Academic Career

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Aspenforest
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Academic Career

Post by Aspenforest »

I feel as though I'm beating a dead horse here as I do a lot of thinking about going into trombone pedagogy but unfortunately not much acting as I get too afraid of the current landscape. I've been out of school for a few years now and I've been working as a substitute teacher and I'm finding I really enjoy being within an academic setting. It's been giving me a fire to buckle back down into doing some serious reflection about goals and what I want to achieve in life.

I'd like to teach trombone, I well and truly would, but with development in AI and seeing the graphic design/web development field kind of dry up (I expect in the next six months to a year a lot of those jobs are going to be phased out) and institutions switching a to more adjunct positions for brass to prevent tenure just leaves me with a bad taste in my mouth.

If there are any professors or grad students, I'd really like to know how you feel about the state of things :clever:

TLDR; Is getting a masters in trombone pedagogy and trying to get a job teaching at a university too risky?
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Re: Academic Career

Post by ghmerrill »

From someone who loved teaching, did it in various forms for his entire professional life (lives?), and had a perfectly good tenured academic career (but later decided the university environment wasn't for him) ...

I would be cautious about assuming certain relationships among teaching, pedagogy, university teaching, adjunct teaching, tenure and its value, and achieving a happy life. There are several ways to skin those cats. Also, other things being equal, someone of your age should maybe not be overly concerned about risk. But if that is a major concern (and I know there may be good reasons for that), then in turn you should use that to guide your possible path and decisions.

I know that's not an answer, and that I'm not the sort of source you're looking for, but maybe it will help with some perspective on the problem. :roll:
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Re: Academic Career

Post by Aspenforest »

Perspectives is what I'm actively looking for! I'm not trying to lump together a happy life and university/tenure granting. I'm just at a point now (for reference I turned 25 this year and have been making an active effort to get my life going!) where I'm thinking about a career or a life goal I want to achieve. I'm really not used to wanting to have a larger goal in my life and I'm actually quite happy with where I am at this current moment. The way I see it is that I could go on and do more schooling and have a career goal I'm actively working towards as an endpoint OR I can do what I'm doing now which is enjoying my life, playing some excellent rep, and overall, just being relatively stress free and happy.

If that's a bit of a ramble I do apologize, I've been in thought about this for about four-five months!
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WilliamLang
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Re: Academic Career

Post by WilliamLang »

For most jobs you're going to want to get a DMA or PHD. There are exceptions (I only have a masters, for example,) but it took the right situation and a really long and varied performing CV to get equivalent commiserate experience. A lot of recent openings wouldn't even let me apply, for instance, with just a masters degree.

As far as AI, it's out of our control. At least teaching music is safer than a lot of other industries, in terms of replaceability.
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Re: Academic Career

Post by musicofnote »

If you can, get your rear end over to Germany, France, Switzerland. Register at a Conservatory there in order to get a student visa - colleges here (I live in Switzerland) are not expensive. When I was studying trumpet here, we got lots of gigs through Ed Tarr. Either stuff that didn't pay enough for his majesty to take OR we played in his various formations for, for us, decent money. Getting in with a well known teacher is a foot-in-the-door for getting prep department teaching gigs and these are all over the place. Literally every mid-sized town has its own music school and they all have their low brass teachers, most of those teachers getting their jobs on the strength of recommendations from their Meisterlehrer. This was true when I did it in the 1970's and is still true today. It's not as easy now as it was then to get into "the system", but it's still more or less doable.

One caveat: where ever you go you're going to have to learn a new language. So unless you already speak passable French or German, get cracking. And forget the UK. The entire education there is constricting, little opportunity for non-UK people to get work. Oh ... and while buying my time to work my way into the playing scene here, I taught English, first in a Berlitz School, later in a privately owned school. English teachers are still a comodity.
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Re: Academic Career

Post by ghmerrill »

WilliamLang wrote: Fri May 17, 2024 10:24 am For most [academic] jobs [at the college/university level] you're going to want to get a DMA or PHD.
I'm skeptical that teaching in middle/high school (public or private) requires this. I'm also skeptical that teaching at the community college level currently requires this -- although my guess is that with the glut of DMAs and PHDs on the market now, those may be preferred by the community colleges as well. But all of those environments have teachable students, if teaching is your primary joy. And even some of the very top private high schools around here (my kids went to one) have few Ph.D.s and (I think) no DMAs on their staffs, although Masters are common (this is true, for example, of both Cary Academy and Durham Academy in the case of music).

