Beliefs of Applied Studio Faculty on Desirable Traits of Entering Music Education Majors


Natalie Steele Royston, Iowa State University

D. Gregory Springer, University of South Carolina


The admission of undergraduate students into music education programs represents one of the most important entry points into the profession for preservice music teachers. This study represents the work of SMTE’s Program Admission, Assessment, and Alignment ASPA and originated from conversations held during the SMTE ASPA meetings in September 2013, which were focused on the admission of entering music students into music education degree programs.

Traditionally, universities review prospective students’ GPA, test scores, extracurricular activities, demonstrated interest, and letters of recommendation as criteria for admission into music education programs. Each music program then determines its own procedures for admission and screening of potential students (NASM, 2014). In many schools, the applied faculty hold the majority, or entirety, of admission screening responsibilities, often unilaterally. Once accepted as music majors, students are often able to self-select into music education as well. Although music education faculty understand the requirements of the degree, teaching profession, and traits that are desirable in music educators, they are often not part of the admission process. The impact of these admission procedures is profound as they determine the current student body, the music educators of tomorrow, and the future of the profession. For these reasons, it is important that music education faculty understand the beliefs applied music faculty hold regarding the desirable traits of prospective music education majors. The purpose of this study was to examine the beliefs of applied music faculty on desirable traits of prospective music education majors.


A survey developed by the researchers (based on prior research—e.g., Doerksen & Ritcher, 2007, 2009) was distributed to a national sample of applied music faculty to ascertain the traits found to be desirable in prospective music education majors. The sample for this study included 1,700 applied music faculty at 73 NASM- accredited institutions randomly selected and stratified based on geographic region. The survey instrument was delivered as both a web-based and paper questionnaire. The survey consisted of 27 questions with multiple choice, 5-point Likert-type, and open-ended responses.


Respondents indicated that music education faculty members hold limited responsibility in the admissions process, as the majority indicated that admissions decisions are made by individual applied faculty or a committee of applied faculty.


The desirability of a variety of professional dispositions were rated as well as the importance of a variety of selection criteria for admitting prospective music education majors. Highest-rated dispositions were “demonstrates a passion for music” and “is responsible and dependable.” Lowest-rated dispositions were “dresses appropriately” and “demonstrates a commitment to working with parents and school personnel.” The majority of respondents indicated that music education majors’ dispositions are not assessed during the admission process. Highest-rated selection criteria included “desire to be a music educator” and “performing ability,” while lowest-rated criteria included “notoriety of former private music teacher” and “notoriety of former ensemble director.” Conclusions and implications for music teacher educators are discussed, and suggestions for future research are provided.




Doerksen, P. F., & Ritcher, G. K. (2007, September). The 2007 national survey of music teacher certification programs. Paper presented at the Symposium on Music Teacher Education, Greensboro, NC.

Doerksen, P. F., & Ritcher, G. K. (2009, September). The assessment of professional dispositions in music teacher certification programs. Paper presented at the Symposium on Music Teacher Education, Greensboro, NC.

NASM (2014). Handbook 2014-15. Retrieved from