The First Year or the First Months of Teaching Music? First Year Instrumental Music Teachers' Perceptions


David A. Stringham, James Madison University

Alden H. Snell, II, University of Rochester


As music teacher educators and researchers, we are interested in better understanding the transition between the end of undergraduate education and the beginning of instrumental music teaching. Our inquiry aligns with existing research and resources regarding this critical career stage (e.g., Conway, 2015; Conway & Hodgman, 2006; Conway, Smith, & Hodgman, 2010; Isbell, 2015; Peterson, 2011; Townsend, 2011). We have previously collaborated with first-year teachers to document their experiences during the early life cycle of a music educator (Stringham & Snell, in press, manuscript in preparation). In this in-progress study, we wondered: (a) To what extent does a music teacherís first year experiences depend on her or his work environment? (b) Instead of focusing on the entire first year of teaching, should we be examining the first months of teachingóor even the months between accepting a job and starting the school yearómore closely? and (c) Should music teacher socialization help a new music teacherís practice resemble existing performance-centric tradition, or help that new teacher enact more sequential, standards-based practice?


We provided three first year teachers with independent, secure electronic journals for reflection on their experiences. Participants provided an initial entry wherein they shared information about their new position, school, community, and perceptions of their interview process and new teacher orientation. We requested short, frequent entries rather than longer, less frequent entries. To elaborate on and clarify journal entries, we interviewed participants four times during the school year. Each of our participants completed an undergraduate music education degree at a mid-Atlantic state university in Spring 2016. During the 2016Ė2017 academic year, two participants were teaching middle school wind and percussion students; our third participant taught wind, percussion, and string students at a high school. While participants completed the same undergraduate curriculum, each had pursued coursework and extracurricular experiences in areas of individual interest (e.g., jazz pedagogy, music technology) that they hoped would inform their first year of teaching.


Preliminary analysis suggests our three current participantsí experiences reinforced patterns of success observed in previous studies, affirming importance of the early months of teaching. For example, one participant replaced a veteran teacher and has struggled with varying levels of student and parent commitment to the marching band and band program in general. Another participant was introduced to the school community in the previous spring upon being hired; this teacher has reported strong support throughout the first year of instruction. The third participant has overcome opposition to new pedagogical ideas (e.g., a practice journal replacing a traditional practice time log) by seeking and gaining support from important community stakeholders. These three teachersí experiences appear to affirm importance of providing new music educators a supportive environment, particularly in the first months. Tensions around performance-centric versus standards-based instruction appear to require continued research to provide adequate support and guidance to preservice and early career music educators. Findings from this study will inform our professionís ongoing effort at preparing and supporting early career music educators.




Conway, C. (2015). The experiences of first-year music teachers: A literature review. Update, 33(2), 65-72.

Conway, C., & Hodgman, T. M. (2006). Handbook for the beginning music teacher. Chicago: GIA Publications, Inc.

Conway, C., Smith, M. V., & Hodgman, T. M. (2011). Handbook for the music mentor. Chicago: GIA Publications, Inc.

Isbell, D. S. (2015). The socialization of music teachers: A review of the literature. Update, 34(1), 5-12.

Peterson, E. (2011). The music teacherís first year: Tales of challenge, joy, and triumph. Galesville, MD: Meredith Music Publications.

Stringham, D. A., & Snell, A. H., II (in press). CONSIDERABLE STRESS and MISERY: A first-year music teacherís experiences. Research Studies in Music Education.

Townsend, A. S. (2011). Introduction to effective music teaching: Artistry and attitude. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc.