Thursday, September 18, 2008

A Music Education Degree + Collaborative Piano--Is it Viable?

Laura recently asked a fascinating question in the comments my article Is There Value in an Undergraduate Collaborative Piano Degree?:
I'm interested in both teaching classroom music and collaborative piano. I don't really want to major in performance (I'm a second-year music major at a community college and will be transfering in two years). Would a music education degree, with piano as primary instrument, be of much value to a collaborative pianist? Thanks.
My feeling is that a Music Education degree generally won't hinder one's ability to continue in a collaborative piano degree at the post-graduate level, as long as you keep up a high level of playing and keep on acquiring more playing experiences in both the vocal and instrumental fields.  

Being able to teach at the K-12 level is not a bad career outcome, and often enables one to get higher pay, benefits, and professional development opportunities than teaching at the collegiate level (unfortunate, but all too true these days).  Having a music education degree can give you a head-start on the pedagogy end of the collaborative piano field, especially if you have a love of classroom teaching.  Ideally, combining collaborative piano with K-12 music education is best achieved in school districts that have either a serious music curriculum or a dedicated arts school.  In fact, I often am brought in to do master classes at a school in north Toronto that actually has a high-school-level voice/piano class for art song, musical theatre, and opera projects(!).

Does anyone have any experience with or opinions about music education degrees within the framework of a career in collaborative piano? If so, it would be great to hear your comments.


  1. I'm not sure if I'm eligible to comment on this as I'm not a collaborative pianist by career. However, I am a pianist who completed a music education degree. From time to time, I do find myself "collaborating" and it's at those times that I appreciate the breadth of my degree program. From where I sit looking at the degree programs at my school, the music ed degree gave me a much broader exposure to various musical disciplines than any particular performance degree would have. I also studied conducting at a masters level, and find that that experience translates into a completely different approach when I sit down at the piano. I agree that a music ed degree is never wasted though you may narrow or shift your focus upon graduation.

  2. Thanks for the comments, Scott. Many students (and performers) often think it's a step downwards to take a Music Ed degree, to which I reply "Do you not like a steady academic position? What is it about a full salary with benefits and pension that is scaring you off?" Alas, if only college positions had such overall consistency in their renumeration...