Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Teaching Music 101 - 5 tips for students who want to become music teachers

Occasionally, I get find myself in conversations with high school and college students who are hoping to become music teachers.   Recently, this seems to happen more often.  Here are the things that I tell my young friends when I have the chance.

Disclaimer:  Remember, these tips are especially for students hoping to become music teachers because that is the career that I know the most about.... 

1.  PRACTICE PIANO!!!!   - It doesn't matter what instrument you hope to specialize in while in college.  It doesn't matter that you have taken piano lessons since you were 3.  It doesn't matter that you've never even seen a piano. Please practice!  Practicing piano is important for these reasons

  • If you actually are an accomplished pianist, you can find work while in school and will be able to pursue really cool opportunities that will set you apart from other students. Those with the best skills entering in as freshman will be ahead of the game! 
  • If your piano skills are lacking - NOW is the time to get on the ball.  Most music degrees carry a piano requirement and in order to continue with your study you will have to pass a piano barrier. Don't let a lack of piano keep you from pursuing something you love, when a little hard work and dedication can get you to where you need to be.  
2.  BE INVOLVED!!!!  - Participating in musical ensembles will help you with the basics.  Often, there are opportunities to compete in a Solo and Ensemble setting or as a part of of an All-Region, or All-State competition.  Pursue those opportunities as an avenue to scholarship money.   The distinctions you earn as part of an ensemble or as a soloist can have a huge impact on the opportunities available to you as an entering freshman.  

3.  WORK WITH CHILDREN!  - As it turns out, spending every day with a room full of children is harder than you might imagine.  When you are working on your music education degree, there will be classes embedded in your program that try their best to prepare you for the realities of the classroom.  However, nothing can replace real live "boots on the ground" experience.  Seek opportunities to work with children's choirs at your local church.  Get a summer job at the YMCA  as a camp counselor.  Babysit.  Figure out how to redirect children without exasperating them.   Sing with children.  Teach the children in your life a song.  

4.  LEARN A NEW INSTRUMENT!!!  - More instruments mean more opportunities.  Take lessons now so that later, you won't be clueless.  University level private lessons move fast.  If you are a complete beginner you may find yourself REALLY squeezed for time.   

5.  LEARN YOUR THEORY!   - When I got my first letter from the School of Music that I had enrolled, it contained a list of things that would be included on my entrance exam that they use to place incoming freshman.  I literally had to take my letter to my choir teacher and have him explain things to me.... I was not a theory novice, but neither did I have what I needed to make a good start.  If you have access to an AP Theory class at your high school, take it.  If not, then take advantage of the internet and catch up. Between websites like musictheory.net and youtube, you should be able to create a good start in theory for yourself.  

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