The Job Search
Often in college methods courses, we teach at great length on how to teach and what to teach, but once the student has graduated (or before), the reality of finding the right job can become a most important matter. There are numerous strategies on how and where to look for jobs, how to write a resume, and how to present yourself in an interview. These strategies are as important as the how and what of teaching if college music education programs have the placement of their graduates in teaching positions as a goal. Even in these days of seeming cutbacks in music programs, every qualified music teacher should be able to teach music for a living if the right strategies are followed. The articles in this section will add to your knowledge of these strategies or give you different viewpoints on topics that have been discussed in the college methods courses.
Edward M. Warnick looks at how the job market should be approached by those seeking music teacher positions. He gives tips on where to apply for a job, how to write the application letter and resume, and the interview process.
The Complete Job Hunter
by Edward M. Warnick
The music teaching job market should be approached scientifically, not haphazardly. First, you must have access to job opportunities. This is difficult in the public school sector since we have no central clearinghouse for advertising all public school music positions.
Determine the type of music teaching position that will best serve your professional and personal needs. Applying for a teaching position you are not prepared for simply because the salary is attractive can be extremely detrimental. Since music teachers are certified from kindergarten through grade twelve, job opportunities present themselves in all facets of public school teaching-general music, choral, strings, winds, marching bands, jazz ensembles.
Applying for teaching positions can be costly, time consuming, and frustrating. The teaching positions applied for should be compatible with your skills preparation, teaching experience, cultural preferences, geographical desires, and professional goals. Remember, self-esteem and attitude can be greatly influenced by where a teacher lives and works.
First, select the geographical area in which you desire to teach. The states in that area are where you will need to concentrate your effort in pursuing teaching positions. Write to the respective state departments of education and request a listing of names and addresses of the state school districts. In some cases there is a fee charged for the listings; however, the list is worth purchasing since it could take hours and days to acquire school district addresses plus the cost of retrieval. Many state lists give the size of the district, phone numbers, and names of administrators.
When applying for teaching positions do not send a form letter to a district. A typed personalized letter with the superintendent’s or personnel director’s title and name on it is the first impression the district receives of a candidate. Correct spelling, grammar, form, and content of the correspondence with school district administrators are imperative.
Your first letter seeking employment in a school district should be a simple and direct request for a teaching application. After the application is received, a complete resume, college transcript, application, and cover letter should be sent to the district. The cover letter should demonstrate formal writing abilities and specifically state your interest areas-band, orchestra, chorus, or general music.
Your resume should be typed and organized to include the following: name; permanent address; phone number; educational degrees (place, degree, and date); teaching experience (place of employment, position, and length of employment); performance experience; professional recognition; community participation and honors; publications (submit several articles); list of references (name, title, and address); personal information (such as marital status or number of children, if you wish to include this data); and a statement of your philosophy of music education. The application should be cleanly typed and all questions answered. Returning incomplete applications is costly for a district and may result in a negative opinion toward the candidate’s organizational abilities, not to mention the possibility of the application being ignored. Send only official transcripts with applications. Also include copies of state teaching certificates.
If you are sending placement file credentials from a university or employment agency, note this in the cover letter and indicate the approximate arrival date for the material. Complete the letter with a statement that you are available for an interview and look forward to visiting the district. You should ask for the district to acknowledge the receipt of your application. This will establish two-way communication and keep your name active in the minds of the personnel director or superintendent.
Preparing for the Interview
If you are called to the district for an interview, it usually means that the administration is satisfied with your experience and educational background. Most applicants called for an interview will have had similar experiences and be fairly commensurate in their academic abilities.
The candidates who have passed this initial screening obviously have an excellent chance of employment. For candidates who are equal on paper, transcripts, and experience, the interview can be the deciding factor in receiving the teaching position. Interviewing is, to a degree, like performing. Some people are comfortable and relaxed, while others are exceedingly nervous and apprehensive.
Be poised and confident. An interview entails communication between two parties. Do not allow the interview to be totally a question-answer situation. There is always an opportunity in an interview for the candidate to show creativity, enthusiasm, and scholarship. In other words, it is to your advantage to be assertive in the interview and demonstrate confidence, without interrupting the person who is asking questions.
