The National String Project Consortium and Its Efforts to Alleviate the String Teacher Shortage: A Summary of the 2005 Ohio Music Education Association Research Forum Presented by Dr. James Byo

By Shumaker, Jodie A. | Contributions to Music Education, July 1, 2005 | Go to article overview

The National String Project Consortium and Its Efforts to Alleviate the String Teacher Shortage: A Summary of the 2005 Ohio Music Education Association Research Forum Presented by Dr. James Byo


Shumaker, Jodie A., Contributions to Music Education


"'Experience isn't the best teacher. The best teacher is the best teacher.'"

Dr. James Byo, a Louisiana State University music education professor, was the guest speaker at the 2005 Ohio Music Education Association (OMEA) Research Forum held during the OMEA state conference in Cincinnati, Ohio. Dr. Byo, an active and well-known teacher, author, and clinician, earned music education and performance degrees from Youngstown State University and Florida State University. He began his teaching career in Wooster, Ohio, where he was the band and orchestra director from 1978-1985. From 1992-1997, Dr. Byo served as chair of the International Wind Band Education Research Committee of the World Association for Symphonic Bands and Ensembles (WASBE). His position with WASBE provided him with the opportunity to present research in Japan and throughout Europe. From 1996-2002, Dr. Byo served as editor of UPDATE: Applications of Research in Music Education, and formerly was the conductor of the Louisiana Junior Youth Orchestra (James Byo/Music Education/LSU, 2002).

On the morning of February 3rd, James Byo discussed the national teacher shortages and the resulting National String Project Consortium. Byo began his presentation with an astounding number: 2.4 million teachers will be needed in the next eleven years due to factors including increased student enrollment and teacher attrition. Byo firmly believes that collegiate level educators must address the latter issue. While some teachers who leave the field do so because of retirement, a large number of educators leave the field long before they have taught 30 years. In fact, Byo stated that an alarming 40-50% of all educators leave the profession in the first five years of teaching. Of the 40-50% of teachers who leave within five years, 42% are due to personal reasons, 39% are caused by a career change, and 29% of teachers leave because of dissatisfaction. It is this 29% that education professors must address, Byo explained.

One might think that under the umbrella of "dissatisfaction,'' many teachers leave education because of low salaries, but this simply is not the case. Undergraduate education majors are already aware that another career choice would probably put more money in their pockets. Instead, 75% of teachers who left teaching within five years due to dissatisfaction cited reasons such as poor student discipline, low student motivation, and inadequate administrative support. Byo believes that it is imperative for collegiate educators to help their students in these areas, both during their undergraduate experience, and once they have graduated. Byo tries to stay in touch with his former students so that he can continue to help them get through challenging situations.

All the statistics cited above deal with the entire field of education. Dr. Byo then turned his focus to music education. Byo stated that annually 11,000 music teachers leave after just one year of teaching, and only about 5,500 music education degrees are earned each year. In the string world alone, 24% of positions went unfilled for the 1999-2000 school year. This number jumped to 43% the following year.

The American String Teachers Association (ASTA) recognized these shortages as a tremendous problem and created the National String Project Consortium to help address the issue. Thirteen universities from across the country were set up to host a String Project. Each Project was allotted $10,000 in grant money, an amount that was matched by the affiliated university. Children from the area go to the site to learn from a master teacher. Collegiate student teachers, who are given financial assistantships, assist with instruction. The String Project provides a comprehensive string education for children, many of who do not have that opportunity in school because of program cutbacks. …

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