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  1. #1

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    EDIT: I kind of posted this question on a whim of self-doubt wondering what the hell I was gonna do with my future, haha, and haven't been back to read all these informative answers. I'll be taking time to do that soon. I'll say now that I've thought about it's an option I want to think about, but I'm just gonna see about taking private jazz lessons first and see how I like that. I may not even go get my Master's in Music (been eyeing Library science oddly enough) but we shall see. I appreciate everyone's answers!

    I attended a small, public liberal arts university and earned my BA in Music with my instrument being classical guitar. I enjoyed playing classical, but I'm not particularly passionate about it. I would LOVE to learn jazz, and I want to get a Master's degree because ultimately I'd like to teach at a community college or University.

    My main question is what kind of steps would I need to take to be able to qualify for a Master's jazz program since my undergrad isn't jazz studies? I feel I'm a good guitar player; I'm familiar with all my scales, I know a lot of "jazz" chords and the theory behind forming them, though I just have very little experience with actually playing jazz and also limited improvisation experience. I know I'll need to do some learning on my own, but is it still feasible to get accepted. To those that know much about Jazz ed, would I be allowed to take some pre-requesites?

    If it helps, I'm aiming to attent North Carolina Central University, which is an hour away from where I live. It is a traditionally black college, but I am white, haha.
    Last edited by kylekage90; 02-10-2015 at 02:15 PM.

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  3. #2

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    You'll get a lot of good advice on this forum but the ultimate determiner will be the Dean and the administrators of the school you want to attend. If you haven't already, I would make an appointment with the appropriate decision-makers at NCCU and find out what their requirements are, what if any gaps there are in your undergrad degree and what materials they recommend you familiarize yourself with. That will give you all the answers you need.
    Last edited by hanktx; 01-23-2015 at 11:51 AM. Reason: typo

  4. #3

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    Far as I know most masters programs don't care if you were a classical major. The audition will be the deciding factor in just about every instance. If you play better than a jazz major then who cares? I have seen some that explicitly recommend applicants have a BM degree rather than a BA. That's probably for reasons of prerequisite courses they want students to have taken. You'd have to ask an admissions person about that.

  5. #4

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    I've actually been involved in a chat with another musician with his BA and considering his getting his Masters because he wants to teach at college. We'll I did some research and to teach at the college level schools require a PhD or at least be in a PhD program. So getting a MA teach middle school or high school and those usually require being able to also teach beginning level band instruments.

    So I would suggest researching all that's involved with teaching, the credentials and skills they want in the area where you plan to get started.

  6. #5

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    I can also say your situation sounds verbatim like mine was leaving college. I did have jazz guitar lessons and played in ensembles and gigged regularly throughout college though so I wasn't just changing gears big time. Best thing you can do is get a lesson w a professor at a school you're interested in. They may say good things or they may say (maybe not in so many words) that you're not ready for their program (certainly had that happen more than once). That's by far the best way to get the feedback you're looking for.

  7. #6

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    Quote Originally Posted by docbop
    I've actually been involved in a chat with another musician with his BA and considering his getting his Masters because he wants to teach at college. We'll I did some research and to teach at the college level schools require a PhD or at least be in a PhD program. So getting a MA teach middle school or high school and those usually require being able to also teach beginning level band instruments.

    So I would suggest researching all that's involved with teaching, the credentials and skills they want in the area where you plan to get started.
    Not necessarily true. My son just got hired as a tenure-track assistant professor at a major university, having just received his Masters of Music degree. And he is not in a PhD program.

  8. #7

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    Quote Originally Posted by jasaco
    Not necessarily true. My son just got hired as a tenure-track assistant professor at a major university, having just received his Masters of Music degree. And he is not in a PhD program.
    I think it varies from state to state. In Florida, a masters is all that is required.

  9. #8

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    State really doesn't matter ... There's no rule. Every school is different. Some are sticklers for DMAs. Others will hire people with no degree but massive performance experience (Gary Burton for one) and loads of ground in between. Also high school and middle schools don't require masters degrees but they do require teacher certification (if they're public) and that's something a masters in jazz won't give you.

  10. #9

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    Also, it depends in part on whether the school offers a DMA degree, in which case (unless you're Gary Burton or someone with equivalent reputation and experience) you also have to have a DMA degree in order supervise others working toward that degree; you can't normally have a MM and supervise DMA candidates. Fortunately (for my son), his university does not offer the DMA, so he's good to go with his MM.