School districts that have a music supervisor or place a music educator on the interviewing committee usually have a more extensive process of screening than those districts that just place principals or directors on the committee. If there is a music educator on the evaluating committee, your answers will have to show more depth than if you were dealing with nonmusic administrators.
Here are guidelines for preparing for a music teaching interview.
1. Be assertive and express yourself. Sometimes the specific answers are not as important as the thought process the candidate uses.
2. Dress conservatively and neatly.
3. Be aware of music education methods, innovations, and traditional programs in general, choral, and instrumental music; and computer education, electronic music, and use of music in piano laboratories.
4. Be cognizant of current music education texts, and be able to talk intelligently about them.
5. Be familiar with broad educational terms such as open education, nongraded, modular scheduling, and integrated studies.
6. Be able to recommend teaching materials and to explain why you would use them: music series, instrumental methods, recorder materials, ethnic materials, high school theory texts, and music appreciation texts.
7. Be able to recommend composers and compositions you might program for a choir, band, orchestra, jazz ensemble, or other group.
8. Be familiar with measurement and evaluation in music. This should include both aptitude and achievement measurement and the following tests: Music Achievement Test I and II (Richard Colwell), Primary Measures of Music Audiation (Edwin E. Gordon), and the Watkins-Farnum Performance Scale.
9. Be knowledgeable concerning hardware. If you were asked to recommend a piano lab for a high school, what brand an
d type would you select?
10. Always have some questions you can ask the interviewer about the district’s educational system and music program. This shows interest and concern for the system in which you wish to work. Do not hesitate to have your questions written out for use during the interview. This shows organization and planning. Here are some examples: Have you developed a music curriculum guide and course of study? Are the elementary instrumental classes taught on a heterogeneous or homogeneous basis? What is the budget for the operation of the district music program excluding salaries?
When a school administrator is hiring a teacher there are some general areas that will be evaluated. They include: appearance, communication skills, personality, technical knowledge, scholarship, understanding children (including the psychology of learning and the psychology of discipline), adaptability to school district, professional attitude, transcripts, and educational experiences.
Principals on the interviewing committee will be concerned about the teacher’s ability to control the learning environment. It is important to articulate a precise philosophy of student control. Teachers get the respect of their students and control them by keeping the students’ confidence, showing concern, being consistent and honest, and building a strong academic program. Never go into an interview without being able to express your convictions toward the psychology of student control.
Do not attempt to answer the questions with what you think the interviewer wants. Many times questions are asked in a positive tone but are really designed to see if the teacher is strong enough to take an opposing view and defend it. Know your profession and project an attitude of seriousness and no question will be too difficult to answer intelligently. If your background and experience are not broad enough to answer the questions, do not attempt to fool someone. Simply state that you do not have sufficient experience or knowledge in that particular area to respond to the question.
The interviewing committee is looking for a person who is humane. Do not be afraid to smile or inject some humor into the interviewing process. Make an effort to be personable and relaxed. Some small talk can be very valuable as an ice-breaker.
Finally, applying and interviewing for teaching positions should be done in an organized and prudent manner. It should be approached with the same fervor that one applies in passing a college course. Remember, applying for a teaching position is one of the most important events of a music educator’s life. Study and be prepared for the interview. It will be well worth your time and effort.
Often prospective music educators do not think about the process involved in securing recommendations for their placement files or for specific positions. James Patrick O’Brien offers thirteen steps to use in securing recommendations.
Writes of Spring: Getting a Good Recommendation
by James Patrick O’Brien
The annual springtime ritual is underway: A flurry of graduating music education students seek recommendations from their professors. Many music teachers anticipating a change in position or simply wishing to update their professional files also periodically ask a supervisor or a professor for a recommendation.
Most persons who are in the business of training teachers or supervising others in a public school or college are quite willing to write a recommendation for a student or a teacher. However, there is a gentle art in asking for that recommendation, and these considerations may serve as a guide.
1. Ask the supervisor or professor, preferably in person, if he or she will be willing to accommodate you. Be certain you have a reasonably enthusiastic “yes” before you leave any forms or self-addressed envelopes for that supervisor.
