Careers in Music Education
Elementary/Primary School Music Teacher
Elementary school music teachers work in public, private, or parochial schools. Their duties vary depending on the school and the ages and grades they teach, but for the most part they teach a general music class in kindergarten through sixth grade, introducing students to the different aspects of music and the varying degrees of skill study. They must often follow guidelines for what they teach that are set up by the school music department heads, district music supervisors, and state music education supervisors.
Secondary School Music Teacher
Secondary school music teachers generally teach in grades seven through twelve, and they work in public, private, or parochial schools. Their duties vary depending on the type of job they are hired for. They may teach specifically on one instrument or many. They may be responsible for leading a school band, orchestra, or choir, and for putting on school concerts and competitions. They may handle rehearsals and conduct the school groups as well.
College/Conservatory/University Music Educator
College/conservatory/university music educators may be hired for a variety of different positions. They may be brought into a school as a general music educator to teach areas of music theory, music arranging, music history, or vocal or instrumental performance. Educators are also hired to coach chamber music groups or to conduct choruses or orchestras.
A private instructor usually does not work through a school, but gives individual instruction to students on a regular basis. They set their own fees, unless contracted by a music store or teaching group, and develop their own teaching plans and guidelines. Private instructors may work alone out of an office or home, with a group of teachers, or at a music store that offers lessons. They may teach individual lessons or offer group lessons. Lessons generally run 45 minutes to one hour and are usually scheduled once a week. They may teach at different levels of skill, from beginner to professional.
A choir director provides direction and guidance to a vocal group or choir in a school, church, or elsewhere in the community. The choir director is responsible for researching and selecting material, rehearsing and conducting the choir, and preparing and presenting public performances of the choir.
Music Education Supervisor (or School Music Supervisor)
A school music supervisor is responsible for directing and coordinating activities of teaching personnel who are engaged in instructing students in vocal and instrumental music in a specific school or school system. This person may teach a few days a week and administer programs in the remaining days. The music supervisor plans and develops the music education curriculum.
“As a Berklee student, I had the unique opportunity to interact with and hear music of so many different people, which I consider to be so important.” - Kristen Nunes
Independent Primary or Secondary School Music Teacher
These teachers work specifically at private, independent, parochial, or cooperative home school programs. Usually state certification is not required to work at these schools.
Primarily, a music therapist uses music as an aid in healing, relieving pain, providing emotional comfort, and even entertaining patients with various mental and physical health related ailments. A music therapist develops a treatment plan and applies various strategic techniques to accomplish goals for the patient’s improvement. It is also a unique opportunity to help and contribute to improving the lives of patients who are at various stages of illness and recovery. Music therapists work either freelance or in clinical settings such as in hospitals, nursing homes, psychiatric centers, and oncology and pain management treatment centers, as well as in drug treatment programs, correctional facilities, and hospice care programs.
The music librarian is responsible for cataloging scores, recordings, and song folios, and they work primarily at an educational institution such a school, college, or university. Employers in this field generally prefer a master's degree in library science.