Some of this is a timing issue. It at least used to be the case (and I know still is in some disciplines) that if you didn't get the Ph.D. by the time you were in (at most) your late 20s, you'd pretty much missed the boat. This may be different now, with people living off post-grad positions of various sorts well into their 30s before getting anything like a tenure-track position. I have no idea how it is or was with DMAs, but in general there has been a move to lengthening "average time to degree award," and one's graduate program can end up being years longer than one may have anticipated at the beginning. There are some complex issues here.
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Re: Academic Career

Post by JohnL »

Aspenforest wrote: Fri May 17, 2024 8:05 amI've been working as a substitute teacher and I'm finding I really enjoy being within an academic setting.
Working as a "day sub" (as a opposed to a long-term sub) is very different from being a regular (i.e., full-time, permanent) teacher. Day subs don't have to deal with all of the non-classroom stuff that regular teachers do. Meetings, department politics, micromanagement from above, budgets, extra service hours, district admins that apparently think they're feudal lords, politicized school boards, parent meetings...

I knew a guy who literally made a career out of being a sub; he subbed every day for decades. If memory serves, he was the first person to qualify for a California teacher pension having only worked as a sub. He wasn't even a great sub - but he was available, reliable, generally followed whatever instructions the regular teacher left for him, and could be trusted to not let the kids set anything on fire (maybe he was a great sub after all?).
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Re: Academic Career

Post by harrisonreed »

Just remember, if you decide to sub, first impressions are important!




I think there will always be a call for trombone teachers, although it seems to be dwindling along with the US interest in acoustic music, but on top of that academia is kind of in the spotlight right now and a lot of people are not happy with the costs, student loans, patriarchy, scandals, you name it. I would not want a career in academia right now.

Don't forget, you don't need any degree to teach lessons privately.
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Re: Academic Career

Post by TomInME »

In public higher ed, even areas that most people think are in demand (STEM) are suffering from all the same issues as other departments: administrations under political pressure to make do with less government funding without raising tuition. As boomers retire, their full-time, tenure-track positions are simply not replaced, and multiple adjuncts are used as replacements, at a fraction (as low as 1/2 or even 1/3) of the pay, without benefits.
It's the DoorDash/Uber model of higher education. It's easier to get your foot in the door, but not the rest of your body.
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Re: Academic Career

Post by Aspenforest »

TomInME wrote: Fri May 17, 2024 12:51 pm As boomers retire, their full-time, tenure-track positions are simply not replaced, and multiple adjuncts are used as replacements, at a fraction (as low as 1/2 or even 1/3) of the pay, without benefits.
It's the DoorDash/Uber model of higher education. It's easier to get your foot in the door, but not the rest of your body.
This is the pressure I've been thinking about more and more.

Also thank you all so much for your insights so far! Been giving me a lot of new perspectives :)
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Re: Academic Career

Post by ghmerrill »

JohnL wrote: Fri May 17, 2024 11:12 am ... he was available, reliable, generally followed whatever instructions the regular teacher left for him, and could be trusted to not let the kids set anything on fire ...
Yeah, but that's a pretty low bar; and probably not satisfying to most people as a career. But for some it can be a comfortable and successful approach. And there's a role there that's necessary to fill.
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Re: Academic Career

Post by ghmerrill »

TomInME wrote: Fri May 17, 2024 12:51 pm As boomers retire, their full-time, tenure-track positions are simply not replaced, and multiple adjuncts are used as replacements, at a fraction (as low as 1/2 or even 1/3) of the pay, without benefits.
Yeah, but even in the 70s-80s (and with tenure at the end of that period) I regarded tenure as "the right to be poor". Also, that "guaranteed job" comes with attached costs of various sorts, some financial and others less obvious. As government support for higher education has increased, the pay (particularly at the associate professor level, and up) has gotten significantly better. And faculty (well, some of them) have also learned to leverage opportunities in the non-university free market. But it's still a closed system. For the security conscious it's still a reasonable (but very difficult to attain) goal. For others, not so much; and there are other paths in life. Keep in mind, that pretty much the only people who have guaranteed jobs are government employees and tenured faculty. Most people live their lives without that.
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Re: Academic Career

Post by Wilktone »

I left academia as a full time career over 10 years ago, but I have continued teaching as an adjunct so I do still have connections there. That said, I don't stay current on all the news and announcements, so I may be missing important information. Keep in mind that I live in the U.S., so my comments are addressed in this country. I know it's different elsewhere, but I can't speak to that.