  11. #10

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    i would talk to John Murphy at UNT, and try real hard to find a way to go there.

  12. #11

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    Quote Originally Posted by docbop
    I've actually been involved in a chat with another musician with his BA and considering his getting his Masters because he wants to teach at college. We'll I did some research and to teach at the college level schools require a PhD or at least be in a PhD program. So getting a MA teach middle school or high school and those usually require being able to also teach beginning level band instruments.

    So I would suggest researching all that's involved with teaching, the credentials and skills they want in the area where you plan to get started.
    people seem to make concessions for guitar instructors, and major concessions for jazz guitar instructors. i don't know of any jazz guitar instructors in the US who have earned their Phds, although I'm sure there are some.

    check the background of the jazz guitar instructors at these fine programs:
    Berklee
    UNT
    USC
    Manhattan School of Music

  13. #12

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    It varies college to college... Each one sets it's own requirements. Most require at least a masters degree, but they can choose to ignore that if they want (unlike public schools, they set their own search criteria). Tenure track positions are difficult to get with a masters, whether the school requires a terminal degree or not (PhD, DMA, AD, etc.) because more and more people are earning terminal degrees to get at these positions, so consider your competition as well. Shenandoah conservatory had to replace their full time guitar professor a few years ago. Of more than 100 applicants, the majority had a terminal degree. Full time positions are scarce, and adjunct positions are not necessarily enough (no benefits, job security, lesser pay, etc.). Check out higheredjobs.com for an idea of what's out there in terms of jobs and requirements.

    In regards to your initial question, I've had students do it both ways (jazz undergrad to classical masters and vice-versa). I even know some who earned only a minor, but were proficient enough to get into a masters program. As others have mentioned, check with administration for paperwork issues at the school. Then get some lessons with the teacher there before you apply. More important than anything else in a graduate program is your fit with your mentor/advisor/teacher. S/he will have total control over your future, and personality conflicts will make your life hell, no matter how convenient the school is. You'll also develop a rapport with the teacher, and find out exactly what you need to do to get where you need to be.

    The majority of the decision lies in your audition (99% at least).


    Also, look into the possibility/availability of assistantships. In my personal opinion, it's no worth going if they won't offer you one... The field isn't really lucrative enough. It also makes it that much easier to find a job afterword because you will already have teaching experience.

    Also, I know that Radford University offers jazz masters degrees. It's not so terribly far from you. They don't have a jazz guitar teacher, but that's not so uncommon; jazz improv is jazz improv. As an undergrad I studied improv with Denny DiBlasio (Maynard Ferguson's Bari), and took lessons from a jazz bass player in addition to my guitar teachers. There are things I learned from them that I'm not sure I ever would have thought of as a guitarist.


    Just some food for thought.
    Last edited by stringsalive; 01-25-2015 at 02:55 AM.

  14. #13

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    DMAs in jazz are a rare breed....often you'll find people with PhDs (which are a research degree, rather than a performance degree) in musicology who have focused in jazz. Other than that, most have a masters and/or extensive performing experience. I know of at least one major guitar professor who doesn't even have a HS diploma.

  15. #14

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    Quote Originally Posted by stringsalive
    DMAs in jazz are a rare breed....often you'll find people with PhDs (which are a research degree, rather than a performance degree) in musicology who have focused in jazz. Other than that, most have a masters and/or extensive performing experience. I know of at least one major guitar professor who doesn't even have a HS diploma.
    yep, a "name" artist perhaps? but is he really a "professor" by title?

  16. #15

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    I was thinking UArts in Philly

  17. #16

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    So let me wrap my head around this one.This is to teach jazz in college?? There isn't a long list of educated veteran jazz players waiting for these kind of gigs? Someone with no real experience working in the jazz community, background is classical, and hopes to get academic jazz credentials....this person has a chance in hell of teaching folks paying big bucks for a jazz education??

  18. #17

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    Quote Originally Posted by cosmic gumbo
    So let me wrap my head around this one.This is to teach jazz in college?? There isn't a long list of educated veteran jazz players waiting for these kind of gigs? Someone with no real experience working in the jazz community, background is classical, and hopes to get academic jazz credentials....this person has a chance in hell of teaching folks paying big bucks for a jazz education??

