Why Become a Music Professor?

It can seem at times that the path to becoming a music professor is quite long and difficult, and that in the end it might even turn out to not be worthwhile. Why is this so?

Here, for example, is a link to Sarah Schmalenberger’s brilliant review of musicologist Henry Kingsbury’s recent book that paints an unprecedentedly bleak picture of the field of ethnomusicology (p. 38):

Regardless of the extent to which Kingsbury’s account may (or may not) turn out to be very reliable, his tragic reflections provide unusually penetrating insights into the kinds of formidable challenges that are too often encountered during the early stages of an academic career in music. Such writings are certainly not for the faint of heart, and should be approached with the same kind of cautious skepticism reserved for other books in a similar vein, such as Mozart in the Jungle. Still, there is something to be learned from this genre, as long as it does not inspire prejudice or paranoia among its readers, especially for those who would otherwise enter academia with naïve expectations. This genre also provides important food for thought as one strives to envision improved policies and procedures for academic governance, management, and evaluation that might prevent the recurrence of perceived injustices, whether real or merely imagined. All devoted music teachers should be given good reason to feel genuinely appreciated by their superiors and peers, and all should also give (and be given) the benefit of the doubt, rather than allowing differences to turn into destructive hostility.

It seems best to keep in mind that despite the kinds of challenges discussed by Schmalenberger and Kingsbury (from different perspectives), there are obvious signs of improvement within higher education music programs throughout much of the world, and many find that after enduring some difficulties the teaching, performing, and researching of music becomes a highly enjoyable and fulfilling profession. There are still many good reasons to become a music professor, and many prospective colleagues in the field of music who are genuinely admirable people.
* Music professors make a positive difference by helping others to better understand music and enjoy participation in musical activities, as well as by advancing their art form.

* Music professors also expand musical knowledge through research, and devise new ways to more effectively create and share music.

Here is a link to a helpful article on "employability" in the field of music:

Here is a link to an article that, although a bit simplistic at times, makes some useful points regarding the process of becoming a music professor. Its contents are particularly relevant to prospective teachers of music performance:

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