Task Force on Student Concerns

The Professional Life Initiative posed a set of nine questions to the Student Concerns Committee that dealt with two issues:

  • Core issues facing students in higher education today
  • How CMS might better serve its student population

This report is a compilation of the Student Concerns Committees responses to the nine questions.

A typical music student profile
The diversity of responses given suggests that it is difficult to define a typical music student in higher education today. Similar to the broad spectrum of backgrounds found in the general CMS population, student members differ significantly in age, background, current experience, and level of involvement in their fields. Most music students struggle to balance professional training with financial and/or family obligations, and must work hard to master an area of specialization while also remaining broad enough in their skill base to obtain employment.

The study of music in higher educationhow it was compared with how it may be
Students today are working with a far wider definition of music than students did ten or twenty years ago. The inclusion of relatively new programs such as ethnomusicology, jazz studies, music technology, music business, and arts administration pose new challenges to students, while also giving them more choices. To be marketable, students must possess a wider base of knowledge and be good at more than one area within music. In the future, students predict that programs will continue to diversify, and technology will become even more indispensable.

Important issues facing music students today
Music students are concerned with finding mentors outside of the institutions they attend, strengthening career development skills, keeping up with the vast diversity of information in the field, and balancing the demands of their personal and professional lives.

The needs of students in the context of CMS membership
The MVL (Music Vacancy List) is the most frequently mentioned resource used by CMS students, but students could round out their educations by taking advantage of CMSs networking opportunities, professional development workshops, and student paper presentation and performance venues at national and regional conferences.

Special activities and programs
Committee members agree that the current activities and programs offered at CMS conferences can be useful for music students, helping them to gain a more sophisticated understanding of how their areas of specialization fit within the overall picture of music in higher education today. The committee calls for more sessions specific to job training skills, such as vita and teaching portfolio preparation, mock interviews, research and grant writing skills, and obtaining tenure and promotion). Students could also be called on to assist more actively in the organization, planning, and running of conferences.

Needed CMS improvements
The recruitment of new student members needs to be the primary focus for CMS. The committee suggests that faculty members can be helpful by encouraging students at their institutions to attend conferences, present papers and performances, and join committees. Students would benefit from scholarship funding to help them pay for travel, housing, and conference registration fees.

The committee was divided about the usefulness of surveys of students in higher education, whether designed by outside groups or by CMS. For those in favor of a CMS survey, it was agreed that more students need to join CMS first and that the survey should be repeated every five to ten years to be truly effective.

A CMS Report
Most members of the committee agreed that it would be beneficial to publish a report on the experience of studying music in higher education.

Final Statement
Music programs in higher education should be concerned with making connections between areas of music study, helping students develop critical thinking and writing skills, and pinpointing which specific technological skills are becoming vitally important in the job market.