Is becoming a music historian right for me?

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What do music historians do?
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What are music historians like?

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How to become a Music Historian

Becoming a music historian involves a combination of education, specialized training, and practical experience. Here's a general guide:

  • Bachelor's Degree: Start by earning a Bachelor's Degree in Music History, Musicology, or a related field. Courses in music theory, composition, and performance can complement your studies. Gain proficiency in research methodologies, critical analysis, and writing. Consider taking courses in historical research or related disciplines.
  • Advanced Studies: Pursue a Master's Degree in Music History or a related field to deepen your knowledge. This step is optional, but it can enhance your qualifications and provide more opportunities for research and specialization. For those aspiring to become music historians at an advanced level, obtaining a Ph.D. is often necessary. A Ph.D. program typically involves extensive research, dissertation writing, and the development of expertise in a specific area of music history.
  • Choose a Focus Area: Identify a specific period, genre, or aspect of music history that you are passionate about. Developing a specialization will set you apart and contribute to your expertise.
  • Research and Publications: Conduct original research in your chosen field. This can include archival work, analysis of musical scores, and exploration of historical documents. Share your research findings through publications in academic journals, books, or presentations at conferences. Building a portfolio of published work is essential for establishing your credibility as a music historian.
  • Networking: Participate in academic conferences, seminars, and workshops to connect with other music historians, scholars, and professionals in the field. Become a member of organizations like the American Musicological Society (AMS) to stay updated on current research, job opportunities, and networking events.
  • Gain Teaching Experience: Many music historians work in academia, so gaining teaching experience is valuable. Teaching assistantships, part-time positions, or guest lectures can provide hands-on experience in the classroom.
  • Academic Positions: Look for faculty positions at colleges and universities. Academic institutions often seek individuals with advanced degrees, research experience, and a strong publication record. Explore opportunities in museums, archives, and cultural institutions that focus on music history and preservation.

Helpful Resources
Music historians can benefit from a variety of resources that support research, professional development, and networking within the field. Here are some valuable resources:

  • American Musicological Society (AMS): AMS is a leading organization for musicologists and music historians. It offers conferences, publications, grants, and a network of professionals in the field.
  • Society for American Music (SAM): SAM is dedicated to the study, teaching, creation, and dissemination of all musics in the Americas. It provides conferences, publications, and networking opportunities.
  • Library of Congress - Music Division: The Library of Congress holds extensive music collections, including manuscripts, scores, recordings, and other resources. Music historians can access these materials for research.
  • JSTOR: JSTOR provides access to a vast collection of academic journals, books, and primary source materials relevant to music history.
  • Digital Public Library of America (DPLA): DPLA offers access to a wealth of digital resources, including photographs, manuscripts, and recordings related to music history.
  • HathiTrust Digital Library: HathiTrust provides access to a large collection of digitized books, including many resources relevant to music history.
  • Smithsonian Folkways Recordings: Smithsonian Folkways offers an extensive collection of recordings, including folk, traditional, and world music that can be valuable for ethnomusicological research.
  • Digital Musicology Resources: Websites such as Digital Musicology provide a curated list of digital tools and resources for musicologists and researchers.
  • National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH): NEH provides grants and funding opportunities that may support research projects and initiatives in the humanities, including music history.
  • Association for Recorded Sound Collections (ARSC): ARSC is dedicated to the preservation and study of sound recordings. It offers conferences, publications, and resources for those interested in audio history.
  • Research Libraries, Archives, and Museums: Institutions such as the New York Public Library, the Library of Congress, and major universities' libraries and archives house valuable collections for music historians.
  • Professional Conferences and Seminars: Attending conferences such as the AMS Annual Meeting and other specialized events provides opportunities to present research, engage with peers, and stay updated on current trends.