Innovation. It’s one of Ball State’s enduring values and commits the University to be creative, responsive, and progressive in all that it does.

That tenet was clearly in mind in the Summer of 2020 when Ball State launched its online Master of Music: Music Education Concentration degree. Designed for the professional music educator wanting to do more to inspire their students, the new degree has already produced its first two graduates.

In fact, after just its first year of existence, the new program has already met its initial three-year enrollment goal of 30 students. While the student roster is mainly comprised of Indiana-based educators, the program currently includes those from California, Florida, Alabama, and even Japan.

According to Dr. Kevin Gerrity, associate professor and coordinator of Music Education, the new degree is a practical, cost-effective option to a changing teacher advancement environment.

Education vs. Evaluation

For quite some time now, Dr. Gerrity said, “teacher advancement and compensation are less about someone’s education credentials and more about their teacher evaluations.”

“That doesn’t at all mean that school systems don’t value and reward advanced degrees,” he continued, “but it does mean that higher learning institutions need to make it as easy and convenient as possible to obtain one.”

kevin gerrity

Masters in music education, Kevin Gerrity.

Accordingly, as it relates to Ball State’s new Master of Music: Music Education Degree, because it’s offered totally online, teachers don’t have to quit their jobs to earn it.

“I believe we’ve been responsive to a major need by structuring the new degree with a level of flexibility that allows educators to remain in-service while pursuing this master’s,” Dr. Gerrity said. “Having to pause one’s career to earn an advanced degree has always been a major hurdle to overcome, and we’ve been able to alleviate that concern. And for those considering a doctorate at some point, this degree provides the perfect foundation to do that.

“Many of our students have families, homes, and other obligations,” he continued. “Along with being able to keep their jobs, the cost of the degree makes for a solid package.”

What to Expect

Students in the new Master of Music: Music Education degree will complete 30 credits of course work, including a capstone experience designed to meet their professional and educational goals. Options for the capstone experience include a thesis, creative project, research paper, or cognate (six hours of concentrated study in a focus area).

Course offerings include a balance of selected courses in music history, music theory, and music performance, and students could participate in virtual mentorships by education and/or performance faculty for live classroom rehearsals, conducting, professional conferences, etc.

“We firmly believe that our new degree makes good music teachers even better,” said Dr. Gerrity. “We absolutely believe it’s a very solid investment.

A Grad’s Perspective

Katelyn (Katie) Helms is a K-12 music teacher in the Bloomfield, Ind., school district.  She’s also one of the two initial graduates from the new Master of Music: Music Education program.

katie helmsMs. Helms said she had been considering earning an advanced degree “for some time,” but “really couldn’t afford to quit my job to do it.”

“But a few years ago, I was at the Indiana Music Education Association annual conference and heard about the new online masters offering at Ball State. I also considered a few other options, but the Ball State program beat the others in terms of not only the course content, but the flexibility to fit what I needed in terms of allowing me to stay at my job,” she said. “I can’t say enough good things about my professors and their caring about me and doing whatever they could to help me succeed.”

Helms received a pay raise from her employer upon completion of her degree at Ball State, and has a message for other music educators considering an advanced degree.

“Don’t for one minute think you can’t continue in your current job and earn a master’s,” said Ms. Helms. “I firmly believe doing this has made me a better educator as well as positioned me well for the future. It would do the same for you as well.”

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