The English Language Institute Special Programs office at Missouri State University offers an outstanding opportunity for international students who want to pursue a career in music. For bachelor’s or master’s students, the English for Musicians program helps students prepare for their studies in the Music Department.
Dr. Amy Muchnick, coordinator of the English for Musicians program, tells us how the idea of this wonderful program came about, and what it means to her and to the Missouri State family.
It Takes Someone That Cares
Dr. Amy Muchnick and Paula Moore, the Director of the ELI Special Programs, got together one day to discuss the frustration of having highly talented international music students, very proficient and good at their instruments, but after they would get into the Music Department and take upper level research, upper level history, and upper level theory classes, they would not do well. These students would end up leaving because they couldn’t pass their classes, even if they had the required TOEFL score, so they decided to create a preparatory program. They would prepare students for their studies by teaching research skills, writing and presenting, and reviewing music theory and music history. This enables students to feel very confident moving forward. Dr. Muchnick says that, ultimately, that’s the goal, to build up that confidence of saying “Yes, I understand this.”
The Creation Process
The first step for Dr. Muchnick and Paula was to identify what the students needed to learn, so they designed a high-impact curriculum that would lead students to success when in their bachelor or master classes. Then, they found the right instructors to teach these specific classes; teachers with music and English teaching qualifications.
The Best Reward: Growth
Starting in 2013 with 3 students, the English for Musicians program exceeded all expectations. Not only have the students become successful when they move on to their master’s program, but also the Music Department has been pleased with the high-quality performance, musically and academically, that international students are bringing.
Due to the great response from students and university officials, Dr. Muchnick doubled her recruitment efforts. She and the ELI Special Programs team found different ways to market the program and to get contacts that could lead to prospective students. They were able to sign agreements with universities all over the world, so students could get discounts and benefits to participate in the program. Dr. Muchnick traveled to China, South Korea, Taiwan, and Colombia to meet with students and give master classes. These have played a big role because she is able to give a part of herself, a part of MSU, and that’s what they see first, which makes students want to come.
The English for Musicians program has gained so much popularity throughout the years in universities from many different countries, that by December of 2019 a cohort of 13 students successfully completed the program. Currently 31% of the graduate student population in the Music Department has come from it as well.
Part of the great strategy is to make students feel welcome. It’s important for Dr. Muchnick to keep constant and clear communication with prospective students. Once a student is interested, there’s a lot of follow up, picking them up at the airport, helping them with finding housing; in other words, she goes out of her way to give them a safe place to be.
“This is why I do it”
Dr. Muchnick says that she has evolved as an educator and changed her teaching style since working with the program. She believes in the program because it works, because it’s a good product. The program not only prepares them for their classes, it prepares them for life after their bachelors and masters. About 80% of the students that have been in the program and finished their master’s degree have gone on to get another degree within the United States such as doctoral programs or artist diploma degrees.
For Dr. Muchnick, there is no better feeling than watching students improve in their instruments and in their confidence with English; it is all worth it for her when she sees them thrive, when she sees them work 150%, and when she sees them become wonderful musicians who will go to even greater success.
Scholarship Opportunities for International Students
The Music Department at Missouri State University offers a wide variety of opportunities for scholarships. Students who want to access these opportunities need to audition for scholarships before March every year.
Find more information in the English for Musicians program website.