Arts & Humanities
Bachelor of Music in Piano Performance
Master of Music in Piano Performance
Private Piano Teacher
Cynthia Bova earned her Bachelor of Music in Piano Performance from Rice University in 2009. After completing her undergraduate study, she attended Indiana University, earning a Master of Music in Piano Performance. She currently works as a private piano teacher in the Albuquerque, N.M. area. She teaches mostly school-aged children, but also has some adult students. Bova hopes to attend a doctoral program in the near future to pursue her ultimate goal of becoming a college professor in music.
What drew you to study music?
I knew for a really long time that I wanted to study music. As a kid, I used to say that I wanted to teach piano when I grew up. And then I knew that I wanted to teach, hopefully, at a school or university level. What I’m doing right now is private piano lessons. This is what my mom did. When I was growing up, she was a neighborhood piano teacher. She didn’t have a degree or anything, but I always thought that was really great. So I wanted to do this at a university. I do have to eventually get a doctorate. I have applied for it next year, but I don’t know if I’m going to get in yet.
What did you enjoy about these music programs, and what did you wish they had that they didn’t?
I enjoyed a lot about the program at Rice. I had never been to a music school before, since I just went to public high school. Probably my number one favorite thing about it was that I got to be with other college students who had the same goals I did and a lot of the same interests.
In terms of what I wish it had, I guess some more practical, real-world teaching. A lot of it is just about the music and there is very little actually about once you get out in the real world, if you don’t find a school to hire you right away, how do you set up yourself as a private piano teacher, or practical advice like that. I wish I had learned things like how to deal with parents, how to network with other teachers, how to find students — basically how to run a business as a private teacher.
I did take a piano pedagogy class (how to teach piano), so we did a little bit of that. That’s probably the class I used the most since graduating, but it was just a two-credit class and was an elective, so we weren’t required to take that.
What type of course work was required for your music major as an undergraduate?
For undergrad at Rice, they required a lot of music theory, music history, and of course performance. The main projects that are required are a junior recital and a senior recital. They have certain requirements about the type of music you should play and how long it has to be. The thing that is unique about Rice is that I still had to complete distribution [core] credits like everyone else did. Some music schools don’t make people do that. I mean, all of them have some type of core curriculum, like writing, but Rice is pretty unique in that you have to do the full distribution load. I actually really liked that. I enjoyed taking all the extra classes. I took all kinds of things like a biology class, a lot in the history department, and other areas too.
Voice majors at Rice, and at most music schools, have to take language too. Since they are going to sing in French, Italian, and German, a lot of times, they require them to take classes like that. I think vocal majors at Rice had the most requirements of any major. I didn’t have the language requirements because I was piano, but there are still a lot of requirements. For example, I had to do ensemble too, which I always took as choir.
What was different about your master’s program experience?
When I went to my master’s program, it was just a two-year program and was very intense. I had to get a lot of stuff done in those two years. When we first went to orientation, they had five graduate entrance exams on subjects like music history, music theory, and aural skills, which is listening to something and singing it back or writing down what you hear. If you didn’t pass them to a certain level, then you had to take a class in the subject.
I didn’t take anything at Indiana that was outside of music. I did get to choose, not really a minor because it wasn’t as many credits, but kind of a minor called an outside area. Most people did something in the music department. It was very rare to choose something outside of the music department.
What can you do with a music degree?
Only about half the people I graduated with are even still doing music. A lot of them went on to medical school or pharmacy school, things like that. I think most of us realized we’re not going to be world famous concert pianists, and if you have to support a family, you have to teach or get a job in a different field. A lot of them went to other fields and maybe half, like me, went to graduate school for music, continuing on the path of hopefully being a professor or high-level piano teacher.
What advice do you have for students considering majoring in music?
They should know for sure that they really want to do it because it is difficult. It’s difficult, not just course-wise because you can get through the courses and everything fine, but because of the performance element. It’s hard for a lot of people. Last year, I was feeling very burned out when I finished my master’s degree. I didnít even want to play. It just gets very tiring, and itís a very competitive field. You are constantly being compared to other people, which is hard. And you’re tested, as a performance major especially, and you have to pass a jury and walk out on the stage and play your best in front of judges, which is scary and hard.
I think the job possibility for it isn’t that great either. I think realistically, you have to like teaching your instrument to make it, especially for the first couple years after graduating. If you hate teaching, it’s probably not the right field.
Also, I think the most important thing in choosing a school is to find your private teacher and make sure that that teacher is right for you. Because if you have conflicts with the person who is teaching you your instrument in college, that never ends well. A lot of people would end up dropping out of the music program in those cases. More than any other major, you work with one person very closely, so you have to make a personal connection during the audition process.