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Is there a demand for secondary music teachers?

Discussion in 'Music' started by Graysky, Jun 13, 2008.

  1. I think Brookey has just made a really good point (God, how patronising!).

    Although I am sure it does not apply to people here, I do know others who are hanging out for their dream job and are unwilling to lower their sights.

    When I got my PGCE in the '90s, the economy was in the toilet and there were few teaching jobs. In only one week in the year was there a separate jobs section in the TES, and that was the only week there was more than one page of music ads. The schools I was looking at wanted the assistant to have "outstanding keyboard skills" and with the best will in the world my puny piano skills were not going to win me any jobs in those schools.

    I lowered my sights, and on the last Thursday in July I got a 3 days a week job in a boys comp. I did four years in two schools which I would not have dreamed of teaching at during my PGCE year. The skills I picked up at these schools made me much more marketable and I was then fortunate to get my 'dream' job. I'm still at that school, 8 years later, and still happy to go to work (almost) every morning.

    What's for you doesn't miss you, as my grandmother used to say. Hang in there!
  2. Thanks eveyone I feel so much better. Luckly I do have a music degree and was trained at a conservatoire so i'm hoping that will go in my favour.
  3. Thanks for all the responses, they are very helpful.

    As pointed out, I don't think I am exactly "holding out" for a dream job, I've done as many applications as I have had time to do. I've applied to grammar schools, to good comps, to academies and everything in between. I used to to consulting work on job applications, so I spend 3-4 hours on each application researching the school and tailoring CV and cover letter to fit the exact requirements of the school, so I haven't been able to send applications to every single advert but I've tried to make every application count. The only restrictions I've had were applying in the London area (I've lived here for 9 years and would rather stay near where my friends are), and full time positions (as a full-time position would make work permit applications easier).

    The comments about non-music teachers possibly being incapable of teaching music don't seem unreasonable to me... lots of my fellow diploma students certainly would not be knowledgeable enough to teach even beginners! Of course, I'm sure there are music graduates who can't teach music either... I don't expect to be offered a job that I can't do, I'm just looking for the OPPORTUNITY to show a school that I can actually teach. 30 applications and not one interview means something must be really wrong with my application.

    As this thread seems to indicate, the lack of a music degree may well be just that. When I started doing my PGCE, I assumed that the fact that I got onto a PGCE and passed should indicate that I have some kind of base-level ability to teach music, but I suppose all applicants have that anyway. Never mind that... the question now for me is how can I simply get an interview and to teach a sample lesson? I'm confident that if I at least got an interview, I could address any concerns and my teaching would speak for itself. I plan to do a Grade 8 in music theory to put that one to rest, and to try and visit prospective schools - is there anything else I can do?
  4. maybe you could do an ABRSM teaching diploma. I'm planning to do one and i'm also eventually hoping to do one in music directing so i could run a choir or ensemble. I'm sure you will get a job soon. Once you have got a job i'm sure any employers after that will see that you can teach music well and you'll never have a problem finding a job.

  5. Don't forget, most people with a straight Music degree from a reputable university will probably have a string of grade VIIIs to their name as well formal musicological training. Most Music degrees have fairly hefty perfoaming modules at post grade VIII level anyway. So it's not as simple as "performing dilplma types can only play" and "Music degree types" can only analyse.

    When I'm shortlisting I look for good A levels, a good degree and conducting, keyboard, vocal and instrumental skills- ideally all of them.
  6. pauljoecoe

    pauljoecoe New commenter

    When looking at job applications I looked for:

    Good performance skills (preferaly G8 on main instrument.

    The ability to play keyboard well enough to accompiany a class singing/demostrating ideas to a class.

    Good enough knowledge and understanding to teach up to A level grade A! (Elitism alive and well here if that means having the ability to teach to the level that your students my be)

    Experience which could make up for lack qualifications. Needs to be impressive.

    A good feeling from the appication that the candidate will be committed, hardworking, have a sense of humour, intellegent and not a weirdo.

    There were just to many very average applications of people that had undertaken poor courses that didn't prepare for teaching at all.

  7. Not a weirdo? That should knock out most music teachers!

    As a partial aside musicmakerman, I notice you talking about work permits. Can I take it that you did not go through the UK education system? Although it may be irrational, I (and other HoDs) like to look for someone who has been through the GCSE (or O level if older) and A level mill. While I would not discount someone who had gone through another country's system, that combined with the lack of a degree may well be your problem.

