Mentoring Instrumental Music Teacher Educators: Research and Practice Across the Career Stages

Christopher M. Baumgartner – Assistant Professor of Music Education, University of Oklahoma; Colleen M. Conway – Professor of Music Education, University of Michigan; Tami J. Draves – Assoc. Professor of Music Education, University of North Carolina Greensboro; Lonnie Easter Jr. II – Ph.D. student in Music Education, University of Oklahoma; Christine Lundahl – DMA student in Wind Conducting, University of Michigan; Ryan N. Meeks – Ph.D. student in Music Education, University of Oklahoma; Eric M. Pennello – Ph.D. student in Music Education, University of Oklahoma; Rebekah Weaver – Ph.D. student in Music Education, University of Michigan

The mentorship of beginning teachers is a phenomenon of interest among those in the field. Numerous education (Ingersoll & Strong, 2011; Gray & Taie, 2015) and music education (Conway, 2001, 2003, 2006; Smith, 1994) authors and researchers have cited the potential impact of mentoring on success and retention in the profession. Most extant research is focused in the realm of P–12 education, though recent investigators have examined mentoring teachers at the collegiate level (e.g., Austin, 2018; Driscoll, Parkes, Tilley-Lubbs, Brill, & Pitts Bannister, 2009; Maher, Lindsay, Peel, & Twomey, 2006; McCormack & West, 2006; Mullen, 2005; Pellegrino, Conway, & Millican, 2018; Walker, Golde, Jones, Büschel, & Hutchings, 2008). While many mentorship endeavors reflect the traditional mentor (veteran) and mentee (novice) approach to pairing, peer mentoring—a type of comentoring that reflects a more “mutual and reciprocal” relationship (Draves & Koops, 2011, p. 68)—can be effective at the collegiate level (e.g., two early-career, tenure-track professors). Considering both approaches have yielded positive perceptions by participants, it seems that the application of varied mentoring methods might prove meaningful when guiding music teacher educators through the various stages of a higher education career.


The purpose of this panel discussion was to examine the mentoring experiences of

instrumental music teacher educators (IMTEs). Professors (assistant, associate, and full

professors) and doctoral students from three institutions served as panel members, and

represented the typical stages across the career. Topics covered various aspects of IMTE

development and support, including (but not limited to) instruction, research, professional

affiliation/interactions, micro-politics, and personal/emotional issues. We intended to highlight

our own experiences, making connections to strategies described in the professional literature.

The interactive session began with a brief introduction and presentation among panel members.

All attendees then engaged in a breakout session, divided into four groups based on career stage:

early-career doctoral students, late-career doctoral students, junior faculty members, and senior

faculty members. Each group discussed various components of mentoring IMTEs (e.g., concerns,

needs, solutions) and created a list/summary. To conclude, session organizers led a debrief and

discussion between the panel and all attendees. Implications for the continued guidance of

doctoral students and IMTEs were compiled and are presented in this document.






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Early-Career Doctoral Students




• Dealing with imposter syndrome

• Adjusting to a new role as a student

• Lack of information communicated/available

• Music theory and history courses (enrollment, success in)

• Diminished ability/time for music making

• Competition among fellow graduate assistants

• Age/cohort disconnect




• Being reached out to regularly

• General encouragement and feedback

• Availability and approachability by professors

• Specific opportunities offered based on our skills or experiences

• More opportunities for music making

• Increased collaboration across departments within music


Late-Career Doctoral Students


• Importance of peer mentors ahead of you in the program

o e.g., coursework, institutional knowledge, the job search

• Co-navigation with faculty members

o Networking, cheerleading, participation encouragement

• Moving from surviving (entry to the program) to thriving (toward exit/graduation)

• Identity shift from student to professor/expert in the field

o Imposter syndrome



Junior Faculty Members

• Ask for an experienced mentor

• Seek people out

• Find/importance of close colleagues

• Peers from Ph.D. study, including those who are a “little” ahead in the tenure/career track

• Not always sure what to ask for and who to ask

• Unclear expectations—“How will I be assessed?”

• Navigating leadership changes

• Getting outside music

• Mentoring the people you are a “little” ahead of

• Being the first “new” person in a long time can be challenging

• Being with all “new” people in music education

• Knowing the cost–benefit analysis of investment (particularly your time)

• Lack of mentoring—“I’m not sure how I’m doing”


Senior Faculty Members


• Vagueness of process/requirements for associate to full professor

o Build relationships

• Ethics of letter writing

• Institutional context

• Find your own mentor




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