who loved their time there. Miami of Ohio is another where you’d get good merit with your stats. They incorporate clinical experiences in public schools throughout out all four years (not just for seniors like many programs) which is a great feature.

My S23 is considering music ed and would only be applying to music ed programs. His voice teacher is telling him he may have a better chance as he is a male bass but I’m not sure how true that is and if it really matters in music ed.

Currently he has several schools on “his” list but that is because I work for a college and there may be some free or reduced tuition options.

Another thing to consider is, where do you want to live and teach? The reason that I say this is that music ed (and all teaching, in general) is very provincial, meaning that the school districts are used to hiring locally educated students. For example, in my area, there are a number of U Hartford and UConn and Connecticut State College grads teaching, because the student teaching components of these schools place students in CT classrooms, and then (hopefully) they get hired.

So if you want to make your life in NJ, choose a NJ program. Philly? Temple, if they give you enough money. Central CT? U Hartford, if they give you enough money.

Assuming you have a great student teaching experience, the easiest pathway to a job is getting one in the district where you student taught, and in the state where you are certified. It’s so much tougher if you want to go teach in a state where you’re not already certified.

Just for an example, decades ago we found out that in the Salt Lake City area, this is how the paper files of teaching applicants were sorted. BYU grads, U of Utah grads, Westminster College grads, and OTHER. Not by name - by which school you had attended - the local, known ones, or “other”. I’m sure it’s not done that way anymore, since obviously everything is done on computer now, but to the administration, the most important thing was the local school, and anyone who’d gone to an out of state school was viewed as an outsider.

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