    If you are interested, my hit list for an ideal candidate would be:

    CV: 'A' grade at A level, reasonably high other grades, UK Music degree from a reputable university, PGCE. Gd8 piano (to compensate for my lack of it!).

    Letter: Have read my person and job spec and have responded. No spelling or grammar errors. Get a feel for the person from their letter. Awareness of music and other educational issues.

    Interview: Interest in music as a lively, practical subject, an advocate, someone I can work with and have a laugh with but who complements me.

    Last time, there was only one who fit the bill so we snapped him up. The others were not even close!
  8. brookey1970

    brookey1970 New commenter

    When appointing to my dept I would consider classroom management by number one priority. If a candidate could deliver to 9Z straight after lunch (especially as a NQT) I would be more impressed than if they were a grade VIII violist. As muso-tim says, some experience in challenging schools can provide a real insight and be of immense benefit - it certainly was for me. Sure, good performance skills and other musical attributes are desirable but they mean NOTHING without priority #1. (And, of course, you don't need grade VIII etc. to possess them.)

  9. florian gassmann

    florian gassmann Star commenter

    I thought post 15 was a bit odd ("Teachers who have a university based music degree are often less qualified"). When I took my music degree it was necessary to have a Grade 8 distinction in a first instrument, and ability in a second instrument, to even start the course. Most of us took an advanced diploma of some sort in the second year (an ARCM or LRSM or similar). Performance wasn't part of the course - you were just expected to be very competent at it, just as in a modern language degree you would be expetced to speak the language fluently in order to study the literature required.

    But I agree that teaching skills ("classroom management skills" suggests a certain type of pupil to me, I'm afraid) are at least as important as musical skills. We really do have to master an awful lot, don't we?
  10. hoildaysrule

    hoildaysrule New commenter

    I?m sorry you find my post a bit odd, (by the way I'm not).
    I suppose my point is, from my background, the conservatoire system, performance is an integral part of music, it is music.

    I have played in many concerts had many brilliant musical experiences; I can use this experience, and do to inspire my students.

    I was just making the point that A grade A-levels and the "I went to a great Uni" line doesn't make a good musician. I suppose musical experience doesn?t make a good music teacher either. Being at a conservatoire to me is better than going to Uni, you live the real world of music, Your musical skills are put through the ultimate test.

    In regards to Classroom management it begins and ends with inspiration. My musical skills (I?d like to think) help my students to want to learn.

    How can you have the skills to interpret a say, Chopin prelude, and not teach A-level ? That is odd?
    It just stinks of snobbery. Music is something wonderful that inspires, connects and provides something no other subject can.

    I?m sorry but this thread has annoyed me a bit??I?ll get of my soap box now!

  11. bflat

    bflat New commenter

    Sorry to disagree but classroom management does not 'begin and end with inspiration'! Classroom management is a skill that has to be learnt and worked upon. I have seen teachers who are passionate about their subject, talented and charismatic people in their personal life but have appalling classroom management.

    Establishing a positive learning environment is achieved through a variety of ways, but approaching learning and teaching music solely through the persons' own experience of performing is by its very nature limiting. If you are a string player for example, how much practical experience will you have had of jazz? (No doubt I'm going to get a million angry replies from violinists now, but that was just an example!)

    As a wind player, I have never played string quartets, but can teach about them having studied them at university. I would never claim to be able to coach a string quartet effectively, as I struggle to even tune a violin, but this applies to such a small proportion of students that I don't think this a problem, and if you're working in the kind of school which has lots of very advanced and specific ensembles, the chances are that you will have a brilliant team of peris to tutor the specific ensembles themselves.

    Gaining an advanced diploma from a music college is a huge achievement, and something that I never did. I think that performance skills are vital in the classroom, but I do disagree that it is the only thing that is important. If you are an instrumental specialist, are your skills more suited to being a peri?

    Sorry for this long reply!
  12. pauljoecoe

    pauljoecoe New commenter

    To be a successful teacher in a fairly standard comprehensive school you need to be a pretty broad musician.

    Yes you may be the best conservatiore trained musician and can play Chopn marvellously but that will mean ****** all to my average year 9 pupil (and not impress them either) and i'm referring to a 'good' 'nice' 'middle class' school.

    Can you get over to the kids on thier wave lenghth when their musical interests are a million miles away from thier own.

