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Faculty Job Qualifications vs DMA Curricula. Part I of Equipping DMA Candidates to Win Tenure-Track Jobs

  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.18177/sym.2020.61.1.sr.11515

Introduction

To be eligible for tenure-track applied music faculty appointments, performers and composers typically need doctorates, and the degree that most earn is the Doctor of Musical Arts (DMA). Although universities periodically hire renowned musicians who lack doctorates, few aspiring educators these days will win tenure-track studio teaching positions without such a terminal degree. In Part I of this essay, I'll show that accredited DMA programs don’t necessarily equip graduates with the comprehensive qualifications that universities seek in new faculty; in Part II, I’ll put forward a practical plan for music schools to upgrade their doctoral programs so that graduates attain robust qualifications and become optimally job-ready.1I first presented the findings and concepts delineated in this two-part essay in a poster session at the 2019 College Music Society National Conference in Louisville, Kentucky.

To begin, let's examine the qualifications listed in tenure-track applied music faculty vacancy announcements and compare them with the required coursework in standard DMA and similar curricula. For the sake of concision, I’ll use the term “DMA” to encompass the various doctoral degrees earned by performers and composers in pursuit of tenure-track faculty employment (e.g., the DM and PhD, as well as the DMA).


Job Qualifications vs. DMA Curricula

1. Qualifications Sought by University Employers

In October 2019, I identified six key qualifications, other than an earned doctorate, found in announcements for 25 active, tenure-track Assistant Professor of Music searches at universities across the United States.2 I accessed the job descriptions online on October 9, 2019, via the College Music Society Music Vacancy List (MVL) and five other websites: HigherEdJobs.com (HEJ); Higher Education Recruitment Consortium (HERC); Chronicle of Higher Education (CHE); AcademicKeys.com (AK); AcademicGates.com (AG). I included in the sample no more than two job listings from any one university; three universities are represented twice. The descriptions were for the following 25 tenure-track studio teaching positions (sources in parentheses): Clarinet: University of Minnesota (HERC); Virginia Commonwealth University (CHE). Composition: Arizona State University (MVL); Gonzaga University (MVL); University of Pennsylvania (MVL). Jazz: California State University, Fullerton (AK). Percussion: University of Nebraska, Omaha (HEJ). Piano: Memphis State University (MVL); South Dakota State University (HEJ); SUNY-Potsdam (MVL); Washington & Lee University (HEJ); Washington State University (MVL). Trumpet: California State University, Fullerton (MVL); Capital University (MVL); Illinois State University (MVL); Valdosta State University (MVL). Violin: University of Texas at San Antonio (MVL); University of Minnesota (HERC). Voice: Arizona State University (MVL); Florida State University (MVL); Montclair State University (MVL); SUNY-Potsdam (MVL); Texas Lutheran University (MVL); University of New Mexico (MVL). Voice/Opera: University of North Florida (AG).

The employers sought to hire studio faculty with specializations in either composition (n=3) or performance (n=22).3I excluded conducting positions and curricula from this study because tenure-track conducting faculty duties are so distinctive, often resembling those of both classroom and studio teachers, that separate analysis would be required. Even so, the curricular and advising upgrades I propose in Part II of this essay generally suit DMA programs in conducting. Below, I list and define those six qualifications:

  1. Teaching: Command of pedagogical principles and materials, plus a record of success instructing students in lessons and classes.
  2. Artistic/Scholarly Work: Demonstration of significant artistic and scholarly accomplishments.
  3. Career Development: Ongoing relevant professional activity such that future work can be expected to meet the criteria for promotion and tenure.
  4. Recruiting: Evidence of achievement enrolling and retaining students in a teaching studio together with the ability to recruit students to the hiring institution.
  5. Service/Governance: History of service to an organization and a community along with the proven capacity to execute university governance duties.
  6. Diversity/Inclusion: Experience with and commitment to methods for recruiting, educating, and supporting students from varied backgrounds.

Chart 1 shows the percentage of job descriptions that mentioned each key qualification.

