Introducing HS Students to String Teaching, Part 1

While the recent National String Project Consortium (NSPC) study “Status of String and Orchestra Programs in the U.S.” reports that there are more school districts offering strings programs than ever before, there continues to be a string teacher shortage. It is estimated that there will be a shortage of 3,000 teachers between 2010-2013.

“If this is true, then we must assume that not enough high school string students are choosing to study music education in college, and therefore are not pursuing careers as string teachers,” says MENC Member Amy Mason Sckipp, Orchestra Director at William Floyd High School in Mastic Beach, New York.

“We need to create opportunities for our students to explore music education from an educator’s perspective. Providing a learning environment that encourages our students to enhance their leadership, communication and decision-making skills is imperative.” Sckipp continues, “If we have a shortage of string students choosing to go into music education, perhaps we should implement activities in our public school programs that will give capable high school students some early training as string teachers. This creates a learning community for all who participate.”

Sckipp saw an opportunity for music students to get excited about teaching. She asked them to consider helping administer the all-district elementary string festival. These students mentored elementary students who were selected to participate in the festival. The high school students took on various responsibilities, including accompanying the younger students from the buses to their rehearsal areas, sitting in on the audition process, tuning instruments, and leading sectionals. They did all of this with the assistance of their string faculty.

Joanne Mosquera, a former student and now music education major at the University of South Carolina, commented about her experience at William Floyd High School: “Music has not always been a first priority for me in life. I came to realize that it was becoming one after being exposed to various teaching scenarios. As a graduate of William Floyd High School, I am very fortunate and grateful that my teachers there inspired me and gave me opportunities to realize that I wanted to become a music educator. While volunteering in the all-district festival, I was involved with many teacher-like tasks that gave me a feeling of accomplishment and satisfaction from sharing my knowledge of music with others.”

Key Points:
• Working teachers must inspire future teachers.
• Mentoring experiences influence career choice.
• Teachers and students flourish through collaborations.

Part 2 — Preparing the student mentors 

This article has been adapted from an article of the same name by Amy Mason Sckipp, which originally appeared in the March 2010 issue of School Music News, the official publication of the NY State Music Association.

— Nicole Springer. April 28, 2010. © National Association for Music Education