The Music Trust has engaged in advocacy to achieve a satisfactory level of music education for all primary school students. In all state systems except Queensland, responsibility for music education is assigned systemically to generalist primary school classroom teachers most of whom receive only a token mandatory music education in their pre-service courses. With this preparation alone, they are not capable of delivering a music curriculum. Universities seem unwilling or unable to rectify this situation and state accreditation authorities appear to be unwilling to require meaningful improvement. The inadequacy has continued over decades so that the primary school classroom teacher workforce overall is not musically educated. The scale of provision of professional development courses needed to rectify the situation would be enormous.

The Music Trust has concluded that the only feasible and in any case the best solution that potentially could serve ALL students is for the schools to employ specialist primary music teachers for classroom music. Of course, there are impediments to this solution also and the one we deal with here is the supply of specialist teachers. We investigate the availability of courses that produce qualified primary music specialists.

Since among the state government systems, only Queensland offers systemic employment to primary school specialist music teachers, universities may assume that there is little employment for these teachers and therefore no call for courses. They overlook the employment opportunities in the independent schools and indeed, in many state schools in which principals decide to hire music teachers using discretionary funds.

The Music Trust has pulled together information about university courses that produce specialist music teachers. This can be found below. Most of the information comes directly from those overseeing the courses. The courses commonly produce specialist music teachers for secondary schools, where all courses are taught by subject-area specialists.

There is a small number of schools that offer a qualification for primary school specialist music teaching and some others where the secondary school course includes primary school music pedagogy. There appears to be a trend to close BEd courses for specialist music teachers, to be replaced by a coupling of degrees, e.g. BMus/MTeach. At this point, it is not clear to us whether the education or teaching degree specifically includes courses in music pedagogy and probably this varies from one institution to another.

Tertiary courses

(#) marks institutions that offer a qualification in specialist primary school music education.
(+) marks institutions that offer substantial content but not a qualification in primary school music education.
Australian Catholic University

  • No information on website
  • No response to inquiry

Australian National University (Peter Tregear) (#?)

  • Currently combined BA (Mus) and BEd with University of Canberra, 4 years.
  • New agreement developing with University of Canberra: ANU double degree + UC = MEd (Music), probably 4.5 years. See UC entry.

Charles Darwin University (from website)

  • BEd Secondary Teaching (Music)

Edith Cowan University (website) (+)

  • BEd (Secondary) Music Education major. 4 years. Focuses on classroom music teaching. Students have the option to complete a minor in instrumental music teaching and conducting/ensemble direction, and can also undertake electives in primary and early childhood music teaching. The major is offered in conjunction with the Western Australian Academy of Performing Arts (WAAPA) and students choose to specialise in either Classical, Jazz or Contemporary music. Under certain circumstances, students may undertake crossover units from other streams.

Music degree plus Graduate Diploma of Education. Diploma is one year. There are three music options. Secondary only.
Griffith University (Don Lebler) (#)

  • BMus + GradDip Education (Secondary) 3 + 1 years
  • BMus + MTeach (Primary) 3 + 2 years but the 2 years is compressed to 1.5 years

Griffith is moving away from training music teachers in the Bachelor of Education program.
“The Queensland Conservatorium offers customised pathways for students heading for careers in music education in their Bachelor of Music and Bachelor of Popular Music programs.”
Monash University (website) (#)

  • BEd (Honours) and BMus. 4-year double degree, secondary school education
  • BEd (Honours) and BA with a music major or minor. 4-year double degree, primary or secondary school education
  • BMus plus MTeach. BMusic 3 years. MTeach is for early childhood, primary, secondary or combinations, two years, or 1.5 years if study is undertaken in summer.

Queensland University of Technology
No information provided.
Southern Cross University (from website)

  • Bachelor of Contemporary Music/Bachelor of Education (Secondary) 4 years
  • Undergraduate degree in music or other, plus BEd (Secondary). BEd in this case is 2 years.

Sydney Conservatorium (James Humberstone) (+)

  • BMus (Music Ed) It is a secondary school qualification but Year 2 focuses on primary pedagogy with practice of one day a week for 6 weeks plus two weeks every day.

In a different structure of postgraduate degrees, it may not be possible to maintain the above.

There is interest in modularising so that e.g. the above second-year courses could become a Certificate IV or Diploma in primary music education for current primary-only trained teachers. An obstacle is that the accrediting authority, BOSTES, does not recognise a specialist music primary qualification.
University of Adelaide (website) (+?)

  • BMus (Music Education) + postgraduate qualification in education. 3 years +

In order to become eligible to apply for teacher registration, graduates will need to complete a postgraduate qualification in Education.
University of Canberra (Anita Collins) (#?)

  • As stated for ANU for secondary school music teachers.
  • Primary: getting approvals for Creative Arts primary specialist degree, specialising in one OR TWO art forms.

University of Melbourne (Gary McPherson) (#)

  • BMus + MTeach 3 years plus 3 semesters (4 compressed into 3) so total of 4.5 years.
  • At primary level, BA + MTeach but Gary McPherson says music pedagogy cannot be as good as in the BEd.

University of New England (from website)

  • BEd (Secondary Music). 4 years. Music component is offered online only.
  • Undergraduate music or arts/music degree plus MTeach 2 years.

Some semesters are off campus.
University of New South Wales (Paul Evans) (+)

  • Currently BMusBEd 4+2 (=5 – see below)
  • OR BMus + MTeach 4 + less than 2
  • OR BA major in music combined with BEd or MTeach

BUT there is no degree for primary classroom music. The ‘closest model’ is undergraduate music plus Master’s degree in primary education.
Evans writes: “A single degree requires a certain number of subjects within the major area and there is a large number of electives for breadth studies – ie subjects outside of your faculty, for about 20% of the classes). So a single, 3-year degree still has breadth.

