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  • Writer's pictureThe Mentorship Spot

Becoming a Music Educator at Brandon University

Updated: Jul 30, 2020

By Kayla Hay

Growing up, I was someone who never knew what I wanted to do for a career. I went from wanting to be a firefighter, to a veterinarian, to an aircraft mechanic, to a dietitian. Anything under the sun was fair game for me! It wasn’t until I was in high school, when I began to play the bassoon in my high school band, that my future became a little clearer.

This spring I completed the Bachelor of Music and Bachelor of Education (A.D.) concurrent program at Brandon University, with a focus in elementary (general) music education. In this five year program (which I completed over six years), students complete both their B.Mus and B.Ed degrees at the same time, compared to doing them separately in six years. I am now teaching elementary general music in Gillam, Manitoba (digitally, of course).

I grew up in Winnipeg and wanted to keep my schooling fairly local, leaving me with a few choices. I ended up applying and auditioning at the two different schools. Ultimately, I chose Brandon University, for many reasons, but one being its reputation.

In and around Manitoba, sometimes in conversation someone will ask where I go to school, and I’ll say Brandon University. Immediately, they will say “for music or psychiatric nursing?” (Brandon University also has a popular psychiatric nursing program). Despite its small size of less than 4,000 students, Brandon University has been successful in building reputations provincially and nationally. Brandon University’s School of Music is also home to accomplished talents from across North America to teach applied lessons, composition, musicology, and education courses.

So, what benefits does the concurrent music education program have at Brandon University?

Early placement dates. Students go student teaching at the end of the second year of their degree. This is when you will really learn if teaching is for you! You can sit in lectures for as long as you like, but you’ll only truly discover if this is the right career for you through actually trying student teaching. If it’s not your preferred career, that’s not an issue — you can easily switch into another music program (performance, musicology, jazz, etc.) and still graduate on time. If you enjoyed your placement, you’ll be glad to have had a head start into your desired career!

Building connections and networking. Despite Brandon being a city of less than 50,000 people, the music education community is strong and thriving. The Da Capo conference is hosted by the Brandon University Student Music Educators Association (BUSMEA) every January and brings in presenters from across Manitoba with topics about general, instrumental, and choral music education. Of course, there is also the annual Tempo conference hosted in Winnipeg every October as well, and that brings in an even larger crowd! These networking opportunities are important for finding jobs after graduation, whether these jobs are in Manitoba or across the country. I had gotten an email looking for teachers to work in Vancouver, so there are certainly vast options out there!

Practical experience. The concurrent program in particular is great for gaining practical experience in music education. Often, the after-degree education program has classes that conflict with music education classes. Because the music education classes are not required for the after-degree program (even if you want to be a music teacher), often it is a struggle to find the opportunity to take courses essential to being a music teacher. These courses include practical knowledge of delivering music curriculum, essential skills for a successful music teacher.

Lots of opportunities. In my six years at Brandon University, I was the only bassoon major in the school. This meant that I had no problem playing in both the orchestra and the symphonic band throughout my whole degree. I was also able to play in the Chamber Music class, a class only open to performance majors, in my first year of school. Being in such a small school provided me with opportunities to not only become a great teacher, but also a great bassoonist and musician.

Small class sizes. Along with being a small school, of course comes small class sizes. It is very easy to know every music student’s name, especially if you participate in big ensembles like the symphonic band or concert choir. You become acquaintances with nearly everyone in the school and the professors are very accessible and almost always willing to help you outside of class. I’m not proud to admit it, but in my second year I was doing very poorly in my music theory course. The professor asked to meet with me and he asked me what he could do to help, and if we could come up with a plan to help me get on track. I think had I been at a bigger school, I would have been left to sink or swim.

Hopefully you have found this article interesting, whether you intend on pursuing music education, or a completely different field. Some of the perks of the music education program at Brandon University apply to the School of Music in general. Overall, the environment at the School of Music has been so warm and welcoming to me over my six years there.

If you have any questions, do not hesitate to reach out to me. My handle on Instagram and Twitter is @heykaylahay.

Thanks for reading this article! If you liked it, consider checking out the other articles on our page and stay tuned for new ones weekly! Did you know we also pair high school students with uni students in their desired program for advice and mentorship? Check out our sign-up page to register as a mentor or mentee today!

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