9 Professional Development Ideas For Music Teachers

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Are you sick of going through PD on subjects that have nothing to do with you?

Do you want to improve your music teaching skills but you’re having a hard time finding good training?

As teachers, we want to be the best for our students, and part of this is staying on top of the best practices in our profession. So every year, I go searching for professional development ideas for music teachers such as myself. 

Music teacher professional development is widely available if you know where to look. Look for music conferences, specialized training, graduate classes, music teacher workshops, and online training to improve your teaching. 

Look ahead for a brief description of each type of PD and 9 examples you may want to look into today.  

Types Of Music Education Professional Development

Before looking into the specific professional development for music teachers, it’s important to know the different types of PD out there. Each one has its own pros and cons, so look into these to decide which one is right for your situation. 

Conferences

Conferences are the bread and butter of music teacher PD. Conferences are big get-togethers of music teachers, and you typically attend smaller workshops or sessions which rotate throughout the day. 

Often, the conference organizers will bring in a headliner to present at key points during the day on their specialty. 

These are often available at state, regional, and national levels. You will usually have to pay a little more than you would for a workshop (mostly due to travel and overnights). 

Pros For This Method: 

  • Access to well-known presenters
  • Share time with many other music teachers
  • Sessions on a variety of topics
  • Well-recognized by administrators
  • Done in a 3-day weekend

Cons For This Method: 

  • Costs more in overnights and travel
  • May be overwhelming to find and navigate conference area
  • Often travel farther away from home

Specialized Trainings

Specialized training, such as method levels and retreats, run most often in the summertime. These are a great place to receive specific instructions on a certain topic. 

Often, these trainings cost more and require more time than most other PD, and you’ll also have to travel and stay somewhere. 

But the immersive experience typically results in the greatest gain for the teachers both in learning about the art of teaching music and in forming bonds with your colleagues. 

Pros For This Method:

  • Most gain in teacher training
  • Form bonds with colleagues
  • Great for learning about a specific method or style
  • Often also offered as college credit 

Cons For This Method:

  • Travel and overnights during the summer (usually 1-3 weeks)
  • Higher cost for the longer training
  • Specific training to the method chosen

Graduate Classes

Graduate classes are another great way to develop yourself professionally. The biggest benefit to this method is that at the end of the course, you’ll have credits you’re able to apply to higher degrees or moving up the pay scale. 

These courses, when taken during the school year, are over the course of the whole semester. In the summer, they usually take up to 4 weeks. 

These classes will also require big projects, research, and/or papers done. Often, you’ll find these assignments will improve your teaching. 

Pros For This Method: 

  • Receive college credit towards degrees and potential pay increases
  • Class projects may be useful to your teaching
  • May be taken online or in person

Cons For This Method: 

  • Costs more
  • Class may not be directly applicable to your circumstance
  • Either takes up your evenings during the school year or part of your summer 

Music Teacher Workshops

Workshops for music teachers are the easiest and quickest way to get professional development. These are often done throughout the year hosted by many organizations. 

Workshops tend to have lower rates and will often be held on a weekend day for 3-6 hours. 

Music teacher workshops are more local, so you won’t have to travel as far. You’ll also get to know the music teachers around you and build those connections. 

Pros For This Method: 

  • Lower cost
  • Less time taken away
  • Meets locally
  • Connect with music teachers around you

Cons For This Method: 

  • Don’t get as detailed as specialized trainings

Online Trainings

Online trainings are a rising trend in the professional development (check out Kodaly workshops) world. Multiple services are popping up all over the place on a huge variety of topics. 

Obviously, the main benefit for these trainings is that you don’t even need to leave your house to receive them. 

These are often a lot cheaper than traditional workshops or classes as well. In fact, there are many completely free courses to take. 

The big problems with online trainings are two-fold: 

  1. It’s hard to stay motivated for courses run online and free. 
  2. You don’t receive course credit at the end*. 

*With some programs you are offered some sort of certificate for potential continuing education credit, but this usually costs more and isn’t transferable everywhere. 

Pros For This Method: 

  • Free or cheap
  • Work from home
  • A lot of different topics available

Cons For This Method: 

  • No credits usually given
  • Hard to stay motivated
  • Little long-lasting connection with others
image 5 types of professional development for music teachers

9 Music Professional Development Ideas

In this section, I’ll go into some details on specific professional development you may want to look up. Look for availability, type of PD, cost, and grade level/music area focus. 

