Conductors lead musical orchestras or choir groups. As they have a highly trained ear, they ensure the quality of the performance meets their expectations. They often decide on the music their orchestra will play, walk them through the piece, and then practice as a group to fine-tune the quality of the performance.
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How to Become a Conductor
Step 1: Learn the Basics
To become a conductor, you will want to learn to play multiple instruments, read notes, and become exposed to as many musical performances as possible to include symphonies, concerts, ballets, or broadway plays. You’ll also want to listen to all types of music and learn what various instruments sound like so you can start thinking like a composer.
Step 2: Apply for a Bachelor’s Program
Conductors start their journey by earning a bachelor’s degree. The application process for some college music programs can be competitive and you will likely be asked to submit submit a recording of your musical ability or attend a live audition.
Step 3: Earn your Degree
You’ll need to earn a bachelor’s degree in a related field such as music theory, music composition, or conducting then continue that education to earn your master’s degree. Your master’s program will continue to educate you on music styles and conducting techniques. While you learn how to compose and conduct music in school, you’ll also gain hands-on experience by participating in an orchestra yourself so you can gain experience as a musician before leading a group upon graduation.
Job Description of a Conductor
Conductors have a variety of tasks. On any given day, they may be composing music themselves, holding auditions with new musicians, choosing solo or guest performers, promoting live performances, practicing for upcoming shows with their musicians, and of course leading live performances. They must be motivating leaders, coaches, and communicators and able to provide feedback to their musicians that will increase their skill-level and motivate them to improve.
Conductors have high-expectations of their musicians yet must foster a collaborative environment and teamwork. Because of this, they must be excellent communicators and aware of their body language as their body language will be what is observed by the musicians during a live performance. Conductors must also be business savvy since they lead a group of musicians and also promote their performances. They often must consider what music to play and whether that will sell tickets to their performance. Along with practicing with their musicians during the day and preparing for live performances, they may also be expected to attend events promoting the performances.
A conductor’s work schedule varies depending on whether they have a live performance scheduled or not. Live performances are often held when the public can attend, so nights and weekends. Holidays can be especially busy. When they do not have live performances scheduled, they may work business hours holding practice sessions with musicians though may sometimes need to work an event at night to promote upcoming shows.
Music Director Career Video Transcript
The music that delights audiences at concerts, musicals, movies, or in recordings is the product of a composer and music director’s hard work and talent. Music directors (also called conductors) lead orchestras, choirs, and other musical groups during performances and recording sessions. They select musical arrangements and compositions to be performed, and study musical scores to prepare for rehearsals. They ensure that musicians play with one coherent sound, balancing the melody, rhythm, and volume. Composers write original music that orchestras, bands, and other musical groups perform. They may also write lyrics.
Composers often study different musical styles, though some focus on one genre, such as classical or hip hop. They also may write for musical theater, compose movie scores, or write commercial jingles. Most music directors work for schools and religious organizations, or are self-employed. Performances often require some travel and evening and weekend hours. Composers work in offices, recording studios, or at home. Though they may work anywhere in the country, many jobs are in New York, Los Angeles, Nashville, and Chicago.
Music directors need a master’s degree in music theory, composition, or conducting; choir directors may need only a bachelor’s degree. Popular music composers submit recordings of their music to bands, singers, record companies, or movie studios. They often post recordings of their music online on their own website, or social media.
Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, Music Directors and Composers.
National Center for O*NET Development. 27-2041.00. O*NET OnLine.
The career video is in the public domain from the U. S. Department of Labor, Employment and Training Administration.