But you are encouraged to combine almost any degree combination to get a 4-year double degree. In this combined program, electives are removed (two degrees is breadth enough) and the 2 x 3-year degrees are compressed into 4 years.

Hence the UNSW combined BMusBEd degree. The stand-alone BMus is 4 years rather than the usual 3 for most degrees. The BEd is a 2-year degree but cannot be taken in stand-alone mode. Together the program takes 5 years to complete.

This degree structure (a single degree with lots of breadth, or a double/combined degree) is becoming very popular around the country and is a variant on what is known as the ‘Melbourne model’.”
University of Queensland (Margaret Barrett) (+)

  • BMus/BEd dual degree (a combined program over 5 years). Taught in conjunction with the School of Education.
  • BA (music major)/BEd dual degree (a combined program over 4 years). Taught in conjunction with the School of Education.
  • BMus + Grad Dip. (2 separate programs consisting of the BMus @ 4 years and the Grad Dip @ 1 year. The latter is taught in conjunction with the School of Education).

The Master of Music program is a coursework program designed for practising musicians in the fields of music performance, music composition, musicology, music education. It is not a teacher preparation program.

Margaret Barrett writes: “It does provide early childhood education and primary content … as a means of letting students know the foundations in which they are building and also the fact that many of them are employed in P-12 environments and need to understand this end of the school. To my knowledge there is no dedicated primary music specialist teacher education program. Probably why Kodaly and Orff have such a strong presence in this space in PD.” (Professional development. ED)
University of South Australia (from website)

  • BA (Performing Arts) plus MTeach (Secondary). 3 + 2 years. In the BA, choose the music options plus four courses in a second learning area.

University of Southern Queensland (from website)

  • BEd (Secondary) with a major in music. 4 years
  • Undergraduate degree in music plus GradDip of Learning and Teaching specialising in Secondary Years. GradDip 1 year.

University of Tasmania (Bill Baker)

  • BMus + MTeach 3+2 years

The pertinent qualification is an MTeach which is a secondary school qualification with a 6-unit arts education specialisation for music educators.

There are a large number of music specialists employed in Tasmanian primary schools when compared to many other states, although they may only be employed casually or may be under-employed. Some music specialists may only provide instrumental education and some may be employed directly by schools rather than through more official channels.

There is no specific qualification for primary music specialists. Some MTeach (secondary) specialist graduates decide to teach in primary school and some BEd (generalist) graduates with developed musical skills or related qualifications also teach at this level as specialists.
University of Western Australia (Nicholas Bannan) (+)

  • 3 year BA Double music major, music major plus other studies, or different degree including ‘broadening units’ in music

Music Ed courses are postgraduate. They cover early years; primary; secondary. Specialist provision is at secondary level, and covers classroom and studio teaching. In each case, there WILL be a 2-year MTeach.

So total time for the music degree + MTeach in music is 5 years.

Robin Stevens, Taking an Overall View

The norm in Victoria now is for a three year undergraduate music degree or a BA with a music major (that includes music practical studies OR AMEB Grade VI or Year 12 Practical music – see information below and/or the VIT Teaching Specialist Area Guidelines) plus a two year Master of Teaching (or equivalent some institutions this may be completed in three semesters) in either Primary Teaching or Secondary Teaching. In the MTeach(Prim) there is little if any room for specialised music method and all students will undertake the generalist Primary Arts Education subject(s). In the case of the MTeach(Sec), students undertake a double music method (i.e. four subjects).

Aside some additional electives within the MTeach(Prim) offered by the Graduate School of Education at the University of Melbourne, there is no specialist primary music teacher education course.

The exception to the above scenarios is that a very few universities are offering a four year BEd(Prim) degree in which there is the equivalent of two and a half years of education studies but some discipline studies – a major sequence of six subjects – can be taken in music.
Note that there are Victorian Institute of Teaching Specialist Area Guidelines which have been in operation since November 2008, but are currently under review by VIT.
(a) Major study in Music which includes Practical Music or
(b) Major study in Music together with AMEB Grade VI or Year 12 Practical music or
(c) Major study in Music which includes Practical Music specialising in one or more musical instruments.
(See also the notes by Paul Evans in the UNSW entry.)

Education Queensland Published on the Web

What is the structure in the only state to employ primary specialist teachers for (nearly) all state primary schools?
Classroom Music Teachers work in primary or secondary schools. For appointment as primary music teachers applicants require:

  • a degree in music, or music education (‘music’ would appear in the degree title).
  • Some preparation for primary music teaching;

(e.g. P-12 music education degree, or secondary training certificate/s in the primary school music pedagogy such the Kodaly Institute certificate or equivalent.)

  • primary teaching or primary education degree or diploma, with
  • a performance diploma (including theoretical requirements) and with
  • certificate/s in primary school music pedagogy

(e.g. Departmental 10 week course, Kodaly Institute relevant certificates or equivalent.)

Primary classroom music teachers may be full time, part time or work on a circuit across a number of schools. All music teachers require teacher registration with the Queensland College of Teachers.


Richard Letts, April 2015. Entered 4 May 2015.

Dr Richard Letts AM is the founder and Director of The Music Trust, founder and former Executive Director of the Music Council of Australia (now Music Australia) and Past President of the International Music Council. He has held senior positions in music and culture in Australia and the United States, advocated for music and music education, conducted research, written policy documents, edited four periodicals, published four books and hundreds of articles.

No comment yet, add your voice below!

Add a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *