Careers in Music . . .Teaching and more

While in the past the most frequent career choice for aspiring Adventist musicians has been teaching, there are other possibilities as well. The editor hopes that the following information and stories of those who have succeeded in various careers will be helpful and serve as a resource to those considering a life in music or making a career change.


Teaching Music in an SDA School

Presently there are over 250 music positions in the North American Adventist school system: 57 full-time in the colleges and universities, 98 in the academies, 98 in the junior academies and 50 in the elementary schools. Many of the positions in the junior academies and elementary schools are part-time and several full-time positions in the secondary level also include teaching in non-music areas, particularly in smaller schools.

While the turnover rate at the college level is relatively low, teaching position changes at the secondary level can be fairly rapid, particularly in the smaller schools which often serve as the place where beginning teachers are hired, prove themselves, and, if successful, then leave for positions at larger schools when the opportunity arises.

Success at the larger academies where one can focus on either band or choir, coupled with graduate study beyond the master's degree and proficiency as a performer, can lead to a college/university position. Successful music lesson and music classroom teaching is a plus for those wanting to teach at the college level.

Those aspiring to teach keyboard at the college/university level must have established themselves as successful performers and have completed a DMA in performance at a reputable school. Additionally, they must have an interest in and preparation for teaching either theory or music history.

Opportunities for college teaching in the Adventist system have increased in recent years because of a large number of retirements. Also, in a few instances some programs are expanding and new positions are being created.

Related Data


Minimum, bachelor's degree in music and state and denominational teaching certification for elementary and secondary teaching. One should also be able to teach in a non-music subject area since many music positions include classroom teaching. Many states will provide provisional certification for a limited period, if one has deficiencies. Most states now require that a master's degree also be completed within a few years of the start of teaching.

Salary (Elementary/Academy): $ 30,100 to $51,600

Salaries vary depending on where the school is located. The maximum is reached usually after completion of master's degree a and five to six years of teaching. West coast salaries are usually higher.

Salary (college/university): $ 30,200 to $59,479

Salaries vary, affected by years of teaching, completed degrees, and rank attained. The four ranks, from lowest to highest, are instructor, assistant professor, associate professor, and professor. Attaining rank of associate or full professor can take several years and will depend on success in the classroom and activity in performance and/or research and writing. Salaries vary widely within both colleges and universities in the Adventist system.


Private Studio Teaching

Freelance studio teaching has played an important role in developing music talent for several centuries. From the teacher who specializes in instructing children to the specialist who coaches professional performers on an ongoing basis, all succeed on the basis of an established reputation. While a music degree is a given if one wants to attract a certain level of student, the reputation for helping students succeed is ultimately what creates a notable studio. As in all studio teaching, whether it be private or in a school setting, a successful teacher plays an important role in the student's life, often being not only a teacher of skill and music, but also becoming a confidante, role model, and life-long friend.

While we often think of studio teaching as the giving of private lessons, there are other programs that can be offered to small groups in a private studio setting.

Lily Diehl


For over twenty-five years, Diehl has run a successful and financially viable piano studio in Loma Linda, California. Even though she had three graduate degrees and a secure university position, she took the risk of stepping out on her own and starting a private studio because she had found greater satisfaction in working with young students, getting them at the most impressionable period of their lives.

Additionally, the flexibility of having a private studio enabled her to continue to perform as a soloist and take her role as a mother seriously. In her studio she developed a "Triangle of Success" program which involves the parent, student and teacher in the learning process. Other innovations included a Student Parents' Guild and a highly successful summer music camp which at its zenith involved 100 students. Many of her students have won in competitions and have continued study at noted music schools.

Dixie Ritchie Cramer


Designed to introduce music to the pre-school child, Kindermusik and Musikgarten are highly developed national programs with materials and an approach designed exclusively for the very young (newborn to age nine) and their families. Cramer, a Union College music education graduate with prior music teaching experience in K-12 and a master's in voice performance from the University of Iowa, started a Kindermusik studio ten years ago in a small community with a regional population of 50,000. Today there are over 140 students in a program that she describes as " the most satisfying teaching experience I have ever had." Her students range in age from four weeks to seven years.

Although in the beginning it was necessary to subsidize the program with earnings from a piano/voice studio, today it is financially on its own, even though the studio is in a location separate from her home. The primary qualifications to be a teacher at this level include having a basic music knowledge, the ability to sightread a cappella, a pleasant singing voice, the flexibility to follow the child within reason, and a passion for the very young. Cramer's offerings include materials drawn from both early childhood programs. and

Also, check with Dixie Cramer at


Suzuki String Studio

While the Suzuki String Teaching Method, one of the most famous programs ever developed for beginning instrumentalists, is found often within established elementary school music programs, it can also be offered through a private studio.



