The mdw’s music education offerings encompass numerous different degree programmes. In the following, teaching faculty members and students from the mdw’s Music Education (ME) and Music Education for Voice and Instruments (IGP) programmes discuss how music educators for regular schools and music schools are trained as well as the importance of artistic training in this context.
f. l. t. r.: Susanne Gradl, Franz-Josef Hauser, Simon Ralph Xaver, Elke Nagl, Johannes Marian, Amira El-Hamalawi, Eva Maria Neubauer© Stephan Polzer

The mdw’s programmes for the training of future music educators rest on the three pillars of artistry, pedagogy, and research. How much importance is accorded to each of these areas, and how do they interlock?

Elke Nagl (EN): Fundamentally, all three of these pillars are of great importance. The artistic component is in constant and continual exchange with those of pedagogy and research, and each student can also place their own individual emphases.

Amira El-Hamalawi © Stephan Polzer

Amira El-Hamalawi (AEH): We view these three pillars as foundational to music education as such. But in our everyday work in students’ main artistic subjects or in seminars, we don’t just focus on one area at a time, deal with it, and continue on to the next. Instead, these areas network with, complement, and permeate each other—through the work of our faculty, who live and breathe this interplay, as well as through our students’ interest in all three areas.

Simon Ralph Xaver (SRX): As future schoolteachers, we’re also at home in the world of research. Musicology enables us to learn about the inner workings of what happens when we make music. And that pedagogy is important to us is only natural, since our goal is to teach others about music. For instance, we ask ourselves how we can stimulate children such that they’ll discover the music for themselves. But at the same time, it’s also very important to train artistically—because if I sing together with my class, the kids will notice whether or not I’ve mastered the use of my voice. If I have, I can better convey and pass on to them the joy that I feel when I sing.

Johannes Marian © Stephan Polzer

Johannes Marian (JM): It’s this interpermeation of the various areas that makes studying for an education degree what it is—which is why it’s so important that arts educators be trained at arts universities. We make sure that the future teachers whom we educate are trained in diverse ways, particularly with respect to the artistic side of things. And I think that music education has also already made an enormous contribution to artistic research, on which there’s currently a strong focus.

AEH: Students attend pedagogy- and research-related seminars as artistic identities. And from this perspective, working in an academic manner—no matter whether this work pertains to music history, analysis, music ethnology, specific pedagogical areas, or general pedagogy—becomes exciting and interesting.

Eva Maria Neubauer (EMN): As a student, it’s easy to sort out how all these areas are situated and then go deeper and deeper into a specific area as you study. Electives make it possible for you to expand your training in various directions. And as part of this procedure, you also get to know yourself and what makes you who you are. What I found very enriching was how I learned so many things that weren’t directly linked with my main artistic subject and how we were also given the opportunity to try things out and discover other interests.

In achieving our University’s society-related goals and ensuring its impact far beyond its own confines, its music education programmes play an essential role.

Johannes Marian, mdw Senate chair and head of the Ludwig van Beethoven Department of Piano in Music Education

Which reveals numerous different fields of work?

EMN: Right, and numerous different combinations. Because in our line of work, lots of things get combined—like employment in a music school and pursuing musical projects of our own, and some of us also train to be schoolteachers. It’s very enriching because you can involve yourself everywhere.

Music education for schoolteachers and for voice and instrumental teachers, rhythmics, elementary music education, music mediation—music education has so many subdisciplines. How might a prospective student go about deciding between them?

JM: It’s our responsibility to inform prospective students about the various possibilities. This autumn, for example, we’ll be holding a week-long Festival of Music Edcucation in order to show the outside world the full breadth of our work here at the mdw. This week will also give those who are thinking about applying to study with us the opportunity to get an impression of all the music education-related fields and departments here.

Elke Nagl © Stephan Polzer

EN: We also put on information days and open houses throughout the year that offer extensive informational material. And one shouldn’t forget that our teachers teach in all disciplines while also advising students. What’s more, we’re quite strongly networked with schools of general education and music schools, where mdw faculty members work as practice teaching supervisors and mentors—as part of which they can also advise school students and point out possible paths forward.

Franz-Josef Hauser (FJH): I know how deciding on a specific degree programme can often be difficult. For example, let’s say you’ve earned your Matura and now want to study music. It’s definitely not all that easy to decide between studying ME in order to become a school music teacher or IGP so that you can teach in music schools. In this respect, the teachers you have right now are the ones who can help. And in combination with the informational events held at the mdw, it’s possible to put your decision about which specific programme of study to pursue on a solid footing.

