Endowment Supports Program in Music Education

MSU Professor Emeritus John Kratus endows scholarship to support students who aspire to lead music education toward a more diverse and inclusive future.

John Kratus receives a standing ovation after presenting to music educators and students at a rally in 2014. Kratus founded the New Directions in Music Education conference series offering a range of speakers and workshops since 1997.
MSU Professor Emeritus of Music Education John Kratus, left. Shown at right with his wife Kathy Walsh when they were in college.
John Kratus, MSU music faculty member from 1994–2014, presents to K-12 music educators at the College of Music.

When John Kratus began playing rock guitar and writing songs as a teen, he never dreamed he would someday teach music or be a prominent music education scholar at the MSU College of Music. He had never taken high school orchestra, band or choir, and had never studied music in a traditional or ensemble-like setting.

But that didn’t keep Kratus from pursuing classical guitar in college, and from falling in love with teaching. After earning his bachelor and master of fine arts in Buffalo N.Y., Kratus started his career in music education as a teacher for preschoolers through 9th grade. He later pursued a doctorate in music education.

“I discovered that I loved teaching and was good at it,” says Kratus who recently retired from the Music Education Area in the MSU College of Music. “It made me very happy to be a music teacher.”

Over the years, Kratus drew on his non-traditional music background to explore musical creativity and to push the boundaries of music education. In addition to teaching in preschool and K-12 settings, he directed music education programs at major universities, and published in the fields of creativity and curriculum development.

Today, the MSU professor emeritus of music education is continuing to encourage new directions in his field by establishing an endowed scholarship that supports progressive-minded future music teachers.

The John Kratus Tipping Point Endowed Scholarship in Music Education intends to support students who aspire to lead music education toward a more diverse and inclusive future. Traditional music education, Kratus says, can be narrow in focus, appealing to just a small segment of the school population, and out-of-step with 21st-century musical experiences and teaching. It’s a concept he’s explored extensively, and the subject of his article “Music Education at the Tipping Point”—the most highly cited piece ever published in Music Educators Journal.

“There are few places in society for young people to continue their musical interests in the same way they’ve typically been taught in school settings,” Kratus says. “For me, music is something that should continue throughout a lifetime. This scholarship can help attract and support music education students who envision teaching music in a more inclusive and forward-thinking way.”

Beyond the threshold

Kratus explains that his pivotal research article and his scholarship was inspired by the term “tipping point”—or the critical point when an idea, trend or social behavior crosses a threshold and leads to a new and different direction.

For Kratus, the tipping point for music education may be approaching as new teaching venues such as songwriting classes, popular music ensembles, ethnic ensembles, and music technology classes propel the field toward a more diverse and inclusive future. Reaching that point is something he wants to help speed along.

“We’re going through a period of transition as we speak,” says Kratus. “In 30 years, music education may be very different from what it is today. This scholarship will prepare educators to work within that changing dynamic, and to help them prepare as many students as possible to enjoy and engage in music throughout their lives.”

Mitchell Robinson, associate professor and chair of the Music Education area says Kratus’ gift will support the area’s overall mission, and enable faculty to identify, support and nurture future music educators who display leadership and creative potential.

“John is a visionary scholar and thinker,” says Robinson. “His research and creativity has pushed the envelope and provides a model for all of us as scholars, teachers and community members. His gift will allow us to keep creativity as the focus for future teachers.”

Kratus was a member of the music education faculty at the MSU College of Music from 1994 to 2014. During those two decades, Kratus founded the New Directions in Music Education conference series, and the annual Honors Composition Concert for the Michigan Music Education Association.

“John continually challenged us to identify and keep creativity as the core of the music education profession,” says Dean James Forger. “His generosity through this named endowed scholarship ensures we will continue to attract and retain talented students and future leaders in this premier Music Education program, who will go on to make an impact on the direction and value of music education in the world—both today and tomorrow.”

The John Kratus Tipping Point Endowed Scholarship in Music Education is established through an estate gift from Kathleen A. Walsh and John Kratus. For information on how you can support the College of Music students and programs, or to learn how to establish a named endowment, please contact Rebecca Surian, senior director of development for the College of Music, at surian@msu.edu or by calling 517-353-9872.

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