2. Give that person ample time to write the recommendation for you. Two weeks is minimal. An “I need it yesterday” attitude conveys a great deal about you, but probably not of a positive nature.
3. Plan your request to avoid a time of peak activity for the supervisor or professor. During final examinations is not an appropriate time, nor during involvement in other projects, such as publications, performances, presentations, or travel. You will get a more enthusiastic response-and a better letter-if you plan accordingly.
4. Provide a resume for your reference. This is very important if the supervisor is not presently aware of your job skills or interests. Even when you are currently enrolled in a professor’s class or he or she is supervising you in student teaching, it is still good to provide a resume to show your interests beyond music, related job experience, and special avocations.
5. Specify whether the letter is to be a generic one for a placement folder or to be written with a specific position in mind. Generic letters are necessary as one begins a career in music teaching, but after acquiring teaching experience, a letter of recommendation should focus on your unique abilities and target them to a specific position.
6. Ask persons who can influence a potential employer’s decision to hire you. Although your private voice or instrumental teacher might know you better than your cooperating teacher or supervisor in student teaching, the latter is more important to a future employer. Do not omit people like this, even if the recommendation is not wholly positive. Such omission generates suspicion in a future employer. Thus, a music teacher moving from one district to another should have a recommendation from the building principal or superintendent.
7. Suggest that the person writing the recommendation emphasize certain strengths as well as mentioning areas in which you are still developing. Everyone has positive and negative qualities, although you hope the former outweigh the latter, and a believable letter should include a proportional mention of both. A totally glowing report leads to suspicion that the district is trying to get rid of you.
8. If you are writing to a former supervisor after a few years for a recommendation, provide memory cues, such as a picture or an anecdote. Provide a self-addressed, stamped envelope or a phone number and time where he may call you collect for his response to your request.
9. After you have acceptance, specify if the letter should be on official stationery. If there is a form or rating scale to complete, type in all the pertinent data, and provide a self-addressed, stamped envelope before leaving it with the supervisor.
10. If the letter may be either confidential or nonconfidential, ask for the writer’s preference. Nonconfidential letters, bowing to “access to information” laws, often result in recommendations so generic they tell the potential employer nothing about the candidate’s strengths and weaknesses.
11. Provide a time line when you leave materials with a supervisor and reinforce it with a tag that states a deadline for completion. Be certain the date is agreeable to the writer and meets your needs and time constraints.
12. Follow up with a thank-you letter or phone call in about a week. This is a good time to tell that person if you got an interview. It also serves as a gentle reminder if he has forgotten to complete the letter.
13. Do not ask the same person again and again for a recommendation. You can wear out your welcome.
If and when you are a supervisor and are asked to write a million letters of recommendation, think of all the great persons who wrote them for you.
Robert L. Cowden offers valuable guidelines for the person preparing for an interview, suggests innovative techniques for obtaining a desirable position, and includes a bibliography of resource materials on interviewing.
Interviewing Successfully: The Right Moves
by Robert L. Cowden
Cindy Montgomery eagerly approaches the television set, videotape in hand, to see for the f
irst time the results of her work of the past four months. Cindy is a senior music education major at a California state university. A trumpet principal, she is eager to begin her career in the Midwest for both personal and professional reasons.
With the help of audiovisual resources and music education faculty, she has produced a sixteen-minute video-an introduction of herself to a prospective employer. “Hello, my name is Cindy Montgomery,” she begins, “and I am graduating this year with a degree in music education. I am interested in locating in the Midwest, where I would like to find a position teaching instrumental music. On this video, which lasts for sixteen minutes, you will see me in an interview with questions posed by the head of our music education department; in student teaching situations, which include a private trumpet lesson, a beginning heterogeneous class of wind instruments (the students have been playing their instruments for five weeks, and this is lesson number eleven), and a rehearsal of a middle school band; and in a concert situation where I am conducting a number performed by a high school band. In addition, you will see and hear me playing two short selections for trumpet with an accompanist.
“At the end of the videotape you will have information concerning how to reach me. This information, along with my resume, is in the package that was sent to you with the videotape. Please contact me if you feel I would have something to offer the children in your school district, and please also let me know if I can furnish you with additional material. I hope to hear from you soon. Good-bye!”