Starting with their skills on their own instruments, the future teachers whom we train and send into the schools are equipped to offer interesting musical content and open up diverse ways of approaching their art.

Amira El-Hamalawi, chair of the Instrumental (Voice) Education Studies Commission, deputy head of the Antonio Salieri Department of Vocal Studies and Vocal Research in Music Education

So choosing a career in music education also has to do with the role models by whom school students themselves are taught?

Franz-Josef Hauser © Stephan Polzer

FJH: Absolutely. Educators who teach at regular schools and music schools play an important role as multipliers. It was my music teacher back in Tyrol who sparked my own interest, passion, and enjoyment where conveying music to others is concerned. And our graduates, in turn, go on to themselves serve as multipliers when they head out into society. It’s important that such role models exist. Without my music teacher’s deliberate support, a lot of things would’ve been harder for me.

In other words, teachers go to teach their classes as artists and can thereby pass on their art as well as motivate and inspire the kids they teach…

EN: Whatever the case, the artistic aspect is central. The educator is the person who can bring art to a broader public, who can take it out into the world. And if such an educator’s artistic training is truly excellent, which is an important aim of ours, then they’ll be in a great position to pass on their enthusiasm and passion at a regular school or music school.

JM: With your training as an artist, you do acquire a certain standing as a pedagogue. It doesn’t matter that you’ll never be able to bring all of it to bear in a school classroom. That’s not what it’s about; what it’s about is your experience, your versatility. Our conception of art is an extremely broad one; there’s space for experimental music, for improvisation, for engagement with historical performance practices and popular music. This openness and variety contribute especially to enabling our students to develop a high degree of artistic self-confidence—which is of unbelievable importance for their careers. This assurance that one has in terms of one’s own personality as an artist.

AEH: After you’ve completed your training, you feel like an artist and also go on to teach equipped with the corresponding pedagogical tools. The assurance and/or naturalness that it takes to go into a school classroom and say, “I come with art!” is owed to one’s training as an educator.

FJH: All of our education-focused fields have two aspects in common: musical versatility and interconnection. Engagement with various genres and interconnecting the musical disciplines of interpretation, improvisation, composition, performance, and also arrangement are central. Of special importance here is networking these differing types of content with each other. And I think that it’s especially in the mdw’s programmes for future educators that we see projects being realised that extend across multiple disciplines, courses, and departments and thus already facilitate this special and necessary form of networking during one’s studies.

All 10- to 14-year-olds in Austria have music as a compulsory subject. And if we can manage to inspire them and awaken their interest within this brief period, a major mission of ours will have been accomplished.

Elke Nagl, Dean of Music Education Programmes, professor at the Antonio Salieri Department of Vocal Studies and Vocal Research in Music Education

How, in concrete terms, might one imagine preparing to teach?

Simon Ralph Xaver © Stephan Polzer

SRX: In the ME programme, we learn to make music into something that can be experienced and felt by children who in some cases have zero connection to music, least of all to classical music. There are two settings in play, here: there’s teaching within the university, where we learn subject-specific didactics and can try things out in a protected space, and then there’s the outward-bound path—teaching in schools, where we can try out what we’ve learned. A huge share of what we do here at the mdw is practically oriented, which hardly exists at all elsewhere and is a huge privilege. And along the way, we enjoy excellent advising by our teachers—mentors, really—that likewise accompanies us into the schools.

EN: Students receive four semesters of didactics instruction and go through practically oriented phases throughout their studies, both in their main artistic subjects and as part of didactics and practice teaching. This facilitates continual reflection and discussion of one’s experiences with our teaching faculty.

Eva Maria Neubauer © Stephan Polzer

EMN: My experience as an IGP student has been that the practice teaching instructors keep a low profile in the teaching sequences so that the situation remains as authentic as possible. When I did my practice teaching, I always found it easy to tune out how others were there and to stay focused on my students. I’ve been teaching at a music school since March, so I now have a direct comparison. The important thing is to try stuff out when you do practice-teaching. You have to develop your own personality as an educator. On top of this, you receive constructive feedback from your teachers and from the other mdw students. I was able to pick up and learn lots of things from my teachers both by sitting in on their own music school teaching and thanks to the individual instruction that I received in my main artistic subject. And since then, I’ve been able to continue developing the things I learned in my didactics coursework in my own teaching.