Chart 1

Chart 1: Percentage of 25 U.S. Assistant Professor of Music job descriptions that cite 6 key qualifications


2. Qualifications Addressed by Compulsory DMA Coursework

The next chart displays the percentage of 25 doctoral curricula (15 performance; 10 composition) at 14 prominent U.S. music schools that require courses addressing those same key qualifications. Located in five different U.S. regions, these highly regarded institutions feature longstanding doctoral programs with sizable enrollments and therefore constitute a sufficient national sample to ascertain the nature of prevailing curricula.4I don’t disclose the identities of the institutions whose curricula I sampled because my purpose in studying the chosen curricula was to discern the features of applied music doctoral curricula nationally rather than characterize individual schools. I accessed the information via the school websites on the day that I viewed the 25 job descriptions (October 9, 2019). The performance curricula comprise multiple instruments and voice; composition curricula include both DMA and PhD (Chart 2).

Chart 2

Chart 2: Percentage of doctoral curricula at 14 prominent U.S. music schools that require courses addressing 6 key Asst. Prof. of Music job qualifications

 

Chart 2 makes plain that doctoral programs in applied music concentrate on artistic and scholarly competencies, which they do by way of compulsory lessons, recitals, and academic classes. Only 52% of the curricula I inspected require pedagogy training (n=13); none seem to oblige candidates to enroll in courses that explore the other four competency domains valued by university employers. Some incorporate optional classes intended to foster professional development, but unless such courses are mandatory, a significant number of students probably won't sign up for them, and, as a result, will likely be deficient in job readiness, so I solely gathered data on compulsory coursework.

3. Understanding the Discrepancy

The primary cause of the apparent discrepancy between critical employment qualifications and mandatory coursework is, in my view, that accreditors don’t compel DMA programs to report employment outcomes and meet placement targets. As a result, schools often don’t have histories of aligning their doctoral curricula with the job market. For example, some of the vacancy announcements encapsulated in Chart 1 were published by doctoral institutions whose curricula I sampled for Chart 2, demonstrating that their core DMA coursework incongruously disregards qualifications they demand of faculty job applicants.

Irrespective of culpability, if schools want to strengthen their DMA candidates’ professional qualifications, I offer that they can do so at modest cost, and within the bounds of current accreditation standards, by sensibly adjusting curricula and advising, as I describe in Part II.


Notes

1. I first presented the findings and concepts delineated in this two-part essay in a poster session at the 2019 College Music Society National Conference in Louisville, Kentucky.

2. I accessed the job descriptions online on October 9, 2019, via the College Music Society Music Vacancy List (MVL) and five other websites: HigherEdJobs.com (HEJ); Higher Education Recruitment Consortium (HERC); Chronicle of Higher Education (CHE); AcademicKeys.com (AK); AcademicGates.com (AG). I included in the sample no more than two job listings from any one university; three universities are represented twice. The descriptions were for the following 25 tenure-track studio teaching positions (sources in parentheses): Clarinet: University of Minnesota (HERC); Virginia Commonwealth University (CHE). Composition: Arizona State University (MVL); Gonzaga University (MVL); University of Pennsylvania (MVL). Jazz: California State University, Fullerton (AK). Percussion: University of Nebraska, Omaha (HEJ). Piano: Memphis State University (MVL); South Dakota State University (HEJ); SUNY-Potsdam (MVL); Washington & Lee University (HEJ); Washington State University (MVL). Trumpet: California State University, Fullerton (MVL); Capital University (MVL); Illinois State University (MVL); Valdosta State University (MVL). Violin: University of Texas at San Antonio (MVL); University of Minnesota (HERC). Voice: Arizona State University (MVL); Florida State University (MVL); Montclair State University (MVL); SUNY-Potsdam (MVL); Texas Lutheran University (MVL); University of New Mexico (MVL). Voice/Opera: University of North Florida (AG).

3. I excluded conducting positions and curricula from this study because tenure-track conducting faculty duties are so distinctive, often resembling those of both classroom and studio teachers, that separate analysis would be required. Even so, the curricular and advising upgrades I propose in Part II of this essay generally suit DMA programs in conducting.

4. I don’t disclose the identities of the institutions whose curricula I sampled because my purpose in studying the chosen curricula was to discern the features of applied music doctoral curricula nationally rather than characterize individual schools.

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Last modified on Wednesday, 07/07/2021

Gerald Klickstein

Gerald Klickstein is the founder of the Music Entrepreneurship and Career Center at the Peabody Conservatory in 2012, which he led until 2016. From 1992-2012, he taught at the UNC School of the Arts after serving on the music faculties of UT-San Antonio and Michigan State University. His service to CMS includes multiple terms on the Academic Careers and Careers Outside the Academy committees. Currently an independent scholar and consultant, he is the author of The Musician's Way (OUP, 2009). MusiciansWay.com 

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