Leadership development in music education

24 May 2019

Leadership of Pedagogy and Curriculum in Higher Music Education is the second of a two-volume anthology dedicated to leadership and leadership development in higher music education. Fifteen authors write from multiple countries and contexts, exploring pedagogical and curricular leadership challenges and successes from around the globe.


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They draw attention to the dynamics of pedagogical approaches which encourage learners’ deep and agentic engagement, considering the sustainability and scope of such interventions while highlighting positive frameworks and approaches. The outcome is a collection of essays designed to offer student musicians, higher education teachers and institutional leaders theoretically informed and practical insights into the development and practice of leadership.

Katie Zhukov’s chapter focuses on identifying skills for successful classical music careers. Her case study examines the lives of five Australian classical pianists to identify the common threads in successful careers. The semi-structured interviews were analysed for emerging themes, identifying connections between distinct skills developed during education and their role in careers.

The participants began learning to play at an early age, developing their technique, learning numerous works and participating in competitions during primary school years. In high school the pianists also played other instruments, studied more demanding piano repertoire, and participated in many extra-curricular music activities. During performance-focused undergraduate study all concentrated on improving technique, building solo and collaborative repertoire, including contemporary music, and branched out into other music-related areas.

After postgraduate study overseas and diverse casual jobs at the start of their careers, all achieved permanent full-time employment. While hard work, ability to learn quickly and passion for music helped these pianists build successful careers, today’s undergraduates will additionally require diverse music and entrepreneurial skills, and a positive attitude. This case study is leading the change across studio teaching by advocating for a greater emphasis on generic music skills as important factors for 21st century careers.