Sound farfetched? Think again. It’s not exactly easy for someone in public school music to make a cross-country move, although it happens all the time in higher education. Why couldn’t, or shouldn’t, it happen at the elementary and secondary school levels? One obvious reason is state retirement programs, which make it financially difficult to move after an educator has had some years’ experience and is vested in a retirement system. But for the young teacher, either just beginning or at an early career stage, a major move is an exciting possibility.
Let’s make a major leap now to the point where Cindy has a face-to-face interview with the personnel director from a midwestern school district. The first contact between these two may have occurred by telephone or at an NAfME meeting. This one, however, is taking place in the school district. How has Cindy prepared for this interview? She has learned about the community by visiting her library, by reading newspapers and travel books, and by talking with friends and two faculty members, one who used to teach in that state and one who has a doctorate from a university there. She even called the president of the state music education association. The Chamber of Commerce happily sent her a packet of materials describing the city and the region.
From the materials sent to her by the district, she learned the names of key personnel and their job titles. She also received a description of the K-12 music program.
Cindy visited the career center on her campus, viewed several videos, and checked out some pamphlets and books to prepare herself (see “Suggested Resources”). She wrote out questions she thought might be asked as well as ones she wanted to ask. Her resume was written out, critiqued by faculty and career center staff on her campus, and rewritten four times before it reached its final form.
The concluding exercise of Cindy’s preparation was to submit to two simulated interviews where a faculty member in one case and a career center staff member in another plied her with questions in structured twenty-minute intervals.
Questions to Expect
Cindy’s list of questions was very long at one point but was reduced to fifteen as she concentrated on her preparation for this interview.
- Why should we hire you?
- How well do you perform under pressure? Examples?
- What courses in college did you enjoy most? Least? Why?
- What leadership positions have you held? What did you learn from them?
- What is your commitment to music education?
- If you could start your own musical education over, what would you change?
- What do you consider your biggest achievements?
- What are your career goals? In five years? In ten years?
- What are your strengths? Weaknesses?
- How do you go about planning a class or rehearsal?
- What do you do in your spare time for relaxation? What are your interests other than music?
- What would you do if a given problem or situation arose?
- What are the issues in music education today? What is going on that is exciting?
- Why will you be an excellent teacher? What evidence do you have?
- What do you consider an ideal teacher/pupil relationship?
And finally, Cindy wrote out a word-for-word response to a possible opener from the interviewer: “Tell me a little bit about yourself.” She practiced her response looking into a mirror, being conscious of the pitch of her voice, word inflections, body language, and projection of energy and enthusiasm. She was ready for this interview!
Questions to Ask
Cindy had written on a card some questions to ask.
- What is the role of music education in your school district?
- How would you describe the music faculty as to education, competence, commitment?
- How are faculty evaluated? When? By whom?
- What would be my assignment?
- What qualities are you looking for in a person to fill this position?
- What is the future of the music program in this district?
- What is the level of support from the administration and the board of education for the music program?
The Interviewer’s Side
As she prepared for this interview, Cindy tried to imagine herself in the position of the personnel director who was conducting the interview. She realized that this person would:
- Control the interview.
- Set the agenda.
- Determine the pace.
- Be interviewing six other people for this position. (What could Cindy do to stand out?)
- Try to find out as much as he or she can about her in thirty minutes. (How might Cindy help the interviewer do this?)
- Expect direct short answers.
- Be “selling” the district and community to her as part of this interview.
- Evaluate everything Cindy says or does.
- Be influenced by a first impression.
A Positive Outlook
Following the interview, Cindy did a critique of her own performance, thought about what she had learned (thinking especially about two “surprise” questions), and wrote a letter of thanks and appreciation to the personnel director. Throughout this entire process-the preparation, the research, the travel, the visit, and the interview-she maintained a positive attitude. She was confident of herself and her abilities. She loved working with children, loved music, and knew she could make a quality contribution to some school system. She felt she was in a “no lose” situation.
If a job resulted from this interview, terrific! If not, she would have learned a lot in the process, and there would be other possibilities to pursue. For the young teacher, either just beginning or at an early career stage, a major move is an exciting possibility.
