Degree Tracks in Music Education: An Impediment to the Future


John Kratus, Independent Scholar


Most states certify music teachers as “K-12,” with no designation for elementary, instrumental, or choral music. Yet most large universities (and NASM curricular guidelines) direct pre-service music teachers into specialized tracks in accordance with students’ performance medium. Typically, wind, string, and percussion students are put in an instrumental music education track, and voice and piano students are placed in a choral track. There are three problems with this approach: (1) Many positions for new music teachers require expertise in teaching various classes and ensembles. (2) K-12 certification enables an instrumental teacher with no experience whatsoever in elementary general music to teach it. (3) The emphasis on educating directors of large instrumental and choral ensembles has limited the expansion of secondary music offerings to new forms of music engagement (Kratus, 2007; Williams, 2011).


This session describes the experience of one large music education department in 2000 in transitioning from three degree tracks (instrumental, strings, choral/general) to a single degree program in music education. The new program enabled students to pursue options regarding methods classes, conducting classes, instrument classes, and ensembles. The curricular change was initially opposed primarily by wind performance faculty and band conductors.


Faculty opponents of the change raised the following objections: (1) Students would select the “easy” classes rather than the necessary classes. (2) Prospective band teachers would not elect all the wind and percussion classes necessary to teach band. (3) Employers would not hire graduates of the program.


After implementation of the curricular changes, graduates were hired at a near 100% rate, and student satisfaction was at an all-time high. There were no “easy” classes that students elected. Applicants have been multi-musical musicians: drum major in the marching band, singer in the school musical, and guitarist. The presentation concludes with the words of music education undergraduates reflecting on their college education in the new program.




Kratus, J. (2007). Music education at the tipping point. Music Edsucators Journal, 94(2), 42-48

Williams, D. A. (2011). The elephant in the room. Music Educators Journal, 98(1), 51-57.