My advice for students interested in a career in academia is similar to what I tell students interested in pursuing music as a career - you should only do this if you can't see yourself doing anything different and being happy. It's a very competitive field right now and it can be high stress and not as financially rewarding compared to other careers that require similar levels of education.

For clarity, "academia" is typically defined as a career in higher education, not primary or secondary teaching. It's rare to be offered a position without a doctorate or significant progress towards a doctorate (e.g., "All But Dissertation"). My impression is that this is even more necessary today than it was 30 years ago, when I began my doctoral studies. It seems that even adjunct positions these days are more often than not going to folks who have a doctorate completed, depending on the classes the position covers. Furthermore, there are many academics looking for full time jobs that are still cobbling together adjunct teaching. For search committees looking at piles of applications (for both full time and part time positions) a quick an easy way to narrow down the list of candidates is to look at the degrees.

Tenure track positions and actually being granted tenure also are becoming rarer these days. More and more, colleges and universities are relying on hiring 2-3 adjuncts rather than hiring one tenure track full time teacher. It's cheaper for the school, although it doesn't always work out best for the students. Don't expect that because you're covering classes as an adjunct that if a full time position then opens up to teach those courses that you'll have an inside track. It often seems like that situation works against you instead, for some reason.

Keep in mind that a position in academia is much more than just teaching.

For someone involved in music you probably wouldn't be expected to publish research, although depending on the school your annual performance reviews might expect it. Generally speaking, however, if you're teaching music performance your "research" expectation would be covered by performing instead. You would want to play a full recital once a year or two in addition to engaging in professional performing, recording, etc.

You are also expected to participate in the governance of the department, school, and university as a whole. Plan to join committees and a large part of the job is administration. Personally, my administrative skills and background has been more valued than my teaching or professional development during my career in academia.

Student enrollment is becoming an issue and smaller schools, particularly private ones, are expected to struggle in the near future. Many more students are looking at the increasing cost of college and the debt they would need to take on and deciding to wait or try a different path. Also consider that about 17 years ago there was a decline in the birth rate, due in a large part to the Great Recession. Accordingly, there are expected to be a lot fewer students to enroll, which will lead to more budget cuts, fewer full time positions, etc.

You might consider looking at job postings in the Chronicle of Higher Education or the College Music Society to get a feel for what's currently out there. Note the locations and remember that a career in academia usually means you don't have a lot of choice in where you live, you'll probably need to relocate to where the job is.

All that said, if you do manage to break into a full time position in academia there are many great perks that can make all your efforts feel worth while. You get to develop good relationships with your students, particularly if you are teaching private lessons to a student for 3-4 years of their studies. I've found that by and large my academic colleagues were interesting people who were, usually, good to work with. Since you're expected to do professional development you'll get the opportunity to explore new things. Your summers aren't typically "vacations," as you'll need to spend time doing some of that professional development as well as developing curriculum and prepping for the upcoming semester, but you do have that time off from teaching duties and have some flexibility then. The pay isn't as much as other careers for the cost of your education, but if you're full time it is usually decent and you'll get health benefits and the opportunity to invest in retirement.

Personally, I'm not sad to have left academia full time. I get some similar perks teaching adjunct without some of the additional duties and stresses, but I also have another full time job so that I'm not relying on adjunct pay to make a living.

Hope that helps.

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ghmerrill
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Re: Academic Career

Post by ghmerrill »

^^^^ From my perspective, this is an excellent and accurate summary. One thing I would add, just as another "data point" is that even when I entered graduate school in 1969, many professional organizations (at least in the arts and humanities) were sending letters to all prospective graduate students that said (in almost so many words) "You should be aware that you will not likely get the job you aspire to and that you may not get any job at all." This has only gotten worse with the explosion of graduate programs and granting of Ph.D. (and similar) degrees. So any student facing this choice had better take a very careful look at what you really want, what you will do as an alternative if things don't work out as you hope, and definitely (VERY definitely) if it is even remotely wise to borrow money to reach your goal of an advanced degree. My own advice would be that if you have to borrow to do it, then don't. Or get into a program (difficult) where you can stretch it out in some kind of part-time way without incurring debt.
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Re: Academic Career

