Teachers in training fight for future of NYU music education program

The Steinhardt music department announced that it will not accept new applications to an education program, sparking concerns among students studying to become music educators.


Kiran Komanduri

File photo: The NYU Steinhardt Pless Hall located on 82 Washington Square East. Photo taken in spring 2022. (Kiran Komanduri for WSN)

Bryn Borzillo, Senior Staff Writer

The music education program at NYU’s Steinhardt school will stop accepting applications starting in the fall 2023 semester, according to administrators. Several students in the program, which trains students to be music teachers, expressed concerns about its future.

Department chair Marilyn Nonken said in an email to students that the change is a result of the program faculty’s decision to review the current curriculum. Despite the change, she said the program will continue to offer the courses that current students need to complete their degrees.

“Periodic curriculum reviews such as these ensure that our academic programs continue to meet the needs of our students and evolve to address the demands of a rapidly changing environment,” Nonken wrote. “This pause in admissions will not affect your ability to complete your studies in music education and graduate from NYU.”

As a program requirement, music education students in the Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development take multiple ensemble-based and practicum-based classes in which new students learn to play instruments while students in later semesters of the program learn to teach by leading the class. Without an incoming first-year class, several students said they are confused as to how the classes will be organized.

“Our major depends very much on a mentor-apprentice model, and a lot of our classes are based on the upperclassmen mentoring the underclassmen,” said Jahnvi Seshadri, president of the Student Music Educators of NYU club. “We are going to miss a whole class of people who are going to be doing that — that just completely disrupts the education of that year.”

Nonken, the chair, also invited students to a Zoom meeting on Nov. 17, providing them an opportunity to voice their concerns about the program’s future. A Nov. 15 letter from students to program faculty asked that the admissions pause be reversed, but the request was denied, in addition to requests for students and adjunct faculty to be included on the curriculum review committee.

“We wanted to be co-collaborators — we wanted to have a seat at the table,” said sophomore Ray Heller, who is in the program. “We don’t just want our voices heard because when you’re heard, you can be ignored. We want to have a stake in this because these are decisions that are going to directly affect us.”

Students’ requests for more full-time staff — there is currently only one teaching at the Washington Square campus — and a dedicated advisor for the program, were denied. Some students are planning to create a petition in support of the program in the coming weeks, and an alumni statement regarding the program is slated to be released as well.

“I hope that the people making the committee understand that we are not going to go into this blindly,” Heller said. “We understand the impact of their actions, and we understand the impact of their words.”

Contact Bryn Borzillo at [email protected].