    That was put rather harshly but it's also the truth. There are actually loads of jazz guys out there with DMAs. Even more with Masters and heavy playing experience. Even many with only high school or undergrad who are heavy players and looking for adjunct teaching gigs. The number of college teaching gigs out there is miniscule. That means that there's intense competition for ones that are available. Maybe more adjunct teaching gigs but there's still pretty serious competition for those and if you're really dead-set on that then they're usually given to guys who are already local and hired by the year on fairly short notice (ie - not something you'd be able to fly 1000 miles out to interview for or have much stake in relocating for if you did).

    I'd get the degree because you want the education rather than for a job. It's unfortunate but it doesn't always work out that cleanly in this field.

  19. #18

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    regarding teaching at college, yes it's a tight market. the bigger and more prestigious the program the tougher it is, although that's not a hard and fast rule. i could point out some examples of "good but not great" players who teach at college, but that would be tacky.

    its also true that experience is a huge factor so getting a college teaching gig "day 1" out of grad school might be even tougher. but again, there are examples...

    the community college route is a lower hurdle. i know a fair number of guitar teachers in this arena and am familiar with their playing and credentials.

    so if you are hell bent on it and have some talent don't be discouraged, there are more collegiate jazz programs now than ever before, and they seem to spawn community college programs in the same geographical area. you'll have to do your own research on this to satisfy yourself...

  20. #19

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    It's tough, but jobs are out there. Like I said, check out what's available and get familiar with your competition.

    My second post was more in response to the discussion about school's requirements....they set their own.

  21. #20

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    Quote Originally Posted by stringsalive
    It's tough, but jobs are out there. Like I said, check out what's available and get familiar with your competition.

    My second post was more in response to the discussion about school's requirements....they set their own.
    The big thing in requirements is public school vs private and full-time professor vs temporary or any thing with assistant in from of it. Now that's to get started like anything once you get some resume fodder then easier to get foot in the door.

  22. #21
    Quote Originally Posted by fumblefingers
    the community college route is a lower hurdle.
    This is what I was going to say. Community college professors teach a little more of everything than university professors. if you don't mind covering something like a theory class or music history , teaching both classical and jazz guitar for a small program etc. They are just smaller and not as many grad assistants teaching those lower-level classes. (Another reason why GOOD community colleges can be a great value to start.)

    Another factor is proximity to urban centers, especially jazz scenes. If you're more focused on teaching than gigging real hard, there's not gonna be as much competition in places that are more removed from a real jazz scene. The real jazzers just aren't going to go there.

  23. #22

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    Quote Originally Posted by matt.guitarteacher
    This is what I was going to say. Community college professors teach a little more of everything than university professors. if you don't mind covering something like a theory class or music history , teaching both classical and jazz guitar for a small program etc. They are just smaller and not as many grad assistants teaching those lower-level classes. (Another reason why GOOD community colleges can be a great value to start.)

    Another factor is proximity to urban centers, especially jazz scenes. If you're more focused on teaching than gigging real hard, there's not gonna be as much competition in places that are more removed from a real jazz scene. The real jazzers just aren't going to go there.
    Last time I talked to my friends that teach here in California they said community college pays better than the universities.

  24. #23

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    With all due respect ... I also think we're missing the point here. The original poster had a question - that question was - how do I get in to a jazz masters program when I have a BA with a focus in classical guitar?

  25. #24

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    Quote Originally Posted by pamosmusic
    That was put rather harshly but it's also the truth. There are actually loads of jazz guys out there with DMAs. Even more with Masters and heavy playing experience. Even many with only high school or undergrad who are heavy players and looking for adjunct teaching gigs. The number of college teaching gigs out there is miniscule. That means that there's intense competition for ones that are available. Maybe more adjunct teaching gigs but there's still pretty serious competition for those and if you're really dead-set on that then they're usually given to guys who are already local and hired by the year on fairly short notice (ie - not something you'd be able to fly 1000 miles out to interview for or have much stake in relocating for if you did).

    I'd get the degree because you want the education rather than for a job. It's unfortunate but it doesn't always work out that cleanly in this field.
    My question is, how do you guys cope with that much debt, though?

  26. #25

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    Quote Originally Posted by Broyale
    My question is, how do you guys cope with that much debt, though?

    Don't take much on.

  27. #26
    Quote Originally Posted by Broyale
    My question is, how do you guys cope with that much debt, though?
    Yeah. Find a way to pay-as-you-go. The ratios for market value to income potential is catastrophically bad for funding with any kind of debt if you are going to teach.