The sources that follow are divided into printed and videotaped materials and are available in libraries as well as college and university placement offices and career centers. There is much valuable information available, not only concerning what to do in an interview but what not to do. A person can learn a lot-and quickly-by watching the simulated interviews in the videos.
Bruce, Stephen D. Face to Face: Every Manager’s Guide to Better Interviewing<. Madison, CT: Business and Legal Reports, 1984.
College Placement Council.
Six Steps to Successful Interviewing. Bethlehem, PA: College Placement Council, Inc., 1986.
Donaghy, William C. The Interview: Skills and Applications. Glenview, IL: Scott, Foresman Co., 1984.
Edelfelt, Roy A. Careers in Education. Lincoln-wood, IL: National Textbook Co., 1988.
Fear, Richard A. The Evaluation Interview. New York: McGraw-Hill Book Co., 1984.
Garrett, Annette. Interviewing: Its Principles and Methods. New York: Family Service Association of America, 1970.
Goodale, James G. The Fine Art of Interviewing. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall, 1981.
Kahn, R. L., and L. F. Connell. The Dynamics of Interviewing: Theory, Technique, Cases. New York: John Wiley and Sons, 1958.
Krannich, Caryl Rae, and Ronald L. Krannich. Interview for Success. Manassas, VA: Impact Publications, 1988.
Levin, Joel. How to Get a Job in Education. Boston: Bob Adams, 1987.
Merman, Stephan K., and John E. McLaughlin. Out-Interviewing the Interviewer. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall, 1983.
Smallheiser, I. Techniques of Interviewing. Davenport, IA: Personnel Associates, 1963.
Steward, C. J., and W. B. Cash. Interviewing Principles and Practices. 3d ed. Dubuque, IA: William C. Brown Co., 1982.
The Campus Interview, VHS videocassette, color. Interview Preparation (23 min); The Interview (28 min); Interview Followup (18 min). College Placement Council, 62 Highland Avenue, Bethlehem, PA 18017.
The Campus Interview, VHS videocassette, 15 min, color. Ernst and Young, 2000 National City Center, Cleveland, OH 44114.
The Employment Interview, VHS videocassette, 35 min, color. Southern School Media, 1027 Broadway Avenue, Bowling Green, KY 42104.
I Guess I Got the Job, VHS videocassette, 13 min, color. CRM Productions, McGraw-Hill Films, 11 West 19th Street, New York, NY 10011.
The Job Interview: An Investment in the Future, VHS videocassette, 30 min, color. Bradley University Television Center, 1501 West Bradley Avenue, Peoria, IL 61625.
Successful Interview Strategies for Teachers, four VHS videocassettes, (total = 90 min), color. University of Iowa Audiovisual Center, Iowa City, IA 52242.
In an interview for a music teacher position, the interviewee should be evaluating the strengths of the school as much as the school is evaluating the strengths of the interviewee. Lewis H. Strouse identifies seven areas to assist the prospective music teacher in determining how well the interviewing shcool and the interviewee fit.
Assess the Program Before You Accept the Job
by Lewis H. Strouse
Entering the job market as a new teacher or a long-experienced veteran can be an exciting and unnerving adventure. Regardless of your status, you look for a position that fits your style of teaching, a school that shares your philosophy of music education, and a community that will offer you and your family an enjoyable lifestyle. You need to balance all of these factors before deciding to accept a job offer.
Teaching positions in high school music are unique because of their high visibility. The results of your teaching efforts are viewed and evaluated not only by your students and immediate supervisors but also by the community. Through public appearances, your groups bear the responsibility of representing the school and the community within and beyond the bounds of the area served by the school. Other classroom teachers would be in a position similar to yours if they were to post their students’ scored midterm exams, final exams, and term projects in a public forum for all to see and judge.
Since the work of any high school music director is so visible, the position always brings with it the stress of responding to the expectations of students, faculty, administration, parents, and the public. Therefore, neither the candidate nor the school should treat the interview process for high school music directors lightly.
Throughout the interview process, you must try to gain a clear and accurate picture of the school, the community, and the current perception of the music program within the school-community setting. It is critical to the success of your program that your expectations of the music program are in line with those of the school. Ambiguous expectations on your part, or the school’s part, can lead to unsettled times and additional stress.
