Thornton, L. & Bergee, M. (2008). Career choice influences among music education students at majors schools of music. Bulletin of the Council for Research in Music Education (177) 7-17.
Linda Thornton and Martin Bergee conducted an interesting survey exploring why students choose to major in music education. Their sample included 242 undergraduate students from music schools at 12 large research universities in the United States.
Participants were asked to indicate the influences that led them to choose music education. The results for the top influences were: influence of ‘important others’ 24%; love of music 20%; love of teaching 11%; and participation in a musical organization 10%. These results mirrors what I see in my interviews of prospective music education students at Rowan University. While music is a central component in their decisions, the social factors play a critical role as well.
Another interesting aspect of the study explored the students’ post-college plans. The respondents’ plans included: 70% teaching, 13% graduate school, 5% leave music, and 4% music (non-teaching). When asked how to best recruit future music teachers, the respondents’ top two suggestions were: providing opportunities to teach (18%), and demonstrations of job satisfaction (15%).
Recruiting future music teachers has been a topic of concern across the country. It is certainly an ongoing priority of NJMEA here in New Jersey. This study points to the important role that music teachers play as our best resource for recruiting future music teachers. As ‘important others’ and professional role models who have daily contact with potential music majors, they have a great deal of influence. Ethically, teachers need to provide counsel that is in their students’ best interest, of course. However, by accurately reflecting their job satisfaction to their students and by working to provide opportunities for peer and cadet teaching, teachers can share their excitement for music teaching and help their students make a more informed career choice.