It turns out that music faculty, in general, can be kind of intimidating. Who knew? Certainly not the flute professor who wears all black and is permanently scowling. However, one of the most important things you can do for your music career, both right now and in the future, is to be A) recognizable to your professors, B) liked by your professors, and hopefully C) trusted by your professors. In order to do this, you have to actually – gasp – NETWORK with them. Now, the majority of students never stop by their professors’ office hours even once, because professors are Intimidating and also sometimes Boring. This is silly. That’s the first thing you should be doing, if only so they’ll recognize your face outside of class.
9 Ways to Network with Professors
Go to office hours with (reasonable) questions about homework/projects. Like I mentioned above, almost NO students ever go to office hours. If there’s a particular faculty member that you would like to make sure remembers you, show up during office hours and ask them reasonable, not-found-in-the-syllabus questions about homework or projects. It will help you do better on that assignment, probably help in the class overall, and will make you stand out in the professor’s mind.
Ask if they need help with anything. For whatever reason, professors in my department spend a lot of time hauling various things around – pianos, keyboards, giant boxes of t-shirts – and I do my best to help them out whenever I see that. On a less manual-labor note, if you’re talking with a professor already, ask if they have any jobs that need doing. Choir directors tend to need choral librarians, band directors need band librarians, and recording professors ALWAYS want the studio cleaned up. This one is hard to slip into conversation casually, so it may be better to wait until the professor expresses frustration with something and THEN to volunteer to help with it.
Ask for elaboration during or after class. If you want to know more about something a professor mentions in class, ask about it! If it’s relevant to the class material as a whole, absolutely ask in class. Someone else is probably wondering the same thing. If, however, your professor mentions something about Tuvan throat singing in Music Theory, you probably want to wait until the end of class and then ask on your way out. Don’t be upset if your professor is short with you. They may be hurrying to get to another class.
Send EARLY rough drafts of papers and ask if they could look it over. About a week before a large project is due, send it to the professor and ask POLITELY if they could look it over. It’s similar to going to their office hours to ask for help. It makes you stand out in their mind, while simultaneously helping you out in class. Note: do not do this if they have anything in their syllabus or say anything in class about not sending stuff early. Also do not do this twelve hours before the deadline. They will either not get the message in time or they will laugh at you. EARLY is the important part here.
Ask one professor to be your thesis adviser (if applicable). The semester you start preparing to do a large project or start an organization, ask a professor who is relevant to your project to be your adviser. It doesn’t matter mow much you like your applied teacher. If you’re doing a capstone in Music History, the average trombone professor is going to be much less useful than the professor who actually teaches Music History. People like this are key to have your network later on in your career.
Attend faculty concerts. You know how many people attended the recital my thesis adviser/applied professor just put on? Thirty. Total. The entire voice department was required to attend, and that was the turnout. Go to faculty recitals, and hang out for a little bit afterward to talk to the performers. It’s called networking. Don’t be a suck-up, though – people can tell when you’re just complimenting them to make them like you. That kills the potential network connection.
Show interest in their field of expertise. Is this professor you’re trying to get to know an expert in something? Do you like that something? Ask them about it! People, and especially academics, reaaaally like to talk about their topics of interest. But again, don’t fake interest. That kills the soul of everyone involved. Plus you’ll be stuck listening to something you don’t really care about, which is no fun.
Volunteer to run/participate in a pet project of a professor. My applied professor used to be the president of her school’s chapter of Student NATS. When she suggested we start a chapter at my college, I joined immediately, and now I’m president. Just make sure to do a good job. Otherwise you are making yourself less likable and less trustworthy, which is not what you’re going for.
Be a pleasant and reliable person. Turn stuff in on time! Come prepared for lessons! Practice an hour more than you think is necessary! Be nice! Don’t gossip! Have a good attitude! Be someone that you would like to spend time with, and professors will generally want to spend time with you. It’s common sense, but you’d be shocked at the number of people don’t understand this.
Make sense? Basically, go above and beyond the call of duty in your classes. You will be surprised by how many professors like you. Build your network now, as a student, and you’ll reap rewards later.
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