It Sounds So Sweet: Becoming a Music Teacher

If you’re musically inclined and love spreading the happiness of music around to others, consider becoming a music teacher. For many students, music class comes as a welcome break in the school day. Instead of studying academic subjects, they get a chance to do something they really enjoy-listening to and making music, whether it’s singing in the school choir or learning to play an instrument in the band.

If you think you might like to become a music educator, you should apply your natural talent to learning how to play as many different instruments as possible, such as piano, trumpet, and drums. You should also take private lessons to learn basic voice techniques. Most schools expect music educators to be able to play at least one instrument, teach singing skills, and conduct an orchestra or band. Gaining practical teaching experience by giving private music lessons or volunteering at a summer music camp will help in your ultimate certification process, and it also looks great on your résumé when you’re applying for jobs.

The steps to becoming a teacher of music include the following:

  • A Bachelor’s Degree. This is the basic level of education that both public and private schools usually require. Some states require a master’s, which you can earn within a certain amount of time after you start teaching. You can earn either a bachelor’s degree in music education, in which training as a music teacher is included in the curricula, or you can earn your bachelor’s in a music-related area such as music history, theory, or performance and then complete a teacher education program. Course work is usually a mixture of liberal arts, music teaching methods, and music classes such as instrument or vocal study, conducting, rehearsal techniques, music writing and arranging, harmony, ear training, and musical theory. Most music majors also attend live concerts or recitals for firsthand observation of musical genres, performances, and conducting techniques, for which you will receive credit toward graduation. As with all teacher education programs, you will also spend a semester doing student teaching.
  • Certification. Each individual state’s certification requirements are different but usually involve earning a bachelor’s degree as well as passing the national standardized PRAXIS series of tests in musical education. If you plan to teach in public schools, you must also apply for a teaching license from your state, which is usually a specialist license allowing you to teach your subject to all grade levels.

Once you begin teaching music, you will find your career to contain a lot of variety. Your educational techniques will differ depending on what grade level you are teaching. With elementary students, you will instruct them in the general basics of music such as note reading, rhythm, and singing while focusing on more particular areas such as choral groups or marching bands for older students. You may teach specific music classes such as music theory as well as any optional music courses your school offers. You will probably also be involved in many extracurricular activities as a music teacher, such as the pep band or the drama group.

On the downside, you often have to teach students who have no natural musical talent without adversely affecting the overall performance of the whole group. Music educators also are prone to job cuts during tough economic times.