#1 NAfME Academy

Link To More Information: NAfME Academy

Availability: Anytime

Type Of PD: Online training

Cost: Subscription based: $20 for NAfME members, $100 for non-members

Area Focus: K-12 music, band, orchestra, choir, general

Description: From America’s main music teacher organization, access tons of webinars and training all available online. The strong reputation of this organization may make it easier to convince admin to support this program.  

#2 Quaver Music Professional Development

Link To More Information: Quaver Music PD

Availability: Anytime

Type Of PD: Online training (in-person workshops available in certain locations)

Cost: Free 

Area Focus: Elementary general music 

Description: These short (around 20 minute) webinars are designed to give music teachers new ideas on how to teach certain aspects of their curriculum. These Quaver webinars showcase the Quaver technology and program. 

#3 NAfME Conference

Link To More Information: NAfME Conference 

Availability: Every November

Type Of PD: Conference

Cost: $190-315 for members, $290-390 for non-members registration (not including travel or hotel) 

Area Focus: K-12 Music, Band, Orchestra, Choir, General

Description: This is the big conference for the National Association for Music Educators. It’s held in November and rotates locations. 

There are headliner sessions, concerts, forums, and much more. 

Check in with your state chapter to see if there are any state-level conferences. 

#4 Organization Of American Kodaly Educators

Link To More Information: OAKE Conference 

Availability: Every March

Type Of PD: Conference

Cost: $275-365 for members, $415-515 for non-members (registration only, not including travel and hotel)

Area Focus: K-5 music, Choir, Kodaly sessions 

Description: This is the big national convention for Kodaly teachers, but all are welcome. This rotates in different regions of the US every year. 

Check local chapters for closer workshops run throughout the year. 

Regional conferences are also run in every fall, so this may be closer to you and more affordable. 

#5 Coursera 

Link To More Information: Coursera 

Availability: Anytime

Type Of PD: Online training

Cost: Free for some, low fee for others, certificates available at a higher rate

Area Focus: All music levels (many also outside of music education)

Description: Coursera is a service-based website which allows you to take online classes in virtually any subject. Many of them are free or have low rates. 

There are good music education courses available. If you pay extra, you will receive a certification of completion some states and districts accept for continuing education credits. 

This is a good way to receive training and information for some music areas outside of the standard music education as well. 

For example, I took a free history of the Beatles class and learned a lot. I included some of this in a middle school general music class I once taught. 

#6 American Orff-Schulwerk Association

Link To More Information: AOSA Conference 

Availability: Every fall (November)

Type Of PD: Conference

Cost: $299-415 for members, $600-800 for non-members (registration only)

Area Focus: K-5 general music, Orff emphasis

Description: This is the big national convention for Orff teachers, but all are welcome. This rotates in different regions of the US every year. 

Check local chapters for closer workshops run throughout the year. 

#7 American School Band Directors Association

Link To More Information: ASBDA Convention

Availability: National conference on even numbered years, regional conference in odd numbered years in June

Type Of PD: Conference

Cost: Unstated, around $200-500 for members

Area Focus: Secondary band

Description: These are the big conference for band directors. Expect to attend sessions and concerts. 

Also, options may be available for receiving conducting coaching by experts. 

#8 American Choral Directors Association

Link To More Information: ACDA Conferences 

Availability: Even numbered years regional conferences, odd numbered years national conference in March

Type Of PD: Conference 

Cost: $240 for registration

Area Focus: Choir

Description: These are the big conferences for choir teachers. Expect to attend sessions, reading sessions for new music, and concerts. 

Also, options may be available for receiving conducting coaching by experts. 

#9 Dalcroze Society Of America

Link To More Information: Dalcroze USA Conference 

Availability: January

Type Of PD: Conference

Cost: $375 for members, $575 for non-members

Area Focus: K-5 general music, secondary music applications

Description: This is the big national convention for Dalcroze teachers, but all are welcome. This rotates in different regions of the US every year. 

Check local chapters for closer workshops run throughout the year.

Conclusion

I hope you found this list of 9 professional development ideas for music teachers helpful. Attending applicable PD improves your own teaching and helps avoid teacher burnout. 

Why do you like attending music education professional development? Drop a comment below and let us know! 

Zach VanderGraaff

Zach VanderGraaff is a K-5 music teacher with Bay City Public Schools in Michigan. He's a Past-President of the Michigan Kodaly Educators and Executive Secretary of the Midwest Kodaly Music Educators Association.

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