Post by CharlieB »

Aspenforest:
As you've stated, and others responding above have verified, the road ahead for musicians is a path of uncertainty.
Do your homework carefully before you set yourself up to depend on music for financial security.
There can be two separate roads to travel; one for the love of music, and a different one for financial security.
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Re: Academic Career

Post by kbryson »

As someone fresh out of a DMA program (graduated 2 weeks ago!) I will affirm that the job market is difficult if not impossible right now. I went back to school after over a decade of work in music technology, and freelance performing/teaching. I was a teaching assistant for 3 years while working on my DMA, and graduated from one of the top DMA programs in my field. Despite all this relevant experience it does not seem to have helped with the competitiveness of my job applications. Out of over 30 jobs applied for I only got 1 interview (this was not for a position in higher ed though). I applied for a range of positions: part time, full time, tenure track, lecturer, adjunct, and was applying for any positions in trombone instruction, music technology, or jazz ensemble direction. Even my application to be an adjunct professor at the local CC was beat out by someone with more prior college teaching experience.

Some other anecdotes:

Another colleague from my program applied to over 35 jobs, and got 8 interviews/1 job offer. It was his second year on the job market, and he already had 12 prior years of teaching experience as an adjunct at a community college before returning for a DMA.

Over the 3 years I was doing my DMA I can only think of 3 students across all the DMA concentrations (classical/jazz/comp, etc...) at my institution who actually had jobs lined up by graduation.

That being said, the DMA was a personally fulfilling experience. I got to do some extensive research on a topic I had been personally curious about for many years, and developed a methodology that I genuinely think has contributed to the field of jazz studies. I got to hang out and teach alongside some amazing musicians, and I got paid to do it all! These are all fantastic experiences that have enriched my life and made me a better musician/educator. So, grad school isn't all bad, Just don't expect to graduate with better employment or job prospects. Also, do not under any circumstances take on debt to do it.
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Re: Academic Career

Post by ghmerrill »

Supply >>>>> [is astronomically greater than] demand

And faculty in such programs can only seriously work to place a particular student in relatively few cases. Everyone else will become an "also ran" and not likely even get an interview.

This is true not just in the academic music world but in academia broadly -- even in the context of more and more "institutions of higher learning" being created and more and more students being encouraged (and offered loan money) to attend them. Those institutions are themselves over-saturating the market for their own students -- and have been for decades. What job market, for example, can support 499 new PhDs in philosophy (my own discipline) EVERY YEAR? The case of DMAs/PhdDs in music is a bit more difficult to assess, but is certainly similar, depending on how you want to slice and dice the categories, possible openings, and sub-specialty. Take a look at p. 23 of

"Music Data Summaries 2020-2021" by Higher Education Arts Data Services, and draw your own conclusions.
https://nasm.arts-accredit.org/wp-conte ... maries.pdf

A DMA or a Ph.D (in a subject of your choice) may be very rewarding for you in several different ways, but in terms of enhancing your life economically (or even making that life reasonably comfortable), you would probably be better off playing roulette or going in the direction of professional poker.
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Re: Academic Career

Post by rstrauch »

Hi Victoria,

I have a DMA in trombone performance, and have been teaching on the university level for over thirty years (27 at my current institution). My teaching load is now essentially conducting and music history - I had to give up the studio when the job got too big...! But I also play in a 125-service/year regional orchestra. So I have been around the block a few times, and I also well remember being in the place where you seem to be.

I will be honest: the landscape of higher ed in the US is more difficult right now than at any time since World War II, particularly in the humanities. We hear in the news about skyrocketing tuition, but rarely the reasons. Those include the costs of keeping campus technology up to date -- both for research in STEM disciplines (where every high school student is being told to major), and for providing ultra-high-speed internet in the dorms so that students can trainwreck their academic careers by staying up gaming all night --- rising employee health care coverage, and so on. So universites look to cut costs where they can. And frankly, full-time, tenure-track professors are expensive. In addition, we are now arriving at what has long been forecast as the "enrollment cliff": in 2008, the birthrate in the US dropped due in large part to the recession, and now is when those kids who were never born would be just about to start college. As a result, universities are, with increasing frequency, eliminating those coveted tenure-track faculty positions (especially in the less lucrative, under-enrolled humanities) and replacing them with cheaper lecturers and adjuncts.