  28. #27

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    Quote Originally Posted by pamosmusic
    With all due respect ... I also think we're missing the point here. The original poster had a question - that question was - how do I get in to a jazz masters program when I have a BA with a focus in classical guitar?
    Yes, that is the question posed -- the rest is mostly commentary on whether it's worthwhile having the masters degree at the end of the day. And, IMO, the best answer to the OP's original question has already been given above, which is to go talk with the admissions advisor of the school(s) that you're interested in and ask them. You might even pay for a private lesson with one of the jazz guitar faculty to do a preliminary assessment of where you currently are and what you need to work on to be accepted into the program. (Some schools also publish online the audition requirements, e.g., play these scales fluently up and down 2 octaves, comp any standard of your choice, improv over 2 choruses of rhythm changes, etc., so that will tell you what your audition would entail.) It may turn out that you'll need to spend a year or so studying jazz privately, and joining/forming a combo, to get some jazz playing experience under your belt and into your hands and ears before applying. But they can tell you; truly, we can't.
    Last edited by jasaco; 01-26-2015 at 10:36 AM.

  29. #28

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    As I mentioned earlier, getting an assistantship for masters or doctoral programs in this field IMO are a MUST. The assistantships pay (or help pay) your tuition therefore no debt. They also give you the experience you need to get a job in higher ed.


    To me, graduate degrees aren't worth getting if you don't have an assistantship.

  30. #29

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    Quote Originally Posted by matt.guitarteacher
    Yeah. Find a way to pay-as-you-go. The ratios for market value to income potential is catastrophically bad for funding with any kind of debt if you are going to teach.
    Catastrophic eh? Nice word choice.

    i don't know much about student loans, but a "practically infinity" payback date would probably be attractive for a music major of any stripe...

  31. #30

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    not when that "practically infinity" payback date still calls for paying $400/mo for practically infinity.

  32. #31

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    Here's my point about UNT, if a bit off topic relative to the OP.

    it has both a PhD and Masters in jazz.

    it has been around and is well known and respected in the jazz field.

    They have ways for accommodating diverse undergrad backgrounds in their jazz masters programs (I know of at least one ex classical guitar undergrad who earned his Masters in jazz -and went directly into a collegiate instructor gig upon graduation.)

    the other advice here is very useful. Lots of angles to consider.

  33. #32
    Quote Originally Posted by fumblefingers
    Catastrophic eh? Nice word choice.

    i don't know much about student loans, but a "practically infinity" payback date would probably be attractive for a music major of any stripe...
    Did you accidentally cut off half your post or something? This makes no sense.

    I know Rush always says that nobody pays those things back anyway. But what's your point? Are you advocating borrowing money without a real intention to pay it back? Just because something is a problem (not paying debts back etc.), doesn't mean that you also have to contribute to it as well.

    [Do you have anything that's not a talking point or a reaction to what you perceive as a talking point from someone else? Are you actively trolling my comments across threads now? if that makes you happy, what ever. I think maybe you need to turn off the TV and the talk radio. ]....

    Anyway, there's a quantifiable measure of return on investment for education. It's called salary. If the salary is too low compared to the amount borrowed, it's not financially justifiable . That point is pretty early in for music majors borrowing money for school generally speaking.

    As a fiscal conservative , I have a problem advocating borrowing money for something that doesn't return anything for the individual or society. The burden is on everyone, sure. But mainly for the individual.

    I'm not a journalist , and I'm not going to overanalyze individual words I've used. But I think there IS a crisis of student loan debt. I think it's a bubble it's going to burst. College education isn't worth what are you used to be. There isn't enough value in the education to recover the money borrowed. And we have huge student loan debts owed by the masses that can't be repaid.
    Last edited by matt.guitarteacher; 01-26-2015 at 08:14 PM.

