Music Teachers


Exploring this Job

To learn more about music and the career of music teacher, sing in your school or church choir or join a band or orchestra. Get as much experience as you can playing, singing, and performing. Read all you can about music theory, music history, famous musicians, and performance. Talk to your music teachers about what they like and don't like about teaching music. If you are a college student, you can become a student member of the Music Teachers National Association (MTNA) or the National Association for Music Education (NAfME). As an MTNA collegiate member, you will receive American Music Teacher (, a publication that provides useful information for music teachers, and opportunities to participate in performance competitions. Student members of NAfME receive Music Educators Journal and Teaching Music (both available at, publications that offer articles on trends in music education, teaching approaches and philosophies, lesson plans, and technology as it relates to music education. NAfME also offers many free and useful resources at its Web site, Visitors can read free publications, such as Careers in Music, and participate in online open forums, which feature discussions of trends in music education, college training, and almost any other topic associated with music.

To gain general teaching experience, look for leadership opportunities that involve working with children. You might find summer work as a counselor in a summer music camp, as a leader of a scout troop, or as an assistant in a public park or community center. To get firsthand teaching experience, volunteer for a peer tutoring program. Many other teaching opportunities may exist in your community.

If you are interested in becoming a college professor, spend some time on a college campus to get a sense of the environment. Write to colleges for their admissions brochures and course catalogs (or check them out online). Read about the music faculty and the courses they teach. Before visiting college campuses, make arrangements to speak to professors who teach music courses that interest you. These professors may allow you to sit in on their classes and observe.

The Job

Music teachers help students learn to read music, develop their voices, breathe correctly, and hold and play their instruments properly. As their students master the techniques of their art, teachers guide them through more and more difficult pieces of music. Music teachers often organize recitals or concerts that feature their students. These recitals allow family and friends to hear how well the students are progressing and help students get performing experience.

Elementary school music teachers teach basic music concepts and simple instruments to students, gradually adding more advanced topics or instrument instruction. They teach introductory lessons in music reading, music appreciation, and vocal and instrumental music. They may organize musical programs for pageants, plays, and other school events.

Secondary school music teachers teach music history, music appreciation, music theory, and other music-related courses to students in group and/or one-on-one lessons. They also teach students how to play percussion, wind, and string instruments. They direct in-school glee clubs, concert choirs, choral groups, marching bands, or orchestras. Since music is usually an elective at the high school level, music teachers often work with students who have some musical knowledge or ability.

College and university music teachers are also frequently performers or composers. They divide their time between group and individual instruction and may teach several music subjects, such as music appreciation and music history, arrangement, composition, conducting, theory, and pedagogy (the teaching of music). They use lectures, quizzes and tests, listening exercises in a musical laboratory, and performance before a jury (a group of faculty music teachers) to educate and assess the abilities of their students.

Private music teachers, also known as studio music teachers, may teach children who are just beginning to play or sing, teens who hope to make music their career, or adults who are interested in music lessons for their own enjoyment. They teach these students in a studio, in their homes, or at their students' homes. Private music teachers who teach music to very young children are sometimes known as early childhood music educators.

In addition to teaching students, music teachers also perform administrative tasks, such as assessing and grading the performance of their students, keeping attendance records, ordering supplies, storing and maintaining musical instruments and other classroom materials, and meeting with parents to discuss the performance of their children. They also plan classroom lessons based on local or state requirements and the National Standards for Music Education.

To earn extra income, music teachers may also direct school musicals or community choirs or other musical groups, work in community theater, or perform as musicians or singers. Some music teachers also work as freelance music writers, composers and arrangers, and in other music-related professions.