Peer Connections: Reflections on Bridging into the Professional Life

The Frances Clark Center is excited to launch Peer Connections, a virtual gathering of young professionals to engage with relevant topics and develop a global network of peers. The first Peer Connections: Bridging into the Professional Life will be held on Friday, November 17, 2023, 6:00-7:30 PM EST. Join us as professionals in our community share their experiences and insights into their transition from graduate study to their first university jobs. Register here.

Insights From the Past: What I Wish I Knew Three Years Ago | Carla Salas-Ruiz

Three years ago, in November 2020, grad school was a roller coaster of ups and downs for all of us. Reflecting on that time, what I wish I had known is how unpredictable life can be. It’s completely acceptable to take your time in figuring out your goals and career path, even if it means deviating from the conventional route. Whether you’re inclined to set up your own studio, work as a piano collaborator, or pursue the academic route, understanding the specifics of each role is crucial. For instance, if academia is your inclination, it’s crucial to distinguish between assistant and associate professor roles, understand university rules and requirements, and thoroughly contemplate the implications for that specific professional trajectory. In a nutshell:

Carla Salas-Ruiz
  • Diversify your skill set: demonstrate expertise in various areas relevant to your desired goals.
  • Seek mentorship: cultivate meaningful connections and seek guidance from mentors for valuable insights.
  • Be honest about knowledge: acknowledge gaps in knowledge while celebrating areas of expertise.
  • Explore career paths: whether considering a private studio or academia, delve into the nuances of each path.
  • Question long-term commitment: reflect on the commitment required for a specific path and consider exploring diverse experiences before making definitive choices.

Transitioning to Faculty | Karen Yong

My sharing will reflect on my transformative journey of transitioning from a student to a faculty member over the past two years. It will outline two key adjustments: embracing a new role, where the complexities of faculty responsibilities, time management, and becoming an expert in the field are navigated; and coping with diverse student needs, necessitating adaptable teaching approaches and empathy. The challenges faced included balancing multiple responsibilities, requiring careful time management; and addressing the changing educational landscape, marked by the incorporation of technology and contemporary music genres.

Karen Yong

Lessons Learned from the Job Search | Curtis Pavey

When I first began applying to academic positions, I did not fully comprehend the challenges I would face, but through these trials, I learned so much about academia, the field, and myself.  One of the most important realizations I had was that each university searches for a specific person to fill each role, and sometimes job descriptions and interview questions fail to reveal these. As the rejection letters began to pile up over time, I discovered that it was okay to not be the right person for a position, and that I was no less a musician, educator, or person because of it. While researching positions, I also learned how different music programs across the country serve the needs of their various communities. Through this experience, I clarified my vision for music education and the ways in which I could best serve in the future. I further discovered that I needed to believe in myself unapologetically, even when I perceived myself as underqualified or inexperienced. While I continue to develop my career goals, I feel grateful for the ways in which this journey challenged me to become a better educator and advocate for the arts.

Curtis Pavey


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Dr. Karen Kai Yuan Yong is a Malaysian pianist and educator. She currently holds the position of Assistant Professor of Music at Albany State University, where she teaches applied piano, group piano, keyboard pedagogy, and music theory.

Dr. Carla Salas-Ruiz holds a Bachelor’s degree from the University of Costa Rica and a Master’s and PhD from Louisiana State University. She is a piano instructor at Brazosport College, dedicated to fostering a supportive, inclusive, and stimulating learning environment. Her research focuses on motivation, interest development, and effective practice strategies in piano education. Carla has presented her research at national and international conferences and contributed to research journals.

Dr. Curtis Pavey is a pianist, harpsichordist, and educator serving as Assistant Professor of Piano Pedagogy and Performance at the University of Missouri. He also serves as Manager of Online Publications at the Frances Clark Center for Keyboard Pedagogy.

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