  34. #33

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    Quote Originally Posted by fumblefingers
    They have ways for accommodating diverse undergrad backgrounds in their jazz masters programs (I know of at least one ex classical guitar undergrad who earned his Masters in jazz -and went directly into a collegiate instructor gig upon graduation.)

    the other advice here is very useful. Lots of angles to consider.
    This is what I was saying earlier. Honestly it does not matter one iota if a place has or has not accepted a classical guitar player. I was one and was looking at grad schools for jazz. I did run across one or two programs where they were a little put off when I contacted the instructor and told them I was a classical performance major. I got a little "well you know this program is geared toward players who have serious jazz experience" ... But at the end of the day it comes down to the AUDITION. I cannot say that enough. It is about the audition. If you pass the audition then you'll get in unless your transcript is woefully lacking. Like you just didn't take the classes you needed to take to get a Bachelor of Music from an accredited music school. If that's the case then you probably have school you need to take to fill in the gaps. If you have met their minimum requirements for stuff then it's about the audition. Take every class you can in jazz - history, arranging, etc. Everything you can. Again. The degree itself is less important than being able to demonstrate that you have the knowledge on your transcripts and backing it up on entrance exams. If you can get that shit together and play jazz well enough on an audition for a school to invite you to attend then you're good to go. Classical guitar be damned.

  35. #34

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    Quote Originally Posted by matt.guitarteacher
    Did you accidentally cut off half your post or something? This makes no sense.

    I know Rush always says that nobody pays those things back anyway. But what's your point? Are you advocating borrowing money without a real intention to pay it back? Just because something is a problem (not paying debts back etc.), doesn't mean that you also have to contribute to it as well.

    [Do you have anything that's not a talking point or a reaction to what you perceive as a talking point from someone else? Are you actively trolling my comments across threads now? if that makes you happy, what ever. I think maybe you need to turn off the TV and the talk radio. ]....

    Anyway, there's a quantifiable measure of return on investment for education. It's called salary. If the salary is too low compared to the amount borrowed, it's not financially justifiable . That point is pretty early in for music majors borrowing money for school generally speaking.

    As a fiscal conservative , I have a problem advocating borrowing money for something that doesn't return anything for the individual or society. The burden is on everyone, sure. But mainly for the individual.

    I'm not a journalist , and I'm not going to overanalyze individual words I've used. But I think there IS a crisis of student loan debt. I think it's a bubble it's going to burst. College education isn't worth what are you used to be. There isn't enough value in the education to recover the money borrowed. And we have huge student loan debts owed by the masses that can't be repaid.
    i was was referring to ROI, and also passing a compliment. Won't make the same mistake twice.

  36. #35

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    Whatever happened to starting in classical, becoming sort of proficient and then teaching yourself jazz? It not the only road to take but it's a good one.

  37. #36

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    I don't like the classical-first model. Too many people get stuck on playing other people's music and by the time they want to transition to jazz they don't have any basis for or confidence in improvisation. Plus playing Bach from the score sounds so much better than a novice improvising that it becomes discouraging to take several giant steps backwards to try to tackle jazz. Even if you do have good technical chops, you haven't necessarily learned anything about harmony and how to use it as a basis for jazz invention. I'm not against learning classical, of course, but think it's better to learn them simultaneously not sequentially (at least not with classical first; maybe jazz first...)

  38. #37

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    Quote Originally Posted by jasaco
    I don't like the classical-first model. Too many people get stuck on playing other people's music and by the time they want to transition to jazz they don't have any basis for or confidence in improvisation. Plus playing Bach from the score sounds so much better than a novice improvising that it becomes discouraging to take several giant steps backwards to try to tackle jazz. Even if you do have good technical chops, you haven't necessarily learned anything about harmony and how to use it as a basis for jazz invention. I'm not against learning classical, of course, but think it's better to learn them simultaneously not sequentially (at least not with classical first; maybe jazz first...)
    My guitar teacher was a 'classical-first' guy. He took the leap into jazz maybe in his mid-teens and parents might have had a lot to do with his musical path. From what I've heard Herbie Hancock took aprox. the same route. The older classical-first musicians didn't promote that system of learning. Teaching methods have certainly changed.
    My teacher had a very unique style and was very successful as a soloist. That's one advantage to starting in classical but being completely self-taught in regards to jazz.
    I think this model doesn't exist anymore. It was really a matter of parents saying to their kids- so you want to play jazz guitar or piano? Then you'll play classical first for a while until you get to a certain level.

  39. #38
    You can do whatever you want. I don't believe in the notion that doing things certain order will mess you up permanently. It's a lot like the people that say they don't want to take voice lessons or learn to read music because it'll mess up their thing they're doing.

    BS. a good musician can do whatever he wants to do . Studying opera doesn't affect your brain, in the sense that it makes you forget how to sing the blues. You could argue that those who start out with classical may be predisposed to certain kinds of musical expression in the first place , but studying classical is not necessarily the cause of their aptitude for jazz etc. . That's bad scientific reasoning .
    Last edited by matt.guitarteacher; 01-28-2015 at 11:10 AM.

