Benefits of Joining a National Music Association

Joining a national music association offers several benefits to music majors. These include:

  • Direct access to mentors and role models in the field you plan to enter;
  • Networking opportunities with peers and professors at your own school as well as at music schools across the country;
  • Opportunities to attend professional conferences at a reduced rate (possibly free) to gain insight into your career field;
  • Connections to job banks and job vacancy lists;
  • Professional experiences that prepare you for interviewing and other career-related concerns;
  • Access to professional journals and other members-only educational resources.

Chris Orlando, a senior music education major at Temple University Boyer College of Music and Dance, says that his membership in a few professional music organizations “gives me a foot in the door when it comes to an interview. It shows whoever is interviewing me for a job that I have been involved with pre-professional groups pertaining to my career. People like to see that. It shows that you have prior experience in your field before you even teach.” Orlando has served as president of Temple’s NAfME College Chapter (see below).

“The earlier one can be introduced to the world surrounding an intended future career, the earlier one can make a decision to pursue it or move on to another choice,” says Drew Griffen, Vocal Performance and Choral Music Education double major, and vice-president of Appalachian State University’s Hayes School of Music’s student chapter of the College Music Society (see below).

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Consider Joining:
National Music Associations with Student Chapters

American Choral Directors Association  (ACDA)

Members of ACDA college chapters are interested in choral conducting and composing as a career, and gain professional experience and opportunities beyond what they can get in the classroom. High school and college students can also join ACDA without connecting to a specific chapter.

ACDA members gain access to research, journals, insurance discounts. Most importantly, says Education & Communication Director Scott Dorsey, they gain connections with other like-minded choral composers and conductors.

College chapters may participate in choral events in the community, bring in guest clinicians, establish a choral scholarship fund, participate in ACDA conferences, and tour.

The ACDA annual national conference provides events and forums specifically for student members, including rehearsal techniques, résumé building, and master classes. ACDA offers scholarships to help students get to the conference.

College Music Society (CMS)

The College Music Society describes itself as a “consortium of college, conservatory, university, and independent musicians and scholars interested in all disciplines of music.” CMS addresses issues and concerns facing music in higher education through conferences, publications, and professional development events.

A small but growing number of CMS college chapters exist at music schools scattered across the country. Members are undergraduates and grad students, and represent a variety of areas of music, says Jennifer Snodgrass, associate professor of Music Theory, director of Graduate Studies, and CMS faculty advisor at Appalachian State’s Hayes School of Music. Snodgrass co-chairs CMS’ Student Advisory Council with Gene Trantham, chair of Musicology – Composition – Theory at Bowling Green State University’s College of Musical Arts.

Snodgrass says that CMS “broadens your thinking and your awareness of opportunities and career directions.” At her school, CMS members “Skype in leaders who present sessions on grant writing, how to write a CV (curriculum vitae), how to choose a grad school, tips on research, etc.” Members are provided “great support for applying to grad school, attending conferences and conventions.”

“A student may dream of going into a specific field [of music], but not have a correct perception of what work in that field requires,” says student Drew Griffin. “Conferences like ones hosted by the College Music Society give an opportunity to see if one is truly interested in what one thinks he or she is interested in.”

Bradley Green, a first year grad student in Music Theory and Composition at Appalachian State, appreciates the networking opportunities CMS offers student members. “For me, the best part of these organizations are the conferences, because I always leave them with my head spinning with new ideas. You can also subscribe to a lot of supplemental material, like periodicals and CMS’s music vacancy list. There are also many scholarship opportunities.”

Drew Griffin adds, “The Conferences (both national and regional) offer an opportunity to network with professionals working in your intended field, to see the research that is currently being done, and to gain a better sense of what the practical applications of the field might be.”

Jazz Education Network (JEN)

JEN’s mission is to “advance jazz education, promote performance, and develop new audiences.” It sponsors an annual conference for members and invited performers. Highlights include live performances by jazz legends and students (students apply and are then selected to perform); workshops; clinics; panel discussions;  jam sessions; and presentation of scholarships and awards. Students can also compete in a composition contest.

High school students can join JEN at a discounted rate while college students can join as full voting members. All members receive the bimonthly magazine, JazzEd. There are no campus chapters; joining the association can be done directly from the JEN website. JEN’s Mentor Program provides 1:1 mentoring between student musicians and professionals.

