Online Music Degree

"If music be the food of love, play on!" Shakespeare was on to something, and in the case of future music teachers his words couldn't ring truer. If your passion for music extends to the classroom, where you can teach students of all ages how to appreciate and play music, a career in music education is for you! To become a music teacher, you will need to earn a degree in music education or earn a dual degree in education and music. Read on to learn more about music education degrees and careers.

The Importance of Music Education

Learning about the history of music is an engaging way to learn about history itself. Want to know more about the madcap adventures of bootleggers and flappers during The Roaring Twenties? Study the groundbreaking singers and jazz artists of The Jazz Age such as Billie Holiday and Duke Ellington. Interested in the counter-culture movement of the 1960s? Start with the protest songs that grew into popular folk music by artists including Janis Joplin and The Beatles.

Of course, music and education have long been linked. In fact, studies have linked music education to a host of desirable outcomes including higher SAT scores, lower dropout rates, better emotional health, higher GPAs, and greater financial achievement in adulthood. The National Association for Music Education also believes that musical education can help prepare students for the 21st century workforce.

Great teachers know the value of music firsthand. According to the Department of Public Instruction, a recent 2017 finalist for the Teacher of the Year award was an instrumental music teacher and band director named Chris Gleason, who says his teaching is all about looking at life through the lens of another person to consider new and different points of view.  A career as a music educator offers those with musical talent and ability an appealing opportunity to share new perspectives, practice their chosen disciplines, and open the world of music - and all its joys - to a new generation.

Music Education Job Description

Music educators are employed in a variety of roles, from elementary classroom teachers to high school band directors. They work in public and private schools at all levels teaching general music, vocal music, instrumental music or some combination of these specialties.

Musical educators understand the importance of music fundamentals and are able to communicate those crucial steps to their students. Their ability to emotionally connect with students and believe in their potential to master the craft is essential, as is their willingness to fade into the background and let the students shine.

Most music teachers frequently put in additional time outside the regular school day for student auditions, rehearsals and concerts.

Types of Music Teachers:

  • General music teachers: These teachers help their students develop musical understanding, knowledge, and skill by instructing them in listening, historical study, musical composition and performance.
  • Vocal music teachers: These musical educators work with individuals or groups of students in developing vocal performance skills.
  • Instrumental music teachers: They teach students of all ages to play instruments. When students get older, instrumental teachers typically stand in front of their students and direct them as they play.

Music Education Teacher Requirements

To teach music in a public school, you will typically need at least a bachelor's degree in music along with a teacher certification or a degree in music education. Many music teachers have a master's degree as well.

The National Association for Music Education (NAfME) recommends that students interested in pursuing a music major at the college level be able to read music and have private instruction in piano and another primary instrument or voice.

In addition, you will need to be a serious student of music in both theory and practice. In an article for NAfME about what it takes to be a music major, Dr. Louis A. Menchaca, professor of music and director of instrumental music at Concordia University Wisconsin in Mequon, identified four key areas which music majors must master: music history, music theory, applied studio study and keyboard skills.

Music teachers must be competent in a variety of instruments and vocal techniques, so teacher preparation programs expose students to a variety of musical instruments and skills - not just the student's specialty instrument.

All 50 states require music teachers to be licensed. Exact requirements vary but most states require a bachelor's degree of education, student teaching internship and a passing score on a comprehensive exam such as the Praxis. You should check with the education department of the state in which you plan to teach for more specific information.

Music Education Career Outlook

The job outlook is generally sunny for prospective music teachers. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the field of music does not employ many workers and the music teachers that go into the field find salaries on par with the average elementary, middle or high school teacher, which ranges from $56,900 per year to $59,170 (2017). The growth for these teachers is expected to continue with national averages, but music programs may be more likely to be cut from school funding today than other programs. This means that while candidates in the music field can reasonably expect to find a desirable position, they may need to be willing to relocate.

However, the outlook for music teachers at colleges and universities are more likely to experience faster than average employment growth. The BLS reports that median annual wages of postsecondary art, drama and music teachers in 2017 was $78,720.

Many music teachers supplement their regular salary by sponsoring extracurricular activities such as marching band or by offering private music lessons as well.

Experienced music educators also may choose to pursue certification through the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards, which does not replace state certification. Instead, it is an additional certificate that recognizes a higher level of professional experience and achievement and sometimes results in a pay increase.

Online Music Teacher Education Programs

If you currently hold a bachelor's degree and are a certified music educator, you can opt to maintain your current position and still earn a graduate degree from an online university. Bachelor's degrees in music education are not available online, but several schools offer online degrees at the master's level, and a few schools offer doctoral degrees.

The way online programs are structured varies somewhat between schools, but the majority of online programs in music education include a capstone project and/or internship once all other units are successfully completed. The time it takes to finish an online degree depends greatly on a student's work ethic and schedule. Master's and doctorate degrees may take as little as 18 months or as long as two-and-a-half years to complete. Classes cover topics such as the psychology and sociology of music, music history, the philosophy of music education, music technology, advanced conducting, music theory and pedagogy.

Online degree programs are ideal for music educators who already have experience in the field and are self-driven and disciplined. Those who learn better with the structure and discipline of the classroom environment may wish to enroll in on-campus courses.

Online Music Degree Options

Three options for online programs in music education include those offered by Boston University, Kent State University and the East Carolina University School of Music.

Boston University's Master of Music in music education program is designed for people who already have a bachelor's degree in music education and want to advance their careers through higher learning. Students have the opportunity to interact with professors and colleagues through email, message boards and online chat sessions.

