What I didn’t Learn Getting My Music Degree

shutterstock_107992085 copyAn Exploratory Study of Graduate Student Musicians’ Expressed Opinions of Career Development Opportunities

Written by Jennifer Slaughter and D. Gregory Springer
Volume: 55 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.18177/sym.2015.55.sr.10889

This post originally appeared on the College Music Symposium website. C4E wishes to thank The College Music Society and the authors for allowing us to re-post on our blog.

 

This fascinating study explores college level music education and how graduating music students responded to questions about the role of higher education, the importance of experiential learning, entrepreneurship, career management skills, and the need for better advising.

Too much emphasis is on playing an instrument well, theory, and music history …. They are extremely important, but not more important than the ability to promote oneself, understand personal and business finances, how to navigate taxes for musicians or freelancers, how to utilize and promote recordings, run your own recital, start a recital series, manage a studio, etc. — survey response.

Abstract

The purpose of this exploratory study was to investigate graduate students’ expressed opinions of career development opportunities in their prior undergraduate music degrees. Respondents (N = 114) were a national sample of graduate student musicians drawn from the membership of a multidisciplinary professional music organization who completed a researcher-designed survey instrument. Results suggested that entrepreneurship coursework was absent from a majority of respondents’ undergraduate curricula and that career advisement varied across institutions. Respondents also reported a lack of undergraduate preparation among a variety of professional skill areas, even though they also rated many of these skill areas to be important for career success. Significant differences observed between the “undergraduate preparation” and “importance for success” ratings among 19 out of 24 professional skill areas suggest that these musicians perceived their undergraduate education to inadequately prepare them for certain skills needed for professional success. Implications for tertiary music programs are discussed.

Over the last few centuries, music education at the university and conservatory level has operated in a fashion deeply rooted within classical Western European traditions. As technology and the economy have developed, however, it is possible that these antiquated systems may no longer fit the profiles of 21st-century musicians who seek a variety of professional careers, including such careers as arts administrators, music publishers, arrangers, recording artists, and music librarians, among others. To provide a more relevant undergraduate education for all music students and to equip them with the necessary professional skills for successful music careers, music institutions might consider ways to adapt to changing career profiles by offering applicable coursework in entrepreneurship, career education, and music business.

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