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Music Ed vs. Choral Conducting MM

Hi, I am a 21-year-old-soon-to-be graduate with a BME! I have been studying classical voice for 4 years but also have experience playing flute in band for 10 years. My goals are teaching at the secondary level (choir or band with a preference for choir), and eventually at the collegiate level. Or perhaps working in arts administration or advocacy i.e. at a performing arts center. I'm currently working as a receptionist in a music store, teaching private voice lessons there, and singing in church choirs in addition to finishing coursework.

After graduation, I'm debating A. applying for jobs and trying to gain more experience OR B. going straight to graduate school. For option A, I am open to just about anything EXCEPT an elementary music job, which is what seems to be the most available for new graduates. If I choose option B, two main questions emerge.. 1. What will I study? The main debate is between a MM in Music Ed., perhaps with a focus in conducting, MM in Choral Conducting, or perhaps something like Arts Administration (I have experience and interest in Music Business). 2. WHERE? I'm originally from Virginia and like that area.. I've never been to the Midwest or Pacific Coast so I'm interested but slightly tentative. I am in a relationship with someone who is likely to be going to graduate school in Florida for the next two years, so ideally I would like to remain in or near Florida. However, I do not want to limit myself and am open to all opinions/advice. I think it's most important to me to work with someone who is knowlegeable in the field of choral music but is also progressive and aware of how the field of music is changing. Someone who ideally appreciates my band experience as well. Also **VERY** important -- I need all of the costs to be covered. Ideally via an assistantship that involves teaching/conducting or helping with officework/music admissions... I have training/experience in all of those things. Thanks in advance!!!
on July 26, 2015 8:44pm
Hi Samantha,
I would personally suggest focusing on getting a job before attending graduate school. I taught for two years before getting my masters degree in conducting and it was the smartest thing I could do.  First, if you go right into grad school you don't yet know who you are as a teacher. You might think you know, but you will evolve in what you think is important, etc.  my suggestion is to take a job, including elementary to get experience and then go back. You might even be able to find a summers only program and teach and work at the same time. 
 
Also you will want to take time to check out the people who will be your main professors and that their agenda fits your ideology as well.
 
good luck!
 
kyle 
Applauded by an audience of 6
on July 27, 2015 6:46am
Agreed with Kyle. The best advice I got when considering the same thing was, "Go out and figure out what you don't know....then go to grad school."
 
After my BME I got a double Masters in wind conducting and clarinet performance. Personally, I think a conducting degree will be more practical given the track of your interest. It's a better way, in my opinion, to develop the rehearsal technique and score study skills that you are going to need. I'm willing to bet as well that you might be a little more likely to find a graduate assistantship in a university choral department working for the DCA and maybe get some valuable podium time with non-major ensembles along with that. 
 
Had I to do it over again, I'd consider conducting and music business instead, given the trajectory my life has ultimately taken. But hindsight is always 20/20! Good luck, hope this is helpful.
 
Tom Merrill
Applauded by an audience of 1
on July 27, 2015 6:52am
Samantha,
 
Congrats on graduating. You made it through Theory, Form and Analysis, and juries!
There are many MM's out there. Sometimes having a Master's is actually a bad thing from a hiring perspective; a BME candidate is cheaper for a school district. 
I woudl recommend life experience first. Save up some money for grad school (though it's best to find a school that will pay most of your way.) 

As far as MM vs. MME, your work experience will help guide you on that decision. Luckily, there are several places (such as Colorado and Hartt), that allow you to combine degrees. Also, many schools allow or encourage a "minor" or "cognate" while in grad school.
 
Best wishes!
Applauded by an audience of 2
on July 28, 2015 6:12am
Eric makes an excellent point that was also advice I received: school districts for the most part are much more likely to hire an inexperienced teacher with a BME over an MM because of pay schedule requirements. I'll also add that Colorado is a great music school--my wife has a MM in flute performance from there. 
Applauded by an audience of 1
on July 28, 2015 10:57am
Samantha, 
 
Just for the sake of offering a different opinion and experience:
 
I went straight from my undergrad program (BME) into graduate school.  I grew up an instrumentalist and actually began an MM program in Clarinet Performance before moving schools and deciding to pursue choral music.  If I had gone straight in to a teaching situation, I  would have been completely lost.  The experience I gained in my MM program (Choral Conducting, Mercer University, Macon, GA) was absolutely invaluable to my teaching career.  Perhaps this path worked best for me because I was coming from across the instrumental/choral divide, but still.  
 
I will have to agree with Eric in that sometimes it is more difficult to get a job with that MM behind your name; school districts know they have to pay you more.  However, that doesn't mean it's impossible.
 
Also, I think it is imperative to you remember that once you step outside of the student role and into teaching, your decisions, abilities, and growth affect people other than yourself: your students.  Their musical lives and experiences will be dramatically affected by you, and that is a huge responsibility.  Make sure that when you make your decision, you consider the lives and musical experiences of those whom you will teach.
 
If you decide to pursue a degree rather than employment, do two things:
1) Check out http://www.gradmusic.org/.  A gentleman named Alan Davis has taken the time to list programs around the country who offer graduate degrees in Composition, Choral Conducting, Music Education, and Musicology.  He groups them by geographical region and lists the professors who run each program.  A simply fantastic website!
 
2) Consider Mercer University.  Dr. C. David Keith (Dean of the Townsend School of Music) and Dr. Stanley L. Roberts (Director of Choral Studies, Assistant Dean) have both dramatically affected my life for the better.  The experience and education I received there helped me to land two great jobs in my home state of North Carolina.
 
Good luck and God bless!
 
Josh Cheney
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