Many music educators can point to a specific mentor (or mentors) who made the idea of becoming a music educator seem like a real possibility to them. Encouraging students interested in music education, and providing them with related experiences, can be extremely rewarding. Not only can this encouragement produce very real long-term benefits to your program, it can play a significant role in shaping the future of a young person’s life.
Throughout the course of my teaching, my colleagues and I would try to identify students who are considering a career in music or music education as early as possible. Once we knew a student expressed an interest in entering the profession we would – as a faculty – provide nurturing experiences. Our goal was both to fuel their enthusiasm and to make them aware of the rigors of teaching and what it takes to be a teacher.
Among the experiences we provided were several opportunities to conduct various ensembles. This included teaching them a basic pattern and allowing them varied opportunities to conduct student groups. Our school was fortunate to have three conductors so there were several opportunities for students to gain experience in leading a group and honing their conducting skills.
We also encouraged these students to explore becoming a drum major in the marching band. Learning how to inspire and emote are great lessons to learn early on in your career.
In addition, we would design our lessons to get these future music educators more familiar with different techniques used to increase technical and musical abilities. At certain points in the process, we would allow the student to take over and lead the group through some of the exercises and material. It was important for us that interested students were able to observe other teachers in our departments, too. This enabled them not only to discover how their styles differed but also to see the many similarities.
Our summer music program included opportunities for future music educators to volunteer to mentor fellow students. Each participant would be assigned to a different teacher during the five-week program and experience the different styles and strategies each teacher employed. Again, we found it to most beneficial when students rotated through our entire faculty.
Through our Tri-M Music Honor Society program, students were given opportunities to assist elementary music teachers after or before school hours. Students were also able to use these same hours for credit in National Honor Society towards community service. This experience can help a young person decide very quickly if they have a strong enough desire to enter the profession.
We have had great success in getting good people from our program into the music classroom. In fact, a majority of the faculty at our school are graduates of our program. Among the many resulting benefits is that we gain quality additions to our faculty AND these people are especially invested in our programs, people, and traditions.
I encourage you to do everything you can to support your future music educators. I believe this support is vital to the future of music education.