The purpose of this study was to investigate secondary instrumental music education in rural North Carolina. This descriptive study investigated the experiences, attitudes, beliefs, and perceptions that rural instrumental music educators (n = 55) held about their schools, students, and communities. Furthermore, the researchers examined how participants defined success for their programs, what challenges and rewards they experienced in their positions, and what skills they considered most important for themselves as teachers.
Results indicate that although rural music educators find the musical aspects of their positions rewarding, they believe that their nonmusical skills related to teaching, such as developing relationships with students and advocating for their programs, were more important than their own musical skills. Participants also considered student personal growth and experiences to be larger markers of success than musical performance abilities and reported moderately high levels of job satisfaction. The three greatest challenges named by participants were lack of support, limited funding or resources, and limited student involvement. Conversely, the most frequently reported rewards were musical experiences with students and witnessing students’ musical growth. Implications for music teacher education and recommendations for future research are discussed.