I’m sitting in MADCAP coffee waiting for my Americano. I began what I expect is a lifelong journey with tea last week, but when one finds themselves in a city (Grand Rapids) with no tea options and excellent coffee one takes a seat at the best coffee shop in town. It’s the only responsible thing to do.
Today I’m allowing myself to think about the college education experience, especially as it relates to being a Suzuki violin teacher.
People go to college for credidation.
Sure, part of going to college is learning skills you will need professionally. But those skills, in many cases, can be learned outside of academic institutions. People go to college so they have proof, a piece of paper, that says that they learned skills.
A problem that arises, of course, is that one could get a piece of paper without learning skills. Or, even worse, one could learn and receive credit for skills that are now completely irrelevant in their line of work.
Another issue? Academic institutions don’t have the resources to tailor their degree programs to your unique needs. You might find yourself unfortunately situated between the scope of two different degrees or hoping to dive deep in a program that is so broad you only scratch the surface.
I think part of the reason degree inflation is troubling students and young professionals today is because work requires either
(A) deeper and deeper understandings of very specific skills OR (B) innovation in the connection of two disparate fields of skill
Neither of these are accommodated by the current undergraduate academic structure, and so students go on to get masters degrees or doctorate degrees in order to get the skill or credit they need to be taken seriously.
So I was wondering about an undergraduate degree in Suzuki Pedagogy that would actually prepare you with skills needed for setting up a successful studio right away. Instead of going above and beyond with extra curriculars to gain the skills you need, this degree would require and grant you credit for that work.
In my ideal world, the undergraduate degree in Suzuki Pedagogy would look something like this.
- perform suzuki book 1-10 memorized
- one additional piece
- 20 minute video of teaching
- resume, statement of purpose, letters of rec
(require program notes, lecture talk, filming, publishing afterward, at least 50 people in attendance to count – one of each on campus one off campus)
- 2 solo performances
- 2 chamber music performances
- 2 student performances
- 2 “outreach” concerts
- 1 self directed project, no instructions, just has to be good
- observe 5 hours of teaching a week (online or in person)
- keep an observation journal, write 500 words EVERY day. Have writing published (in scholarly or professional journal) by graduation
- Teaching Class 1. MSS twinkle 25 students back to back (feedback, sequence, assessment)
- Teaching Class 2. Master class (pacing, timing, focus, lesson management)
- Teaching Class 3. Studio teaching- meet every week, need at least 10 students- find on your own (studio rituals, long term sequence, lesson planning, communication)
- go to EVERY teacher training opportunity on your town for free: Book 1-10, guest teacher workshops, teaching kids with special needs
- video feedback loop training (how to analyze your own teaching and improve)
- summer? One month family live in. Study how family works together and practices
- publish, maintain website
- draft studio policies
- create a DBA or LLC, pay taxes
- present business plan with marketing strategy
- lessons once a week, practice
- optional: sight signing, aural skills, theory (as it relates to Suzuki method), music history (as it relates to Suzuki method), chamber music
This list is a combination of how students will demonstrate competency (performances, writing, website), and the opportunities they will have to gain competency (lessons, teaching class 1,2,3).
The value in this degree plan is that it values accomplishment and action instead of theory. You would get credit in this degree not for subjecting yourself to theory, but in putting theory into practice.
I don’t know how long this degree would take to complete, but it looks like it would be hard. Someone working though this degree would need to plan well, look ahead, think strategically, and work consistently– all of the things an exceptional music teacher would be expected to do outside of school anyway.
Even thought this degree might take longer than the traditional four years to complete, it is worth noting that the distinction between student and professional in this plan is very blurred.
Upon graduation, a student of the program would already have 6 recorded performances, a business with a website and business plan, at least 10 students, and 10 units of teacher training experience. Few music teachers have this much accomplished even after years of work.
Because this program doesn’t actually exist, the question for me (and you) to figure out is: even though I’m not receiving credit for it, how do I blur my student work with my professional work right now? How to I get as close to this ideal degree plan as possible in my own academic situation?
I found many opportunities to blur the lines during my undergrad in violin performance. Here are just a few…
- took videos of my solo violin performances, published them on ig and YouTube to establish credit in my playing ability
- had a studio of 20 students, so when I took String Ped courses I applied knowledge from class directly to lessons and asked questions about lessons in class
- used “tracking student change” in string Ped class to document my vib sequence and improve my own sight reading ability
- use writing from classes to post on website
- using research papers to study music/teaching related subjects (link)
– getting school funding/scholarship to travel for teacher training or performing
– used my final creative project in Dr. Duke’s class to launch a YouTube series of my own teaching (link)
- set up outreach concerts for my own students for chamber music class requirement
These are examples of me doing what I think it only makes sense for students to do.
If you have to build a website for class, why not make it your own professional website you’ll have forever? If you have to teach and analyze your teaching for a class, why not make teach your own private student? If you have to write a research paper, why not research a topic that is directly related to your teaching?
As I look around this hip coffee shop at well dressed young professionals going about their day, I wonder if their degrees prepared them for their work. And if, when they found out their degree program wasn’t preparing them, they seized their education as their own. Did they actively blur the lines of student and professional even when they didn’t get credit for it? Or did they passively take what was given to them?
These days I think we must, if we have any integrity, do the former and can’t afford to do the latter.