  40. #39

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    Yea .. I mean all that said, a masters program isn't made for learning jazz. It's made for people who already have serious skill in that area to take it further.

  41. #40
    Yeah. Realistically, it's often more about the credential to get you to teaching at the college level . People with skill often don't even finish their bachelors . They're actually playing music instead of going to school.

    Very often masters degree is unrelated to your bachelors. Maybe the diversity helps in some situations? If you were aiming at community college level, having both might actually be an asset. If the aim is to be a professor at Berklee, of course it would probably be different. But I don't see answering this question as if that's the case.

    To be pragmatic about it , you need the masters to teach. Why not get it in jazz like he's talking about, since that's what he's interested in? I don't think north Texas or berklee are the short term goal here?

    Maybe I'm jaded. But in teaching music, the credential itself is more important than the specific, music-related content area of your masters. He could get it in Medieval music or somesuch , and still probably teach guitar wherever he would otherwise be qualified to teach .
    Last edited by matt.guitarteacher; 01-28-2015 at 02:55 PM.

  42. #41

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    Quote Originally Posted by pamosmusic
    State really doesn't matter ... There's no rule. Every school is different. Some are sticklers for DMAs. Others will hire people with no degree but massive performance experience (Gary Burton for one) and loads of ground in between. Also high school and middle schools don't require masters degrees but they do require teacher certification (if they're public) and that's something a masters in jazz won't give you.
    That's not true. Public schools, at least here in NYC do require masters to make your teacher certification permanent. You can get your teacher certificate compliting just BA program, but then you are required to complete MA within 3 years(or 5?), or you will lose your teacher certificate.

  43. #42

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    You're referring to a public school k12 teaching job. The question was about a college teaching job. Very different standards

  44. #43

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    Quote Originally Posted by pamosmusic
    Also high school and middle schools don't require masters degrees but they do require teacher certification (if they're public) and that's something a masters in jazz won't give you.
    I was refering to this. You do need masters eventually to stay as a teacher in public schools.

  45. #44
    Quote Originally Posted by Hep To The Jive
    That's not true. Public schools, at least here in NYC do require masters to make your teacher certification permanent. You can get your teacher certificate compliting just BA program, but then you are required to complete MA within 3 years(or 5?), or you will lose your teacher certificate.
    I'd be interested to find out what it's like state to state. That's certainly not the case in most of the south east. ( Masters required for primary or secondary)

    I'm sure NYC is more selective than most.

  46. #45

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    Ahh gotcha .... A couple people had mentioned masters and high school teaching. So I was mostly just saying that the discussion was moot because a jazz masters doesn't come w certification so it wouldn't matter a bit for a public school teaching job. As for stuff being school to school and the state not mattering, I was referring to college teaching per the original post. Obviously the state very much matters for public school teaching. Even to the point where a certified teacher in Kansas may need to get a separate license to teach in New York or at the very least go through a reciprocal licensing process. K12 and college Ed are two very different ball games.

  47. #46

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    MA degrees in jazz performance are pretty high leveled things. You're expected to know a reasonable amount of jazz history and be able to play through a lot of tunes at a high level. Look into people who are already in the program and see if they can give you advice more in tune with the specific school you want to go to. Professors are usually available as well to talk about the program and give great advice if you want to go there.

  48. #47

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    Quote Originally Posted by jtizzle
    MA degrees in jazz performance are pretty high leveled things. You're expected to know a reasonable amount of jazz history and be able to play through a lot of tunes at a high level. Look into people who are already in the program and see if they can give you advice more in tune with the specific school you want to go to. Professors are usually available as well to talk about the program and give great advice if you want to go there.




    If the professor won't make him/herself available to you as a prospective student, then I'd keep looking. If they won't make time for you now... When they need to win you over as much as you them, then what will they be like when you are their students? Just my two cents.


    I suggest to all I my students that they take lessons with the professor before auditioning for multiple reasons, topmost being to gauge any personality jives. In a graduate program, you will spend 90% of our time with this person, and s/he is the one to sign off on your degree at the end.

    Before my doctoral auditions, I spent an entire summer studying with my teacher, driving about 7hrs each way (not the farthest I've had to travel for a lesson, but on a weekly basis was a lot). Best thing I ever did.