A performance career as a full-time soloist, recitalist, or ensemble member is in a highly competitive area. Unusual musical talent and an early start with superb teachers, coupled with years of study and hours of practice are minimal requirements for all instrumentalists. While the same is true of vocalists, the start will be delayed, and he or she must possess a voice with unusual qualities.

Succeeding as a performer is many times a matter of perseverance and being prepared for the unexpected opportune moment. One's views about performing on Sabbath will also be a factor that can affect success. Not to be overlooked is the combining of performance with freelance or college/university studio teaching, which can provide a more stable income than performance alone. The following sampling of Adventist performers is provided as a reference and possible source of inspiration for those who are considering music performance.


Herbert Blomstedt


Conductor of the San Francisco Symphony Orchestra, 1985-95, Blomstedt is most recently director of the NDR Symphony Orchestra in Hamburg, Germany. A guest conductor with leading orchestras worldwide, he is noted for his musicianship and unusual rapport with orchestra members. Blomstedt has received two Grammy Awards, knighthood in Denmark and Sweden, and a number of honorary doctorates.

Alicia Borges

Mezzos Soprano

A mezzo soprano and native of Argentina, Borges has toured extensively for the past sixteen years in Europe, South America and the United States as a recitalist and soloist in oratorio and opera. She is a member of Elyma, a group that specializes in Latin Baroque music, and has recorded several CD's of religious, folk, and classical music.

Lyndon Johnston Taylor


Principal second violin with the Los Angeles Philharmonic, Taylor was an unusually gifted performer from his earliest years. Although a pre-medicine undergraduate from Atlantic Union College and on his way to becoming a physician at Loma Linda, Taylor returned to music and completed a DMA in violin at the Juilliard School of Music, studying with noted teacher Dorothy Delay. In his position with the LAP he plays on a Stradivarius violin, one of four owned by the orchestra.

Cornel Pana


A frequent soloist in Europe and the Americas, Pana is a consummate performer on a rarely heard instrument. A native of Romania, he began instruction at an early age with a well-known teacher. A student on traditional flute as well, Pana earned degrees in theory and pedagogy. Though he plays the traditional music associated with the instrument, he has sought to create a more challenging and musically sophisticated repertoire. This has led to the development of unusual facility, going beyond what had previously been regarded as technically possible.



There have been a number of Adventist composers, beginning with the early days of the church when hymn writer Franklin Belden, nephew to Ellen White, would compose related hymns while listening to the sermon and then perform them at the conclusion of the service. That inclination to express spiritual truths and experiences continues today with many Adventist musicians, trained and untrained, who write hymns, many of which are never heard beyond the circle of the writer's friends and family.

Pursuing a career as a composer of larger works creates another level of expectations and demands. Few composers and/or arrangers today make a living doing so. Most follow their creative muse from within the security of an academic position or as an avocational pursuit.

Anyone serious about composing will need not only only talent, but classes in theory and, when beginning to write, the guidance of an experienced teacher/composer. Once composers have found their voice, the passage of years and continued writing usually will improve and give depth to the writing. And, in today's world, being proficient in printing one's music with an effective and easy-to-use computer based program for music notation is a necessity.

The following is only a partial listing of living Adventist composers/arrangers who have enjoyed success with performances and/or publishing of their works and, in some instances, been recipients of commissions for compositions or arrangements. Some have completed doctoral degrees in theory/composition. Many of our readers will know one or more of these persons. In many instances they are usually pleased to share their insights about an activity that is central to their life as a musician.

Tyler Abbot Bruce Ashton John Boyd Carlos Flores Diana Gordon Charles J. Hall Lois C. Hall Ann Shrewsbury Hankinson Wayne Hooper Dennis Hunt Evelyn Kopitzke James Lee III Kenneth Logan Wendy Markosky Peter Mathews James McGee Margarita Merriman Kenneth Narducci Eurydice Osterman Julianne Rabens Tim Rumsey Dan Shultz Glenn Spring Sharon Tolhurst Melvin K. West Steve Zork



While the greatest number of opportunities for Adventist musicians in this area of music-related careers is with the relatively few Adventist college/university campus radio stations and in church related radio and TV endeavors, there are other possibilities. The following musicians have enjoyed successful careers in radio and TV work.

