Not many music schools can brag that 100% of their Music Education and Music Therapy students have jobs lined up when they graduate, but SMU’s Meadows School of the Arts can.
According to Senior Lecturer in Music Theory and Associate Director of the Division of Music Melissa Murray, it’s due to several factors. Both the Music Education and Music Therapy majors are “steeped in a traditional classical education.” Music Education students take higher-level theory classes, history classes, and methods classes, and both they and the therapy students are part of much smaller and more selective programs from the start of their college careers. The Bachelor of Music in Music Education with Teacher Certification prepares undergraduates for teaching careers in early childhood through 12th-grade music programs. The Bachelor of Music in Music Therapy fulfills all music and clinical training requirements to allow students to take the exam administered by the national Certification Board for Music Therapists.
With an average of only eight Music Education and five Music Therapy majors in every year, students get a lot of individual training at SMU that they wouldn’t receive at other universities, which Murray says makes a huge difference. “From their very first semester of Music Ed, the students are [observing and serving as student teachers in area public school districts and] getting firsthand experience,” Murray says. And it’s the same for Music Therapy: “We also have a clinic here [that provides music therapy services for children and adults with autism, developmental delays, dementia and other issues], so the students start working and observing in the clinic from the day they arrive.”
Why is this so important?
“The thing about a Texas Music Education degree is that it is so strong that kids can teach anywhere in the U.S. without having to go through additional training first,” says Murray. And with the SMU faculty so well-connected in Texas, the opportunities are never-ending. Even Murray, who is not part of the Music Education faculty, gets a steady stream of emails from Texas schools looking for SMU students to hire.
Murray says that for Music Education majors at state schools, “it usually takes five to six years to complete the degrees because it takes that long to get the courses they need.” But at SMU, students are guaranteed to get the required classes within the four-year timeframe. “In a big state school, you’re not going to get that kind of education,” Murray explains.
But it’s not all about the courses, student teaching and working in the clinic; at the end of the day, musical training is the real necessity. “I think a [major reason our job placement excels] is that our Music Therapy and Music Education students are not just trained in the specifics of psychology or therapy or education, but graduate as really strong musicians, which reflects the strong merits of our program,” Murray concludes.