This post is based on an email I sent to the Handbell-L. I'm putting it here so that I can refer back to it when the doubts come on little cat feet in the middle of the night.Now that I'm nearing the end of my undergraduate career -- yes, "nearing" is relative; I still have a year and half to go, but see my previous post as to why now is the time I have to look to the future -- I've been wrestling with the question of WHY I want a Masters in the first place. I've boiled it down to two main reasons:
1) I know that in California, you must have at least a Masters to eligible to teach at state colleges & universities (private schools are not bound by this, of course). I think many other states have this requirement, too. I would love to be able to teach Theory or History at the university level, BUT - and this is really important! - how many times have we heard of young people wanting to major in handbells and the school asks, "But who will be your teacher?" I want to be on that short-list of people who are eligible to teach handbells at the University level. I need (at least) a Masters for that.
2) I've spent the last 20 minutes trying to figure out how to word this gently, but I think perhaps it's best to just come out and say it: Women conductors have a harder time of it in the musical world. And not just in the larger world of orchestras, but also in handbells -- we've talked about that on the Handbell-L more than once or twice. It's not that there aren't any women conductors out there -- good grief! Look at how many are on the Handbell-L!! -- but rather that they seem not to get the recognition they deserve. I feel that if I want to be taken seriously as a "marquee conductor," then I need a degree in Conducting. While it's true that the Concordia degree is not specifically in conducting, see what I said in my previous post about having the time to be able to supplement it with other workshops and continuing/extended learning opportunities. I believe I have the discipline - and yes, the ambition - to do this.
I'll be honest; a degree in Church Music was not my first choice. I come from a Conservatory background in which Church Music was seen as a "lesser" degree for some reason (I don't quite understand it, but it was something "everybody knew" - just like a degree in Education was also somehow "lesser". ???), so I've spent a lot of time thinking about whether this is really something I want to do or not.
Then I realized that I've been a church musician for almost 20 years. I've worked for the Methodists, the Episcopalians, the Presbyterians, and the Lutherans, and played in a number of other denominational churches (and some non-denominational). I have a great love for church music, and the rhythms of the church year -- and music is essential to my worship experience. From a more utilitarian perspective, my main employment opportunities are and probably always will be with the church and having a degree in church music can only help that (it certainly can't hurt). Other employment opportunities will see the Masters (and the supplemental education) on my resume and know that I have the musical background to do the job.
In short, I think pursuing a Masters is the right course of action for me. I've heard nothing but good things about the Concordia program and it has many things that appeal to me because of where I am in my life and what I want to accomplish.