Promotion and Tenure in Music -- Time Commitments and Research Limitations

February 28, 1998

In many colleges and universities, promotion and tenure recommendations proceeding from the music unit are subject to critical review by non-music faculty and senior administrators. The following observations are intended to offer discipline-specific clarifications and interpretations to assist such non-musicians in forming equitable evaluative judgments.

Music faculty, along with all institutional faculty, assume responsibilities in the areas of teaching, research and service. Music faculty, however, face certain time commitments and research limitations not encountered by most college professors. Such conditions often affect the apparent research productivity of a music professor when compared, for example, to that of a faculty member in the sciences and must be taken into account when the music professor's total worth to the institution is measured.

Time Commitments

In most colleges, a typical music faculty member assumes a teaching load involving significantly more contact hours than colleagues in most other fields. A performance studies teacher, for example, often calculates a full teaching load on the basis of 18 contact hours per week; with successful recruiting, moreover, it is not unusual for such loads to extend well over 20 contact hours.

Beyond their assigned teaching responsibilities, music faculty are expected to devote significant blocks of time to attending concerts and recitals, recruiting students, and auditioning prospective performers. Evaluation of teaching in a music unit is based, in large measure, upon the actual performances of students and the subjective evaluation of teachers as musicians by their peers. Such evaluations may only be achieved through faculty attendance at performances given by the teachers' students, individually and collectively, and the teachers themselves. This attendance, moreover, must be consistent and span many terms in order to provide evidence of a teacher's growth both as pedagogue and musician. Faculty attendance at local concerts and recitals consumes an enormous amount of faculty time, a commitment unparalleled, I believe, in other sectors of a college. Nevertheless, it constitutes a necessary collegial obligation and is essential in ensuring the continued excellence of the music unit.

In order to attract quality students in an extremely competitive field, music faculty members must expend significant time in recruiting the best available talent to their programs. Such efforts involve the presentation of numerous performances and clinics throughout the local region, the time-consuming cultivation of influ ential private and public school music teachers, and extensive correspondence with and telephoning perhaps hundreds of prospective students. While a designated administrative recruiter might shoulder the burden of these responsibilities in some larger schools, experience has shown that ongoing recruiting success in music is normally achieved only when the individual teacher becomes integrally involved in the process. Since, in most institutions, music scholarship resources are limited, recruitment efforts must be unusually intense. Most music programs require an in-person, on-campus performance audition for admission; thus, significant faculty time is consumed serving on audition "juries." In addition to participating in official scheduled auditions, performance faculty are on call throughout the calendar year to review audition tapes and serve on ad hoc juries for students unable to attend scheduled auditions.

Music ensemble directors normally expend a significant amount of non-rehearsal time making physical arrangements for ensemble concerts. Since (1) physical properties (e.g. percussion instruments, music stands, amplification equipment, etc.) must often be transported to a concert site in a remote campus location and (2) most music units are unable to engage a full-time concert manager, such managerial tasks, by default, become the responsibility of the ensemble directors themselves. When ensembles perform off-campus and, as is occurring with increasing frequency, tours last several days, such managerial responsibilities increase geometrically.

Faculty members in many disciplines may earn national, even international, research reputations while remaining, essentially, in campus offices, libraries or laboratories, but music performers must, by the live nature of their art, spend much time traveling to and from concert sites at home and/or abroad. When such performances involve collaboration with other artists (e.g. a concerto solo with orchestra, a role in a staged opera, etc.), several additional days, if not weeks, must normally be devoted to rehearsing at the site. Thus, while a published document may not entail much time beyond the research/writing itself, a completed performance often involves an expenditure of time considerably in excess of that needed to initially master the repertoire.

Since a typical music student spends at least one hour per week throughout his college career on a one-to-one basis with his performance studies teacher, an extraordinary bonding often results. Such bonding frequently places the teacher in the position of an unofficial advisor, another time-consuming role the teacher humanely assumes though, again, without official workload credit of any kind.