Many school and community factors contribute to the consistent success of any performance-based school organization. To ensure mutually supportive expectations, you should address seven resource areas of the school and community during the interview process. In some instances, it may be useful to explore the program before and after the scheduled interview. Ultimately, the success of your program will depend upon satisfactory support from each of the areas discussed below.
Additionally, job candidates sometimes find that prospective employers either have unrealistic
expectations of performance organizations or are seeking quick fixes to program problems that usually require long-term solutions. With this in view, the information you gain from a thorough examination of a prospective job can be as useful to your employer as it will be to your decision about accepting the position. It is not advisable to compete for a position by promising to deliver the world, because soon after you begin to work, you will discover the folly of your promise. You must make your views of the positive aspects and your solutions for the negative aspects of a program clear to your prospective employer before you accept a position.
The Seven Areas
The seven interview agenda areas are critical diagnostic areas. Even though the clearest picture of each area will only be realized after total immersion in a new position, it remains very important that you achieve at least a comfortable sense of each area before accepting the offer of a position.
Thoroughly assess each diagnostic area and do not second-guess your intuition about the assessments. If your gut feeling tells you that there are serious concerns, you should seek further information.
Area 1: Attitude of the school’s student body toward the music program. A positive view of the music program by the student body of a high school will greatly influence the program’s rate of growth and strength of musicianship. Certainly, negative student attitudes are susceptible to change over time and need not, in and of themselves, keep you from accepting a position. Still, a history of negative student attitudes within a school is cause for concern and further inquiry.
You can best assess student attitudes by speaking with as many students as possible-students within and outside of the music program. Students are very perceptive and rarely fail to offer genuine concern or enthusiasm for a program. Ask questions such as “Is the music program a popular part of school life?” and “Do you think the program could be improved?” As you begin your diagnosis of a program, conversations with students will give you an excellent overview of the program’s health.
Area 2: Attitude of music students toward the music program. During the interview process, it is vital to review the current curriculum and activities of the program, and to assess student attitudes toward the current program. In order to review the curriculum and policies of the music program, ask to see a curriculum guide for music. (Whether a guide is available is a revealing factor.) Are music courses and stated policies clearly detailed in the curriculum guide or in a music department handbook? Do the individual music organizations have their own handbooks of policies and procedures?
Discussions with music students will quickly illuminate positive and negative aspects of a program. Be straightforward in your conversations with the students. Ask questions such as “Are you proud to be a membe
r of the music program?” “Have you noticed an improvement in your musicianship as a result of being in the program?” and “Would you want to see any aspect of the program changed?” Listen to what the students say in response. The content and tone of student discussion will offer ample insight into areas of concern and delight.
Students with positive attitudes will move quickly to adapt to changes in directors. A strong rapport between students and teacher will be the essence of success for a well-founded program.
Area 3: The organization and quality of music student leadership. It is very important that a music organization with a large membership has a strong leadership infrastructure. If an infrastructure of officers and section leaders is already in place, it will greatly assist with the transition to a new director by fostering group cohesion and esprit de corps.
The extent of student leadership organization should be determined through conversations with the current director and music students. Reviewing a music department handbook will give you a sense of the leadership structure, but what exists on paper and what exists in reality may be two different animals. Specific inquiries might include, “Is a listing of student officers available?” “Does the music organization have a institution that details the nature and responsibilities of various leadership positions?” and “How effective is the current student leadership?”
It is very useful to sit down with student leaders and listen to their views and aspirations for the program. This time together gives students the opportunity to meet you informally and to discover your views on areas that are of concern to them. If the interview does not provide the opportunity for exchanges with student leaders, it is important that such a meeting take place prior to the beginning of the school year. It is best to formulate policy and set expectations only after current viewpoints and program practices have been thoroughly considered. Teaching is first and foremost an interplay of attitudes and personalities, and special care must be taken to respect the current attitudes of the school and community before setting goals and objectives in a new teaching situation. Moreover, good impressions of you, your concern, and your ideas will travel quickly through the school and community as a result of meeting with students. Comfortable feelings among all concerned will pave the way for a successful school year.