Wayne Hooper

Musical Director Voice of Prophecy

Hooper began his work with the Voice of Prophecy radio program in 1944, following a brief stint in teaching music and working as a singing evangelist. A singer with the VOP's King's Heralds Quartet, he taught at Union College and completed a degree there during a two-year leave from the group. He then rejoined the quartet, singing until 1962, when he became musical director of the broadcast.

In addition to his arranging and directing responsibilities at the VOP, he was in charge of development and marketing for Hosanna House, and did arranging and orchestration for Chapel Records. He was musical coeditor of the 1985 SDA Hymnal and co-authored the Companion to the SDA Hymnal. Hooper was awarded honorary doctor of music degrees by Andrews and La Sierra Universities.

Jean Inaba

National Public Radio

At National Public Radio for over sixteen years, beginning in 1986, Inaba served as associate music producer for Performance Today. When a major company reorganization eliminated her division earlier this year at NPR, she made a career change. She continues today in broadcasting as a part-time announcer for WETA, an NPR member station. Inaba describes her time at Performance Today as demanding and stressful work that required total commitment. Even so, she feels the time there played an important part in her professional growth and also enhanced her knowledge and appreciation of concert music.

A music minor in college, she is a talented string performer who played in the Walla Walla Symphony as an undergraduate. Now living in the Washington, D.C. area, she has played professionally with four different orchestras. Inaba is currently in her fourteenth season as a member of the Maryland Symphony Orchestra.

Paul Johnston

Announcer Community Broadcasts, WQED-FM, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

In talking about his career in radio, Johnston describes it as fulfillment of a "magnificent obsession" that started when he was in the eighth grade. While he pursued and completed an undergraduate degree in music education at Andrews University, the most meaningful activity for him was being able to work at WAUS-FM, AU's radio station. Following a brief foray into teaching, he landed a position working for KWHO in Salt Lake City and then worked for Brigham Young University's broadcast services, serving as broadcast host for the Utah Symphony Orchestra while there. In 1986, he accepted an invitation to join WQED-FM, a classical music station in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. He continues there as announcer and manager of Community Broadcasts.

Kurt Kennedy

Owner Kennedy Communications

Kennedy runs a successful strategic communications and media production company that designs and produces media communication resources for large corporations. Music is extensively used in production and he feels that his background as a serious percussionist and active performer in ensembles at both the academy and college level has given him a competitive advantage in the field. Although there were challenges in establishing this service, creativity, perseverance and a sensitivity for what works has led to a highly successful business that is now in its fifteenth year.


Music Therapy

Although music therapy is often mentioned as a career option, surprisingly few Adventist musicians have entered this area. The power of music to heal the body and lift the spirit has been discussed and demonstrated since ancient times. Although some of our colleges/universities have considered establishing a music therapy program where students could prepare for a career in MT, it still remains an unrealized possibility.

For the present the best preparation for becoming a music therapist is to follow one of two paths. The first is to complete the first three years of a music education degree, carefully choosing classes that would transfer to a school offering an undergraduate degree in MT. The second path is to complete a music education degree at an Adventist school and then pursue a graduate program in MT.

As is evident in the following observations by an Adventist musician who became a music therapist and then chaired MT programs at two universities, the employment opportunities are out there. And who knows, one of our readers may be that person who finally establishes a music therapy program at an Adventist college/university campus!

Juanita McElwain

Music Therapist

"But what are the employment possibilities in music therapy?" Intrigued by the possibility of using music in a therapeutic setting, interested students and fellow musicians ask this critical question repeatedly. Aside from the fact that there are increasing numbers of established positions, a therapist with initiative can usually begin with part-time work in two or three settings such as a hospital, nursing home, child care facility, mental institution, etc. Often one of these will develop into a full-time position, depending on the success of the work the therapist does. There is also the possibility that with successful experience in the profession and additional education, one can become a teacher in this area. Anyone who likes people, service-related work, and music, may find music therapy the ideal career choice.


Music Librarian

There are limited opportunities for musicians who enjoy working with the many aspects of music resources provided by a complete music library. A penchant for detail, good organization, research skills, and follow-through are necessary for a music librarian. Additionally, he/she must be someone who relates well to a variety of personalities and has a genuine interest in helping fellow musicians find the information and resources they need.

While there is only one opening in Adventist higher education for a full-time music librarian, most of our colleges/university music departments would be delighted to have a faculty member who has had some training in this area and could satisfy this need as part of a teaching load. Experience gained in this way, coupled with a master's degree in library science, could lead to a full-time music-related library position at either a public or university library.