Finally, the expanding activity of community-based auxiliaries supporting many music units presupposes increased music faculty involvement in terms of performance preparation, event staging, etc. Although faculty are not normally required to attend such events, most realize that active faculty participation in such endeavors will go far towards ensuring continued, enthusiastic auxiliary support for the unit.

Research Limitations

In music units, certain faculty performance and publication limitations, familiar to musicians but often unappreciated by other academic faculty, often pertain. While non-musicians may wonder why many obviously talented artist-teachers are not under professional management, they fail to realize that even the most respected professional managers are, first and foremost, businessmen: businessmen primarily interested in profit emanating from the regular, ongoing sale of an artist's services. Most college musicians, given their full-time academic status, are not available frequently enough, or for enough prolonged periods of time, to render them especially attractive to managements. Such practicalities shed no reflection upon an artist-teacher's creative abilities or accomplishments but merely reflect the music marketplace today.

For many years, exchange recitals between faculty at sister institutions provided effective vehicles for college musicians to develop performing reputations and concert portfolios both regionally and nationally. Nowadays, however, with over almost 34,000 musicians teaching in colleges and universities in the United States and Canada, opportunities for such exchanges have become severely limited. With most major schools of music presenting hundreds of in-house concerts and recitals each year, it has become increasingly difficult to guarantee a decent audience for even the most stellar touring artist, let alone a relatively unknown faculty performer from another campus. In response to this situation, more and more major schools of music are finding it necessary to reject proposals for faculty exchanges; some, including one major "Big Ten" university, are even refusing to consider performances by their own extremely talented alumni. Although some music units still manage to effect a limited number of exchange recitals for their faculty, such activity is encouraged and approved only with great caution. Often, hosting faculty must agree to personally shoulder the burden of mustering a respectable audience for their counterparts' performances.

Although non-musicians may expect all members of a college conducting staff to obtain regular, "professional" guest engagements off-campus, variations in the makeup of different conducted ensembles renders such a blanket expectation unrealistic. Orchestras, of course, exist at both professional and amateur levels throughout the country. Professional choruses, on the other hand, are extremely rare. Those regularly hiring guest conductors, moreover, could probably be counted on the fingers of one hand. Professional bands, for all extents and purposes, are virtually nonexistent. The creative achievements of choral and band conductors, therefore, are most appropriately measured by the quantity and quality of appearances as invited directors of select all-state ensembles, accomplished high school groups, active community music organizations, etc. In addition, to the extent that performances of regular college ensembles exceed the common "one or two on-campus concerts per term" norm, ensemble directors' creative achievements should reflect, at least in part, the artistic success of such ensembles.

Although the publication of significant research in any field is never automatic, it is considerably more difficult to publish a music article, book, or score than it is to publish an article in, for example, the field of psychology. The number of refereed journals in music currently available to those aforementioned almost 34,000 college music teachers active in the United States and Canada is relatively small, thereby rendering the acceptance of an article by one of these journals an accomplishment of significant academic proportions. Publication of a book on music often entails the expensive and, to prospective publishers, usually unattractive proposition of reproducing musical notation, while the extraordinary cost of reproducing an entire score has reduced the scope of unsubsidized music publishing to the level of, in general, printing only works of prestigious composers or commercially marketable pedagogical primers. Again, such circumstances reflect neither the academic nor artistic merit of a musician's creative effort but merely the financial exigencies governing publishing today. With such constraints in mind, more and more institutions now realize that a fair evaluation of a composer's creative output should lean toward the quantity and quality of his commissioned and performed works, not merely the number of scores which, by some means, may have worked their way into commercial print.


Thus, since most college music faculty members (1) assume unusually heavy time commitments often unparalleled in other academic disciplines and (2) face increasingly severe performing and publishing research limitations within the field, it is normally not possible for them to produce research or creative portfolios as quantitatively impressive as those in many other academic disciplines. The quality of such research or creative activity, however, measured by any appropriate standard, should be first-rate and should determine, in large measure, a candidate's suitability for promotion and/or tenure.

3869 Last modified on May 1, 2013
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