AEH: The levels of prior experience that our new students bring to the table vary widely. We have students who’d already gathered teaching experience and chose the IGP programme for precisely that reason. But there are also students who feel they’d like to support (their own) art as educators and who’ve decided to pursue an education degree with that in mind—without yet having taken their initial steps as teachers. It’s to these differing types of students that the IGP programme seeks to make didactics and methods accessible. Subjects such as Lehrpraxis (Teaching Practice) represent a safe space in which things can be tried out. There are Lehrpraxis courses that deal with specific subject areas and others that are already linked to the actual field of professional work. And our master’s degree programmes then offer specialised formats covering areas like preparing school students for competitions and hearings.

In our studies, we learn to make music into something that can be experienced and felt by children who in some cases have zero connection to music, least of all to classical music.

Simon Ralph Xaver, school music teacher in training

What challenges does music education currently face?

JM: The shortage of teachers is growing ever greater because a generation that includes a whole lot of music teachers is now retiring. We’ll soon be seeing that quite clearly at regular schools and music schools. The need is not just for schoolteachers with music as a subject, but also for music school teachers. And in order to fulfil this need, the mdw’s going to have to do all it can to train a sufficient number of qualified music educators.

EN: In this regard, we’re working quite intensively with Austria’s Education Directorate, with the public officials who oversee the various subject areas, and also with KOMU—the Conference of Austrian Music School Associations. As reported by mass media, our schools are now suffering from a severe general shortage of teachers—including music teachers. And the statistics show that we can also expect a shortage of specialised instrumental teachers and voice teachers. So in order to do justice to our society’s needs, it’s urgently necessary to strengthen music education and increase the numbers of people studying it.

Isn’t musical training’s status in our society also a topic? I’m thinking of things like how school students have to choose between music and other subjects when they enter the upper cycle…

AEH: At academic secondary schools, the head teachers enjoy a great deal of autonomy—meaning that they can play a role in promoting subjects they want to feature in their schools’ individual profiles. It would be important for both visual arts and music offerings to be available throughout the entire upper cycle. But since everyone’s currently struggling to find music teachers to begin with, the current focus is on training enough students.

With the world in which we work changing faster and faster, we’re going to have to be paying more and more attention to the interface between our working lives as music teachers and areas of freelance activity while also developing our curricula accordingly.

Franz-Josef Hauser, member of the Studies Commission for Music Education Programmes, professor at the Ludwig van Beethoven Department of Piano in Music Education

What new developments are being observed in school music education as a professional field?

AEH: These days, you no longer go to work in a school only after having finished your studies; you now start teaching before you’ve finished your degree. It’s also no longer the case that you go to work at one single school and remain there until you retire; instead, you can expect to work at various places of education over the course of your career. School music teachers teach at academic secondary schools (AHS) and compulsory secondary schools (NMS) and also do adult education. Instrumental music and voice teachers teach at music schools, cooperate with primary schools, and also develop concepts for the primary level. All of them need their own pedagogical profiles in order to successfully do justice to how our occupation looks today and remain passionate about music throughout their careers, avoiding burnout along the way.

JM: Another new thing is that the content covered by professorships is changing, in the sense that they’re now uniting the artistic side of things with didactic aspects specific to the respective instruments. Like in the case of my colleague Franz-Josef Hauser, who’s our first piano and piano practicum professor: he links classical piano-playing with the piano’s practical use in teaching specific subjects. These are new developments that expand both individual subjects and entire disciplines.

FJH: With the world in which we work changing faster and faster, we’re going to have to be paying more and more attention to the interface between our working lives as music teachers and areas of freelance activity while also developing our curricula accordingly. Our graduates are trained so as to be capable of professional artistic, pedagogical, and research-related thought and action. This means that all doors are open to them following graduation—which, especially in light of the severe teacher shortage, is both a blessing and a curse.

EN: But perhaps it also represents an opportunity to retain sufficiently qualified and motivated music teachers at schools. Perhaps it’s necessary to allow teachers to refrain from teaching a full schedule, with six to eight lessons daily, and to instead also live as artists alongside their school-based employment—while still showing up to teach with full energy and enthusiasm.

As a teacher today, I’m in a great position to provide input both artistically and pedagogically because I not only saw that done but was also given the freedom to develop as an educator.

Eva Maria Neubauer, student in the Music Education for Voice and Instruments programme

Event tip:
Festwoche der Musikpädagogik
13 – 18 November 2023

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