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Developing a Career and Signature Pedagogy

by Andrew Marino

First thing that comes to mind when I think of how I entered my field (classical guitar) is passion, bordering on obsession. Many people count music as one of their hobbies, but to pursue it, specifically Western classical music, at a professional level takes years of study and practice, and a lifetime of dedication.

Steps to share:

  • Finding an exceptional teacher/mentor to develop technical and expressive skills

  • Participate in school music programs, take music theory courses (take AP theory exam), take part in as many public performances as possible

  • Network – music is a very socially oriented career; you’ll be glad you know as many people in the profession as you can and it’s never too early to start

  • Enroll in degree programs – currently in the profession you’ll need a minimum of a master’s degree in your major instrument

  • Form chamber groups

  • Book performances as both a soloist and with chamber groups – start locally and expand out from there

  • Understand that this is a “portfolio” career. Performing is just one aspect, you’ll also likely teach at various levels and institutions, arrange/compose, or take on administrative roles at music schools as components of your career.

  • Consider having a secondary area of focus (music theory, history, technology, education, etc.)

Pedagogy: Instructor-centered. Learner is dependent on instructor for information. Instructor seen as expert, chooses topics and strategies and manages all aspects of learning (what, when, how). Course design is linear.

Andragogy: Learner-centered, more independence. Learning relevant to real-world experience. Instructor is facilitator or guide, creates learning experiences that are relevant and inclusive; promotes inquiry, analysis and decision-making.

Heutagogy: Learner is agent of their own learning and determines how they will learn. Instructor has more advisory role. Mistakes are part of learning process. Course design non-linear.

By leveraging aspects of heutagogy, we can activate learners’ intrinsic motivation by creating more self-determined learning experiences . . . certain assessments that are problem-based or action-research oriented might be revised to allow for even greater learner agency. In this way, we deepen engagement by having learners take more responsibility. (Ruiz, 2021).


Becoming a . . .

Classical musician (guitar track). The stages can be organized by degree:

Stage 1 (undergraduate - BM): at this stage students are largely developing and refining performing skills, studying broad topics (theory, history, etc.) directed by teachers; little to no independent study.

  • Learner is largely dependent on the instructor(s) for information and guidance.

  • Instructor is seen as expert. Course design is linear with the instructor choosing topics and strategies (at this stage the learner is, for the most part, not familiar with topics being taught/learned).

  •  Topics are ordered in the most logical way the instructor sees fit

  • Type of instruction: pedagogy

Stage 2 (graduate – MM): at this stage students have bits of professional experience (performing or teaching) and gain more autonomy, but still participate in instructor-designed courses. These courses bear more significance to real-world situations. Students continue to advance their technique and develop repertoire and take specific courses in guitar pedagogy.

  • Learner has more central role. There is much more independent study at this stage. However, independent study is related to the instructor’s course.

  • Instructor creates learning experiences that promote inquiry, analysis and independent thought.

  • Type of learning: andragogy

Stage 3 (DMA): at this stage student is already prepared to enter profession, this stage is based in largely autonomous research and performance preparation.

  • Learner has agency over their own learning (selecting repertoire for degree recitals, selecting research/dissertation topics, etc.). Often, performances are given at the professional level and research is presented to professionals in the field. Learning is more experiential.

  • Instructor’s role is more advisory or as reference (on a personal note, I went a full year without seeing one of my advisors while I was doing research on maqam (Arabic music)).

  • Type of learning: heutagogy


I think music, especially performance, is inherently andragogic because most of the time students are on their own in the practice room making their own discoveries. Then they meet with "guide on the side" teacher once per week and sort of "present their research" by giving performances of what they've practiced. I also think the goal of a music teacher is to instill heutagogic principles in their students. We want to create lifelong musicians who search and research independently throughout their lives, even if it's not a profession they pursue. Eliot Fisk, professor of classical guitar at the New England Conservatory in Boston, framed it the best way I've come across. He said that the goal of a teacher is to make themselves superfluous; essentially, we're teaching students to be independent thinkers and learners.


Crawford, C., Young Wallace, J., White, S. (2018). Rethinking pedagogy, andragogy, and heutagogy. Academic Exchange Quarterly, 22(4).

Ruiz, M. (2021, December 17). 'Gogy galore: Pedagogy, andragogy, heutagogy & course design. Arizona State University. 

Shulman, L. S. (2005). Signature pedagogies in the professions. Daedalus, 134(3), 52-59.  

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