From mounting pressures brought on by national education reforms to a tightening economy and the ensuing shrinking school budgets, there’s a lot for music educators to think about when it comes to surviving in our nation’s schools. Yet, any reader of this publication would argue that the survival of choral curriculums is imperative to a complete education and, in turn, the wellbeing of future generations. In spite of potential hardships, the old adage, “the show must go on” rings true.
This month’s Choral Director reader survey tackles this notion of survival in vocal music education, both in terms of the health of programs and, on a more personal level, the coping strategies of veteran teachers. Let’s hope that the following numbers and corresponding reader feedback can serve up a modest slice of reassurance; keep in mind that almost 80 percent of our respondents have been in the business for over 10 years.
How long have you been teaching choral music?
“I am beginning my 34th year and having a blast!”
Ravenswood High School
“I still love it and I’ve not yet had a year when I got everything done right – always striving for more!”
Bowman Woods, Linn-Mar Community
Do you plan to continue in your current field indefinitely?
“I love teaching. With a Masters and some administrative experience, making the move to administration is a possibility, but I love the time I spend with kids, so why would I give that up?”
Crossroads School for Arts and Sciences
Santa Monica, Calif.
“Working for NYCDOE is no longer a pleasurable endeavor. The joy is gone and it has nothing to do with the students.”
Ozone Park, N.Y.
“The high school choral program has been dropped from the curriculum. I hope the middle school choral program can hang on so I will have a job through retirement.”
Hartford City, Ind.
Since you began teaching, have you continued singing, conducting, or performing independent of your school ensembles?
“We have a wonderful community theater program that has many avenues to allow me and my colleagues a chance to make music.”
Torrington High School
Do you have any additional sources of income?
Do you feel more pressure due to financial/salary elements of being a teacher or by aspects of the job itself?
“It is always a struggle to make ends meet when trying to keep up on all the research and conferences that are expected with the job.”
Dr. Matthew C. Harden
University of Nebraska at Omaha
“I have more education and experience than my medical doctor, yet I’m making a fraction of his salary. He laughs about it, but I don’t find it so funny!”
Reyburn Intermediate School
“I feel pressured by the ever-expanding state requirements that take kids away from arts classes.”
North Central Jr-Sr High School
Which of the following represents the biggest threat to your program?
“I receive less money every year. My boosters are having to pick up more of the costs. As they do more, the school keeps doing less.”
Brian C. Haddox
“Whereas my principal(s) are supportive, the superintendent is not. Everything is based on school enrollment numbers rather than on programs and the size of ensembles. Lack of funding is also an issue everything is devoted to testing.”
James Brian Smith
Do you have the opportunity to work with other vocal music teachers?
“I am the only choral teacher in my county so the only time I can work with others is during workshops.”
Anna Marie Kuether
Polk County High School Middle School
“I do not get the opportunity to work with other vocal music teachers, but I do talk with other vocal teachers. It’s good to have someone who understands what it is like to be a music teacher in the public school system.”
Lopatcong Middle School
Do you have any advice to pass along to your fellow educators that might aid in long-term “survival” as a choral music teacher?
“Be Flexible. Be tolerant. Have integrity. Stand up for yourself when necessary, but don’t be too much of a squeaky wheel. Choose your battles carefully. Ask for what you need, give help to others when asked. Take as many workshops and classes in the field as you can. Follow your instincts.”
Andrea C. Brumbach
Exeter Township SHS
“Keep active as a performer, and never settle for second best. Program outside the norm