Area 4: The attitude and support of parents. Music activities offer students wonderful opportunities to develop self-confidence and self-esteem (factors that correlate positively with academic success in other subjects) as well as musicianship. However, students who function successfully in music activities must possess a substantial amount of self-discipline. Self-discipline is required to establish a personal practice routine and to attend many after-school hours of rehearsals, concerts, and other music-related activities. It is important for parents to be willing to support and encourage their children in developing self-discipline.
The literature on educational reform identifies parental support as a critical component of successful teaching, and you should speak with parent officers of music booster groups in order to complete your assessment of support for the music program. Furthermore, it is important that director expectations and parent expectations for the program be in workable agreement. Ask to meet with officers of the music boosters so that you can discuss the nature of their involvement in the current program and what they expect from the program. This meeting is an excellent opportunity to express your philosophy of music education and then to gauge the reaction of the parent group. You should also ask the music students about their view of the parent support group.
Because of the time that music students commit to community performance, it is necessary for the community, and especially the parents of music students, to show their support for the students through school concert attendance and participation in music booster activities. You should check concert attendance in the recent past because it is a measure of attitude. A large music program will be heavily dependent on parental support for the arrangements of local activities as well as for activities that involve travel.
Area 5: Communication between music department and local community. Communication is always an important key to success in all kinds of relationships from personal to corporate. People tend to pay little attention to that which they do not understand, and this lack of understanding can be especially painful for the music director when increased funding for the schools is sought. Regular news items in school board publications have proven to be very effective in maintaining support for music in many communities. Music newsletters to parents and community businesses offer an opportunity to highlight the accomplishments of the music program and individual students. The public newsletter serves to personalize and reinforce the importance of the program. Music is presented as a source of pride for the local schools and community.
You should assess the opportunities available for communication if some process of regular published contact is not already in place.
Area 6: Monetary commitment to the program. Music programs incur regular expenditures for sheet music, new and refurbished instruments, auxiliary equipment, storage facilities, and attire for concert and marching performances. Take the time necessary to assess the depth of the current music library, the quality and number of instruments in inventory, the quality of auxiliary equipment, the amount of area devoted to storage facilities and its growth potential, and the quality of attire used for public appearances. Request specific budget figures from school officials. Do the current and projected figures of the administration reflect a commitment to quality-now and in the future?
Extend budget discussions to conversations with the current director. After you assess this area thoroughly, you may need to offer a very specific blueprint for improvement.
Area 7: Quality of the feeder system. It is important to assess the strength of the elementary and junior high choral and instrumental music programs. For example, instrumentalists who do not begin lessons until their freshman or sophomore year of high school will not be able to maintain the excellence of a high school band or orchestra. If the feeder system is not producing competent and enthusiastic musicians, you should determine the amount of influence that you could have on developing or improving the feeder program.
Request some time to speak with music teachers in the feeder schools. Through these discussions you will be able to gain an impression of their commitment to a quality program. Conversations with feeder school teachers also offer the opportunity for you to learn more about the current high school program and its history. You need feeder teachers to be your strong allies. By developing conscientious and enthusiastic students, these teachers will form the foundation of your high school program.
Each of the seven diagnostic areas will play a crucial role in the success of your high school music program. In certain situations, important features of these areas may not be in place. Some schools may present a very poor scenario with only the bare essentials of a program in place, while others will offer programs of comprehensive excellence. Whatever the case, it is your responsibility to yourself and your potential employer to ascertain the quality of the program and its needs, and to offer your design for improving the program.
You certainly should not reject out-of-hand a job possibility at a school that lacks infrastructure and that has extraordinary needs. However, you do need to determine the amount of support that is present for the improvement of t
he program. Aside from the answers to your questions, your best sense of school and community support for program improvement will come from your perception of an eagerness to change-a perception you will gain from interpersonal contacts with school administrators, faculty, students, and parents during the interview process.
Arrive at your interview with an agenda for assessment and complete the interview by offering your agenda for maintaining the excellence of the program or improving the program. In some instances, it may take you a few days following the interview to consider all that you have learned before submitting your plan. If you are not completely satisfied with the position, do not be persuaded to accept a contract hastily. School officials who are committed to quality education will allow you a reasonable amount of time to consider your decision. Your confidence in the school’s commitment to your agenda will make job decision making a more comfortable task.