Kent State University also offers a Master of Music in music education. In addition to possessing a bachelor's degree in music education, applicants also must be fully licensed in at least one state and have a minimum undergraduate GPA of 3.0. In 2017, Kent State was named one of the top hidden gem music school programs in the United States due to their high-quality music educational programs.

The Master of Music in music education program offered by the East Carolina University School of Music consists of 36 semester hours and includes courses in curriculum issues, trends in music education and pedagogy.

Curriculum for a Bachelor's in Music Education

If you have a passion for music and a desire to share your knowledge with students, a well-planned curriculum is essential to becoming a good music teacher. Course curriculum may include the following classes:

Introduction to Music Appreciation

This course introduces you to the philosophy, history and current trends of teaching music appreciation to students of all ages. The evolution of music from a historical perspective is discussed as a learning experience that defines how the masters' contributions have impacted and developed classical to modern music.

Guidelines for teaching methods may also be discussed and explored. The following components of teaching may be included:

  • Preparing lesson plans and curriculum
  • Critiquing oral presentations and performances
  • Strategies for classroom collaboration and maintaining discipline
  • Preparing and organizing students for presentations

Teaching Music to Diverse Cultural Populations

As a music educator, you need understand and respect the diverse backgrounds of your multicultural students. Diverse musical experiences should be a formal aspect of your classroom's curricula. Artists from different places and time periods are introduced into the classroom for study, appreciation and discussion. Students are encouraged to perform various musical interpretations in the classroom.

Student activities are designed with best practices as guided by grand learning theories and the incorporation of historical musical themes. Pedagogy in music is approached by increasing awareness of diverse cultures, interpersonal communication and appropriate discussion of content.

The Human Experience in Music

The artistic experience of music is essential to the understanding of the humanities through creating, listening and movement. Music teachers respect the contributions of each unique student and design a stimulating and creative environment for classroom activities. Aspiring teachers will analyze music as related to the elements of harmony, timbre, dynamics, form and melody.

Conducting, score reading and rehearsal techniques are explored and described as related to the realm of education. A strong foundation of music learning theories is also incorporated into the playing and teaching of music for young children to adolescents. This course may include the assignments that are related to teaching large and small ensembles, providing individual and class teaching techniques and the adaption of learning styles for unique students in the classroom.

Curriculum and Design in Music Instruction

Music requires a well-designed curriculum that creates a creative and stimulating music program. Learning styles for children and adolescents vary and well-planned programs are easily adapted to conform to the needs of individual learners. A curriculum that is constructed developmentally appropriate for young children generally encourages appreciation through music through the following methods:

  • Listening
  • Movement
  • Performing
  • Evoking Emotions

Teaching adolescents may present more challenges due to their age-related social and developmental characteristics. Music taught to secondary students may be more successful if it is related to their identity, cultural aspects and their desire for recognition. Theoretical frameworks of learning guide the design and evaluation of music curriculum.

Music Teaching Practicum

As your curriculum progresses to the completion, which should take about four years, you may be required to complete a teaching practicum that provides you with the experience of teaching music to an actual classroom. As a student teacher, you may choose your age preference and construct a project for your students to complete. In addition, you may use the learning theories, educational research and evaluation tools to evaluate your class activities, project or lesson plan for successful outcomes. Successful teachers apply patience, a sense of humor and a dedicated focus to the classroom planning for best practices of learning.

If you're passionate about becoming a music teacher, check out the schools below to get information on music education degrees.

Curriculum for a Master's in Music Education

The decision to further one's career in music education makes a lot of sense. Practically speaking, salaries for music educators generally increase with master's degrees, and that "bump" in salary will end up paying off in the long run. Additionally, the coursework offered at the graduate level is more complex and often more intellectually engaging than that offered to undergrads. Finally, the classmates you will meet in graduate school – whether in person or online – will push you to develop both your craft and your methodology, and may turn into life-long friends and colleagues. Most programs take two years to complete.


Entrance Requirements for a Master's in Music Education

While the requirements for a master's in music education vary by institution, most programs require the following:

  • A bachelor's degree in music
  • Letters of recommendation
  • Teaching experience (not necessarily required, but often encouraged)
  • Statement of purpose
  • Teaching or Performance Video

Below is a sampling of courses you are likely to be offered as a graduate student in a Master's of Music program. While these courses are offered at Boston University, similar courses are offered at other institutions.

Power, Marginalization, and Privilege in Music Education

This social-justice oriented course aims to create reflective students who are able to recognize the ways in which music is impacted by bias and privilege on a personal and societal scale. Upon completion of the course, students will be informed practitioners who are able to advocate for change that benefits the industry and their students alike.

Community Music Perspectives

Students in this course will explore the growth and development of community music through project-based work that culminates in the ability to develop a personal vision for community music.

American Music

This course will immerse students in the various influences that impacted music in the colonies. A wide range of influences will be studied, including African America, Spanish-Mexican, Indian and European.

Scholarships for Music Education

  • The Strings Magazine Scholarship Award: For undergraduates majoring in Music Education or Music Performance of string instruments. $3,000 scholarships are awarded to students who demonstrate financial need, academic achievement, and community service.
  • Sigma Alpha Iota Scholarship: For graduate students in music education. $1500 award to applicant with teaching experience who is a member of the SAI in good standing.
  • The BMI Foundation: Multiple scholarships are available at both the undergraduate and graduate level, and range from awards for young jazz performers to country songwriters.

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