Music Teachers National Association (MTNA)

MTNA supports professionalism among music teachers, sponsors performance and composition competitions for students, offers an array of resources for members, and financially assists teachers and students in their educational pursuits. Colorado State Music Teachers Association President, Alejandro Cremaschi, describes the benefits of joining a collegiate chapter of MTNA:

  • Networking with local teachers and other students;
  • Outreach recitals in nursing homes, etc.;
  • Recitals for young students studying with chapter members;
  • Judging opportunities at events for K-12 students on all instruments;
  • Collaborations with local area music teachers;
  • Funding to attend the annual MTNA National Conference

Cremaschi, associate professor of Piano Pedagogy at University of Colorado Boulder, College of Music, is also the Collegiate Chapter Advisor at his school. He encourages music education students to join MTNA as soon as possible.

National Association for Music Education (NAfME)

NAfME college chapter members are typically music ed majors. However, “Music majors in all fields (applied, therapy, education, theory, composition, etc.) are encouraged to join, as almost all music majors guide student musicians at some point during their careers,” says Susan Lambert, manager of NAfME Collegiate.

Membership in NAfME lends professional credibility and provides networking and support for getting job interviews, landing jobs, and becoming successful music educators. Student members gain service learning and professional development opportunities, mentoring, and music advocacy resources. They also have access to an online Job Bank, a career center at conferences, leadership opportunities, and access to publications exclusive to members.

Tim Dailey, a music education major and the incoming president of the Collegiate NAfME chapter at University of Colorado Boulder, College of Music, encourages students to join NAfME as a freshman to get an insider’s view of music education as a career field. He says that “getting your feet wet early gives a better idea of what you are getting into in the future.” Membership in NAfME has provided him with access to “a lot of different speakers from the orchestra, band, and choral side. This kind of information is invaluable because it’s something they don’t necessarily teach you in classes. There have also been workshops on instrument repair, team leadership with your students and staff, and a lot of other really helpful categories.”

National Band Association (NBA)

The National Band Association was established to promote the “musical and educational significance of bands” and to support “a high level of excellence for bands and band music.” Members are professional and aspiring band directors in every area of the educational band world. According to Bruce Moss, music education/research chair and professor and director of band activities at Bowling Green State University College of Musical Arts, NBA has college chapters for aspiring instrumental music education majors at a number of campuses, and students can join at any time.

NBA sponsors annual band composition contests; offers relevant symposia; provides clinicians and master classes; and honors members with outstanding performance awards. NBA also supports research through grants and provides a mentoring program. Members have access to professional magazines, journals, and music lists.

Phi Mu Alpha Sinfonia

Sinfonians are part of the Greek fraternity system and can be found on many college campuses. Members are undergrad males with a strong connection to music. When they graduate, they are apt to become alumni members for life. Service through music and support for fellow music students are major focuses. Mark Wilson, director of communications, says that Sinfonians share their music in the community, at hospitals, nursing homes, and other venues. Scholarships designated for members of Phi Mu Alpha are offered by the Sinfonia Educational Foundation (see Scholarships for Music Majors).

Sigma Alpha Iota (SAI)

Sigma Alpha Iota is a national fraternity for women, with chapters on many college campuses.  According to Executive Director, Ruth Sieber Johnson, membership is by invitation-only, but the invitation may come from a fellow student member. GPA and involvement in at least one college-level music class are required for consideration.  Like Phi Mu Alpha Sinfonia for men, Sigma Alpha Iota for women has a strong service component to it. Student members are actively involved in music on campus, perform an all-American composer concert each year, and take their music out into the community. When women graduate, they often become life-long members of the SAI Alumnae Association. Sigma Alpha Iota offers scholarships for undergraduate and graduate student members; summer music program scholarships; chapter grants; music education outreach grants; and professional development grants (see Scholarships for Music Majors).

Student National Association of Teachers of Singing (SNATS)

The National Association of Teachers of Singing is the largest professional association of voice teachers in the world. Its student “SNATS” chapters are found on many campuses. Members meet, hold events, and learn more about the profession of voice teaching and vocal performance. According to SNATS National Coordinator Mitra Sadeghpour, associate professor of music and coordinator of the Voice Division at University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire, “The benefits of joining SNATS are many. On the campus level, SNATS is an opportunity for students who are interested in the art and science of singing to get together with others who share the same passion and create a learning community.  There are also leadership opportunities, the chance to collaborate with faculty at your school who are members of SNATS, and the ability to use SNATS to bring voice-related programming to your department and peers.”


  1. Ruth Sieber Johnson

    Thank you for presenting an article with many options for music involvement. I do have a clarification for the description of SAI: Our name is Sigma Alpha Iota International Music Fraternity, and while we initiate women at the undergraduate level, we also have men who have been initated as Distinguished Members at the professional level.

    Thanks again.

  2. Thank you for including JEN in your message. Additionally, advantages of joining these types of organizations, and especially JEN, is the students have opportunities to submit applications to present at conference, compete in the Student Composition Contest, and Scholarships.

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