HOWEVER: I also firmly believe that there will always be a need for solid teachers in applied music studies. AI will not be able to replace the enjoyment people get from playing an instrument, getting better at it, and doing it with other people. And smart universities will understand that, in a competitive envirmonment for students, the best ones are looking not just for good STEM programs (lots of schools have that), good financial aid packages (lots of schools have those too), but places where they can live the rest of their lives. And I also think high ed, like most other things in life, goes through its various seasons.

So I think the questions for you, at this stage in your career, are:

1. How important is teaching on the collegiate level to you? If it is important, are you willing to do the piecemeal adjunct work, knowing you will have to supplement it with other things? Those full-time positions are unfortunately few and far between, and you have to start somewhere to build up the resume!

2. Are you willing to relocate to teach? There are a lot of schools that are in the middle of nowhere that would be dying to have someone better than the local middle school band director teach a half-dozen trombone students. You might be something like that circuit-riding preacher for a while...

3. How entrepreurial art you? Maybe that relates to question #1, because again, you will probably need to be piecing several things together.

4. What else can you bring to the table? Some of our adjuncts have solid backgrounds in theory or aural skills, and can also cover a section or two of those classes.

I really hope this works out for you! My work with students, and making music with them, and seeing them grow and flourish, has been one of the greatest joys of my life!
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Re: Academic Career

Post by ghmerrill »

^^^ This is very well stated.

I'd offer the following enhancement ...
rstrauch wrote: Fri May 24, 2024 5:25 pm 2. Are you willing to relocate to teach? There are a lot of schools that are in the middle of nowhere that would be dying to have someone better than the local middle school band director teach a half-dozen trombone students. You might be something like that circuit-riding preacher for a while...
Academia is so tight in terms of job mobility that you have to be at the absolute TOP of your profession to even have a CHANCE to move, and especially to move to a location of your choice. This is one of the huge differences between (university level) academia and the business/industry world that usually doesn't occur to younger people just entering a profession.

Example: The guy I roomed with through graduate school turned out to become one of the top people in epistemology (theory of knowledge) in the country. Right out of graduate school he had a prestigious appointment to Brown, where he remained for 20+ years before moving. The year he got his Ph.D. he married his girlfriend who was just getting her B.A. (in another humanity/social science). She then proceeded to get a Ph.D. at Brown and looked for a job. To cut the story much shorter than it was, they spent years basically living "together" (with two children) but only periodically together throughout each year and when one of them could get a research grant, leave, or sabbatical. We saw them several times when she was junior faculty at Duke and he was at Brown -- on occasions when he'd manage to make it to Durham for some period of time. Otherwise, they were thousands of miles apart. Over this time, neither could find a job near the other one's job. And one of them was extremely well-known, published, highly respected, and (for some years) chairman of a department at an Ivy League university. Finally, at some point in their 50s, they both managed to end up at a Southern California university (their children were grown at this point) from which they are both now retiring. This is not an unusual story. Another pair of friends (and prior colleagues) maintained a "commuting" marriage between Chicago (Loyola) and West Lafayette IN (Purdue) for the same reason. They had only one child, and he spent most of his time in Chicago with his dad. They never did find co-located jobs, but I guess you could view them as "lucky" because Chicago and West Lafayette aren't "very far" apart.

So the ABILITY to relocate (either by yourself or in conjunction with a spouse or partner) can be a very important factor in your life. It's something to be considered.

The circuit-riding preacher model is a viable, respectable, and potentially rewarding one. But if you go in that direction you'll almost certainly NEVER get that tenured university job you set your heart on previously (or make the money that the "real professors" do) -- because the generations of students that come behind you with their new degrees will be pushed into those (meager) jobs. And, of course, that comes without the "rock solid" (Ha Ha) plum of tenure, and so lacks the degree of (apparently) baked in security that attracts many to academia. So it's a trade-off as well. There are trade-offs everywhere in life. :|
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Re: Academic Career

Post by brtnats »

Just don’t. I’ve been out of academia for about 12 years. I’m a K-8 music teacher now. I gig when I want. I practice when I want. I can move if I want to. I can pay my bills. I get insurance through my job. I don’t have to do a side hustle in the summer.

Just don’t. Academia is a dead end, and is collapsing all around us.
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