university music building“I finished my DMA in piano from a top program a couple of years ago and have two MM degrees from one of the best conservatories in the world.  . . . I have always felt that with my many abilities and terrific recommendation letters, a full-time job was just around the corner but in spite of being shortlisted for a number of academic positions, I have come up empty-handed.” –Overqualified and Underemployed
–Letter to the “Ask Edna” blog on, May 5, 2011

I suspect that the above letter writer’s pseudonym is only half accurate.

Why? Because during my 30 years in academia, I’ve found that few applicants for faculty positions merit the label “overqualified.” Quite the opposite.

Sure, applicants typically come with advanced degrees and flattering recommendations. But degrees and kudos represent only two items in a complex qualification package.

Here are pointers to help musicians compete for full-time positions as studio faculty in colleges, conservatories, and universities (I’ll use the term ‘colleges’ from now on). Also see my post, “Ace Your Interview.”

[Update: additional information can be found in my 2020 article, “Preparing DMA Candidates to Win Tenure-Track Jobs.”]

“Degrees and kudos represent only two items in a complex qualification package.”

Three Keys to Successful Higher Ed Music Faculty Applications

1. Build Professional Credibility

Successful applicants demonstrate excellence in all of the things that faculty do. So, aside from earning degrees, aspiring educators need to amass track records in the following key areas:

Artistry. First and foremost, applicants must show that they’re inspired performers or composers with reputations for accomplishment in the music profession.

Teaching. Applicants need to prove that they’re knowledgeable, effective teachers who are aware of best practices and standard texts such as The Musician’s Way, and whose students consistently achieve. Rising musicians can grow their credibility as educators through private studio and community music school instruction, adjunct positions at colleges, teaching assistantships, pedagogical training, involvement with diversity & inclusion initiatives, and working as faculty at summer music schools. Candidates should also produce videos of their teaching because many colleges request demonstration videos.The Musician's Way book cover

Recruiting. Colleges depend on studio faculty to recruit and retain burgeoning, diverse classes. Would-be faculty need to show evidence of successful recruiting – e.g., to summer and pre-college programs, private studios, and junior colleges – and that they have comprehensive, institution-specific plans to recruit at the colleges they apply to.

Leadership. Studio faculty function as leaders and role models. Applicants should demonstrate their leadership and artistic visions by founding ensembles, commissioning new music, organizing tours, heading up innovative projects, speaking at conferences, reaching diverse audiences, and so forth.

Technology. Applicants who are fluent with technology and well-versed in Web culture are best suited to take on 21st-century faculty duties and prepare students to succeed in today’s music scene. Therefore, aspiring educators should develop their Web presence and tech skills.

Collegiality & Service. Music faculty work closely together and often form bonds with their communities. Applicants should gather experience with institutional governance, collaborative projects, professional associations and community engagement, building reputations for reliability and collegiality.

Research/Publication. Although studio faculty largely perform, compose and teach, they also publish recordings, arrangements and methods, research topics of interest, write articles, appear as guest lecturers, and otherwise impact their fields. Successful applicants do so too.

For assistance with qualifying, applying and interviewing for faculty positions, contact Gerald Klickstein to discuss his document editing and career coaching services. 

2. Forge a Professional Network

Participate in Festivals & Conferences. Musicians who perform, lecture and connect positively with diverse colleagues multiply their knowledge and gather allies who can attest to their abilities and character.

Collaborate. Collaborative projects stretch our skills and, in the process, expand our networks.

Grow Your Online Community. Via websites, blogs, YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and more, musicians can extend their reputations and broaden their networks. Use your website as well as your LinkedIn profile and other social media accounts to build connections and reinforce your professional identity.

3. Submit Polished Materials

Address All Listed Duties and Qualifications. Search committees may employ spreadsheets that itemize each duty and qualification described in a position announcement; they then rank each application according to the listed criteria.

When applicants don’t address every duty and qualification it lowers their ranking and diminishes their impact.

Take care that your cover letter and CV show how you meet a job’s qualifications and how you have acquired expertise carrying out the duties specified in the position description as well as other important duties that the description might omit. Also indicate any additional skills that you’d bring to an institution.

Be Clear and Concise. Your application materials should indicate your achievements, vision, and abilities, but without being cluttered or overlong.

To that end, keep your cover letter to 1-2 pages of crisp prose (one page is usually best), and distill your CV. Readers shouldn’t have to wade through verbose text or dozens of pages to learn about you. For instance, refrain from listing hundreds of performances or compositions; instead, your CV can present representative ones, and your website can provide complete lists.

Any required teaching, research, or diversity statement should display comparable refinement and generally fill a single page.

In tandem, be sure that every document is neat and well-formatted so that readers can grasp your accomplishments and objectives at a glance. Moreover, clear, well-crafted documents indicate that you’re a skilled communicator and organizer of information.

Contact Gerald Klickstein for professional assistance to craft your application materials.

Obtain Pre-submission Critiques. Before you apply, ask knowledgeable mentors to review your materials, social media accounts, and website.

If you’re still in school, establish relationships with faculty mentors as well as your school’s career services staff and ask them to critique your qualifications and materials.

Update Your Website & Social Media. Make certain that search committee members can hear recent tracks, view videos, and understand your artistic mission and background by visiting your website. Your site design should also convey that you’re a with-it, new-century professional.

Similarly, your publicly available social media accounts should reinforce your professional image.

Related posts
Ace your interview
Are conservatories keeping pace?

The art-career tango
Career strategies that drive creativity
What makes an entrepreneurial musician?

© 2011 Gerald Klickstein