Linda Mack

Music Librarian Andrews University

From the beginning of her music study Mack was fascinated by and enjoyed working with music resource materials. While a student at Andrews University completing both undergraduate and graduate degrees in organ, she was encouraged by three of her teachers, two of whom required significant writing and research for classes and one who appreciated her assistance in preparing materials for a classical radio program he produced. This background proved invaluable as she eventually worked for the fledgling FM station at AU, a classical radio station in Utah and as a paraprofessional in the library at the University of Utah, while also teaching organ lessons and playing as a freelance performer.

Following completion of a master's degree in library science at Brigham Young University in 1987, she was hired as periodicals librarian at Andrews University. She became music librarian in 1993. Mack feels that her roles as performer and accompanist for a variety of performers in many different areas have helped increase her knowledge of what is available and enable her to better assist students and faculty in locating music as well as the usual music-related research materials.


Arts Administration

Overseeing all aspects of a music program or group, or serving as an agent for soloists and/or smaller ensembles requires a special mix of musical knowledge, personal organization and creativity, writing skills, knowledge of ever-evolving media processes, and the ability to effectively communicate and interact with people. While meeting the challenge of music administration can be stressful, it can also be very rewarding.

If one is interested in arts administration in a non-academic setting, an undergraduate music degree and additional graduate study in arts management, plus actual hands-on experience in the specific area are essential. Working in the office of an arts administrator is the best possible way to gain the latter. Successful directorship of a school ensemble can also be an effective prelude for this type of administration.

Effective arts administration at a university/college setting requires the attributes listed in the opening paragraph plus an awareness of the dynamics of an academic campus. Additional requirements would include having both master's and doctoral degrees and years of experience in successfully teaching a variety of classes.

Rosalie Contreras

Publicity Manager Seattle Symphony

An internship in the local symphony office during her senior year at Walla Walla College and a bachelor's degree with majors in both business and music led Contreras to decide on a career in arts administration. She completed master's degrees in business administration and arts management at the University of Cincinnati in 1999.

In the summer of 1998 she did an internship in the office of the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra which led to a regular position there that fall. Her position and work with the Seattle Symphony started in 2000. While she has found the work challenging, Contreras observes, "I love this work. The interaction with the media and the public on behalf of this organization, and the challenges found in developing publicity strategies and materials are all fulfilling."


Music Business

Music businesses that sell instruments and sheet music in today's world must do so in a highly competitive atmosphere. Getting started requires capital and then aggressive marketing with high volume sales to offset small profit margins. The greatest continuing market is that for beginning band instruments which is usually cared for by rent-to-buy programs run by large regional retailers. Even so, there are national internet and phone-in vendors who do well offering these instruments at near wholesale cost.

Local merchants who survive often do so by offering multiple services, including selling school instruments and supplies through aggressive work in the music programs of local schools, providing studios for teachers, having sheet music services, and selling guitars, drum sets, synthesizer keyboards and other popular instruments. Selling sheet music is particularly risky because of the corner that national vendors have on the market and the ease with which copying, though illegal, is done.

Possible careers in music business include ownership, working as a representative for a store in school music programs, being a salesperson, and being an agent for a national distributor. The story of one owner, Orland Ogden, who founded a music business at the end of a career that began in music performance and then evolved through a number of business ventures, is found in his obituary-life story (Ogden Story).


Piano Technician

A good piano technician will always have work, particularly if located near a metropolitan area and/or near a college or university. Minimum requirements include a good ear, reasonable proficiency on the instrument and training at a reputable piano technician's school. Once a reputation for good work and versatility in providing both tuning and other technical services for the instrument is established, appropriate fees and quantity of work can provide a good income. And there are other possibilities for one with exceptional talent as described in the following person's story.

Kevin Stock

Concert Technician Instructor of Technical Training & Education

Steinway & Sons Headquarters

Stock's dream was to be a concert pianist. Changing circumstances, however, and the ability to adapt to the unexpected twists and turns of life led him to what many would describe as an ultimate achievement in the world of piano tuning: employment at Steinway headquarters in New York City as a tuner of their pianos for high profile concerts in venues such as Carnegie Hall and Lincoln Center and as a teacher of other tuners.

While he graduated from Southern Colorado University with an undergraduate degree in piano, most of his study had been at Union College. An injury following graduation ruled out a career as a piano performer. An interest in tuning led to completion of a piano technician training program at Western Iowa Tech Community College and employment in a number of positions, each with increased responsibility. With the advancements came recognition and finally the offer from Steinway.


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This article was the cover story in the 2002 Summer/Autumn issue of Notes, a quarterly publication of the International Adventist Musicians Association