- January 2017
- Oct 28, 2016 Why failure is as important as success Oct 28, 2016
- Sep 27, 2016 Announcing a competitive masterclass for high school flutists Sep 27, 2016
- Sep 21, 2016 What is tenure, anyway? Sep 21, 2016
- Sep 9, 2016 WTSBOA All West Junior High flute music Sep 9, 2016
- Sep 8, 2016 All West Tennessee 9-10 WTSBOA flute audition music Sep 8, 2016
- Sep 7, 2016 WTSBOA All West Tennessee 11-12 Senior Band flute music Sep 7, 2016
- August 2016
- July 2016
I get asked a lot if I’m the only flute teacher at the University of Memphis, and I think it’s because of my title: Assistant Professor of Flute. I am the only flute professor at our school, so why the Assistant? It has to do with professor rank and traditional academic heiarchy.
An Assistant Professor is a full-time, tenure-track teacher who went through a rigorous hiring process and is on the tenure track. Tenure usually takes somewhere between three and seven years to attain, depending on the institution and the individual teacher’s experience.
An Associate Professor is a full-time tenured teacher. This is what my rank will be if I receive tenure.
To be a full Professor requires another round of vetting by the university. It’s a promotion that requires a lot of documentation and scholarly work to prove a professor’s progress in their particular field. Associate Professors may elect to for promotion to full Professor, but it’s not required. Typically, Associate Professors wait ten years or more before they attempt a full Professor promotion.
When someone is termed a “visiting professor” it means they are full-time teachers on a one- or two-year contract. They are temporary faculty.
Many music teachers in colleges and universities are adjunct professors. I have served as an adjunct professor in the past. These teachers are paid per credit hour to teach a particular subject. Some amazing schools employ an adjunct faculty model: my alma mater, San Francisco Conservatory, has largely adjunct professors from the San Francisco Symphony teaching individual instruments. These wonderful players are dedicated teachers but make the bulk of their income elsewhere. Many adjunct professors are either full-time in an orchestra or full-time music freelancers.
Often these teachers are not paid very well, since they are not on salary and only compensated for the number of credit hours they teach. The amount they are paid usually does not add up to a living wage. For example, my previous position as an adjunct teacher had me teaching about five students per week. If I taught the same number of students at my adjunct position as I have at the U of M, I would only earn $15,000 in one year (before taxes). I was only paid during semester months and not during summer or winter breaks. With my adjunct position, I received no benefits, no dedicated office, no parking permit, and not even access to the copy machine. This is a common situation. Hiring adjunct teachers saves the university money. It also takes advantage of teachers (particularly freelance musicans, artists, and writers) and isn’t always in the best interest of students.
For example, an adjunct professor in an applied studio is highly motivated to keep their students. If a student quits or changes their major (maybe a good decision, especially in college when the stakes are so high), that teacher loses part of their income. A full-time tenured or tenure-track teacher is paid a salary that is unrelated to the number of students in their studio - if their studio is very small, that teacher may just be asked to cover other music classes like music theory. The full-time professor is set up to be, systematically, more brutally honest with a student about whether they should continue studying music. We have nothing to lose if a student decides to quit.
Some questions you might want to ask if you are looking at music schools and comparing faculty:
If faculty is tenured and full-time, do they still practice? Are they actively performing?
If faculty is adjunct, do they have a prestigious career? Will they be willing (or able) to give you a lot of attention as a student?
Could you trust your college music teacher to be brutally honest with you?
There are pros and cons with every teacher, but be sure you understand well enough the differences between types of professorships in academia. A full-time professor is more likely to give you extra time, hold office hours, come to your concerts in the evenings and weekends – an adjunct teacher might do these things, but more commonly they will not have time nor incentive.