Collegiate NewsLink – January 2013

Happy New Year, everyone!

Feature Article – “Have Fun Storming the Castle! or How to Enjoy Your Job Interviews” by Dr. Deborah Barber

In Rob Reiner’s film The Princess Bride, the three heroes are given the advice, “Have fun storming the castle!” as they head toward an ominous task. Indeed, why not? Storming the castle is SO much harder than having a successful job interview. We often are our own worst enemies in crucial situations for which we are prepared and could, perhaps, actually enjoy. 

It is not inconceivable that you can scale the Cliffs of Insanity as adroitly as Westley and actually reach your goal.  Let’s talk about phone and in-person interviews and how we can have fun with them and make progress toward our goals.

Waiting for the phone to ring might make you think of the Pit of Despair, but when you get the call be ready! Sometimes the initial conversation with a school district official is on the phone. If you get a call good for you!  Be happy! The school or district officials who are looking for a music teacher have read your cover letter, transcripts, and application and think you might have what they want for their music program. They will call one or all of your references, so be sure you have contacted them during your initial application to tell them for what positions and in what districts you are applying.

During this phone interview and/or in person, you will need to show potential employers you can communicate using proper grammar, etiquette, and humour. Administrators look for future teachers who are prone to happiness and not worriers. Here are some possible questions or conversation starters you might hear in a phone or in-person interview.

1. Tell me about yourself.

2. Have you had any experience in working with students? In addition to your internship what have you done in the way of teaching private lessons, choir/band camp during the summer, or as a volunteer?

3. Why do you want to work here?

4. What do you know about our school and our community?

5. Where would you like for our program to be in five years?

6. What do you think are your biggest strengths that will help you in the position?

7. What is your greatest weakness? or What is a hardship you have overcome?

When you get a call, turn down all extraneous sound. Do not talk while driving. Speak with confidence. The interviewer will probably ask if you have any questions, so have a couple prepared about something other than budget. The interviewer is often an interesting person, so enjoy learning a bit about him or her.

If you thoughtfully prepare for these questions you might get a call for a face-to-face interview.  This will be a great opportunity for you to show that you are a responsible adult who will be an asset to the school system and an intelligent, caring teacher.

Using something other than intuition get excellent directions to the school or school board office and be early for the interview. Be courteous to everyone you meet.

Because you are intelligent you will not dress like you are going to a party or to play soccer. Look at professional journals and see what the people in the pictures are wearing.  Do not wear fishnet hose, camo, mega-bling, sequins, platform shoes, flip-flops, or a hat. You will not chew gum.  Think about your internship and the long days you spent on your feet and the many jobs/tasks you did in one day. In your interview show that you are someone who will be glad to help in any situation, so try not to look fragile or “high maintenance.” Make eye contact and speak at an appropriate volume for the situation.

I like to suggest that my students develop a portfolio to be carried into the interview with photos of them directing a group, working with students, and examples of pieces they have written, arranged, or conducted. A link or even a tablet displaying your personal/professional website can be a plus.

Before entering the interview turn off your cell phone and do not look at your watch or any clock in the room. Nothing is more important than this time and this place. At the conclusion of the interview thank the interviewer(s) for allowing you this opportunity, shake hands firmly, smile, and leave.

Of course, all principals, personnel directors, and school superintendents are not the same, so the suggestions above are based on my experience and the experiences of many of my student teachers.

There are many possible paths to acquiring your first teaching position.  Many factors will come into play during the search, interview, and hiring process. Some things are beyond your control. So be it. You can, however, be active in searching for positions and then in preparing for your interviews.  

So, as Inigo Montoya said in The Princess Bride, “Let me sum up.”  Prepare, get facts on the community and school system, and be confident, eloquent, and kind. Remember that you are going to make the world a better place by influencing young musicians, so you are a treasure.

BTW, I cannot leave without acknowledging Mark Knopfler’s soundtrack and Willy Deville’s “Storybook Love” from the movie.

Dr. Deborah Barber is the Southwestern Division Representative on the NAfME Collegiate Advisory Council


Nominate Outstanding Students for the Collegiate Professional Achievement Award

The purpose of the Professional Achievement award is to recognize individual Collegiate members for their commitment and dedication to NAfME and music education. This recognition is given to Collegiate members who have served their chapters in an exemplary manner. All Collegiate members who meet the following criteria are eligible to receive this award.

Criteria: (all requirements apply)

  1. Student must be currently enrolled in an active NAfME Collegiate chapter.
  2. Student must also have been a Collegiate member of NAfME in the school year prior to the current one.
  3. Student must possess an overall minimum grade point average of 3.0 (on a 4.0 scale) or equivalent during the year of the application.
  4. Student must verify participation and involvement in chapter activities.

For each nominee, chapter advisors should send a completed Professional Achievement application and a description of the member’s involvement in chapter activities to NAfME. Applications must be emailed to or mailed, postmarked by February 28, 2013. Recipients of this recognition receive a Certificate of Recognition and a NAfME lapel pin.



It’s the second semester, and that means it’s past time to join NAfME  or re-activate your NAfME membership!  You can still get the benefit of the excellent NAfME publications  –Teaching Music and Music Educators Journal – as well as access to all archived NAfME journals, all great resources as you progress in your music education studies. 

Many state conferences are coming up soon and offer free or reduced registration rates to Collegiate members!  Join now to enjoy outstanding professional development sessions and musical performances, meet potential employers, and see the latest in music products that will be on display at your state conference. 

Become a part of your campus chapter!  Join or renew now – go to or contact Member Services at 800-336-3768  8-4:30 p.m. Eastern Time. 



Music learning should be a part of the education of every young person, not just the privileged few. Give a Note Foundation has a goal of raising $1 million to help spread the joy of music study to underfunded and underserved areas of the United States. Each year from 2013 to 2016, we’re asking every NAfME Collegiate chapter to raise at least $200 toward this goal.

Help us share the wealth that music education brings to those whose lives it touches. The Give a Note Foundation Fundraising Toolkit, found online at can help your NAfME Collegiate chapter get things rolling. All elements in the toolkit are downloadable and printable.

Questions about the campaign can be directed to Jennifer Gray Schleining at 571-323-5957 or

If you’d like to make a tax-deductible contribution, go to and click on the “Donate” tab on the top banner. Or, go to


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