The trajectory of research surrounding music teacher education lies, in part, in the hands of a longtime College of Music faculty member.
As of July 1, Associate Dean for Undergraduate Studies James Austin is the latest editor of the Journal of Music Teacher Education.
“I consider it a huge responsibility,” Austin says. “We’re trying to advance the understanding and practice with regard to preparing people to become teachers.”
Published by the National Association for Music Education (NAfME), the Journal of Music Teacher Education is the definitive source for philosophical, historical and methodological articles related to music teacher education. The audience is vast: the online publication has an annual readership of approximately 67,000 NAfME members and 7,000 organizational subscribers. Indeed, there were 18,000 full-text downloads of JMTE articles in 2015 alone.
So it’s no easy task to be the gatekeeper who determines which research makes its way to readers.
“It’s not just filling out the issue or the volume. We need to make sure the research we feature is done at a level that provides meaningful understanding of the process.”
Austin got the nod because of his years of teaching and his history of service on editorial committees: he was a reviewer for four different journals over the course of about 12 years before taking a three-year hiatus to focus on his own work. This summer he was elected to a six-year term heading up the 10-person editorial committee for JMTE.
Because of the sheer volume of papers he’s charged with reviewing—Austin says previous editors have received around 50 manuscripts a year—Austin has help from PhD student Bryan Koerner, who’s serving as editorial assistant as he finishes up his dissertation.
“It’s allowed me to have an insider’s perspective on what the hot topics are,” explains Koerner. “By digging into some of these manuscripts, I’m entering that conversation. Reflecting about these topics inspires me in my own writing.”
Those topics can range from alternative licensure to professional development—anything relevant, Austin says, to music teacher training.
“Things like teacher-musician identity, undergraduate curriculum and recruiting high school students—which is very challenging right now given some of the negative high-level rhetoric surrounding schools.”
With such crucial challenges to face—and the very future of music in schools at stake—Austin says he’ll use his time as editor to expand the scope and accessibility of JMTE.
“I’d like to see us get into the macro issues affecting the field. We don’t have to always publish original research articles ... there can be ‘big think’ pieces as well,” Austin says.
And Koerner says getting readers to pay attention to complex problems impacting the profession can be challenging given the array of media and information already at their fingertips.
“People don’t necessarily have time to dig into a 20-page paper. We need to think about different ways to make the content accessible to people who are busy in their lives and careers.”
“One of the things I’ve challenged the editorial group to do is engage with me in how to grow the journal’s scope, influence and impact. How do you distill ideas in a meaningful way for teachers?” Austin adds.
“We have to use this powerful opportunity to help education evolve the way other professions have.”
Closer to home, Austin hopes his appointment will add even more prestige to the already highly regarded music education program at the college.
“The other thing that came to mind for me as I accepted this position was that it would give us a chance to elevate the status of our graduate program,” he says. “That we will have this editorial assistant role available for many years will be a good recruiting opportunity.”
For more information about the Journal of Music Teacher Education, visit the National Association for Music Education website.