    Can you play and teach African Drumming, Samba, Blues and Jazz, Reggae, Structure in western classical music, serialism, use cubase, sibelius, Logic, Fruity loops software with year 7-13's, analyse and scrutinise Shostcovich symphonies, make an arrangement for an orchestra of mixed Grase 2 - 8 players, rehearse a 240 year 7 choir, jazz band, put together a pop band for the schools 'pop idol comp'?

    Thats just a small sample of the things you need to do in my run of the mill school this year.

    Being able to play Mendellsohn violin concerto reasonably well doesn't help in too much of that.

  13. hoildaysrule

    hoildaysrule New commenter

    "Sorry to disagree but classroom management does not 'begin and end with inspiration'! Classroom management is a skill that has to be learnt and worked upon. I have seen teachers who are passionate about their subject, talented and charismatic people in their personal life but have appalling classroom management."

    Your right of course but i didn't quite say that.

    "Can you play and teach African Drumming, Samba, Blues and Jazz, Reggae, Structure in western classical music, serialism, use cubase, sibelius, Logic, Fruity loops software with year 7-13's, analyse and scrutinise Shostcovich symphonies, make an arrangement for an orchestra of mixed Grase 2 - 8 players, rehearse a 240 year 7 choir, jazz band, put together a pop band for the schools 'pop idol comp'?"

    yes, I do it like you everyday but did university teach you that?
    just because your a "classical" musician doesn't mean you are narrow in you skill set. A college back ground isn't a narrow education like some posters are saying, thats all.
  14. Post32 hits the nail on the head!!
  15. florian gassmann

    florian gassmann Star commenter

    At the risk of re-hashing an old argument (post 30), I don't think this conservatoire versus university debate is any more valid than the pure music degree versus music technology degree debate that has now surfaced in a different thread.

    As someone who read music at university, then went to the Royal Academy, I was very disappointed with the amount of "real" music making at the RAM. At Cambridge there was rarely a day without a public concert of some sort - often several - while at the RAM only the priviledged few got to play in a small number of mainly private events. Perhaps things have changed, but whenever I'm in London I see posters for countless TCL concerts, but rarely do I see any sign that RAM or RCM students are performing.
  16. The burning question is do you have to be a good musicican to be a good music teacher?

    I think you need to have a very broad knowledge and an ability to play. I hope that ability to play would not be a reason for declining an otherwise acceptable or good or even sparking application.

    I have play to about grade 5 piano and grade 6 clarinet but do not have formal qualifications in either of these, how would this make me a bad teacher?
    If there was something I felt I had to be able to play (accompaniment etc.) I would go home and learn it. I just wouldn't be able to play it that day.

    I have a music composition + technology degree (2;1) from an ex-polytecchnic that is now more or less at the top of its game for composing with technology. How can this possibly make me a less viable candidate?

    I am applying to do a PGCE next year but am now quite worried about my chances.
  17. Your comp and technology stuff is probably very impressive indeed, but will only be about 1/3 of what you need to do as a teacher. Pupils will expect you to accompany with no notice at all, and in any case, if you get a set of twenty GCSE accompaniments to play you just won't have time to sit down and practise them all properly. Being able to hack you way through stuff convincingly at the piano is an indispensable skill. If I were you I'd work very hard at piano sight reading- especailly reading from chords.
  18. I think Post 37 has a good point. In your own specialist instrument or topic, it's good if you have a really thorough skill and understanding to contribute to the department team, but you're going to need to just pitch in and hack through things too. I'm a classically trained pianist but have also invested an hour or two in learning to play basic drum kit beats and I use those at least as often (and they impress the kids more!). Being flexible and learning fast is more important than having a monolith of knowledge. I knew sod all about Samba before I taught it a couple of months ago.

    To my mind, both music colleges and universities are only moderately relevant to secondary level teaching - they're concerned with getting you to do a few select things to a rigorously high level, whereas PGCE/early teaching is about "hacking through", picking up a much wider range of skills at a basic level without getting precious about it. What you learn at uni/college is as much learning to learn and being confident and independent as anything. I don't do Schenkerian analysis, play Birtwhistle or discuss Wagner's sex life much with my Year 7s!
  19. After the music manifesto was launched, there seemed great demand but in this economy, I doubt the schools with their cuts to deal with will be rushing to hire people unless they are truly outstanding

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