how to become a music director

What does a Music Director do?

A music director leads musical groups such as bands or choirs through recording sessions or live performances. These directors are responsible for the quality of the music so ensure it is played at the right speed, volume, rhythm, and pitch. They often are musicians themselves and play multiple instruments.

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How to Become a Music Director

Step 1: Learn the Basics

Music directors usually learn to play an instrument and read notes at a young age, though not everyone. They learn to play more than one instrument and have learned to sing. Exposure to a variety of musical performances such as symphonies, concerts, ballets, or broadway plays is extremely helpful at this stage.

Step 2: Apply for a Bachelor’s Program

To become a music director, you’ll need to earn your bachelor’s degree. The program will most likely require you to submit recordings, audition, or both. Because of this, it’s important to practice your skill so you can apply and be accepted into the music program of your choice. According to O*NET OnLine, over 30% of the music directors surveyed held a bachelor’s degree, over 20% held a master’s degree, and almost 40% had continued their education and earned a doctorate degree.

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 to become a music director. If you want to become a choir director in a public school a bachelor’s degree is generally sufficient but you may also need to gain your teaching certification. However, for other employment opportunities most music director positions require you to hold a master’s degree.

Job Description of a Music Director

Music directors direct musicians to perform harmonically to capture the essence of the piece. This must ensure the timing, rhythm, melody, pitch, and volume is accurate and coach musicians to improve their performance to produce the desired result. They are also responsible to choose soloists, guest performers, or additional musicians based on skill. To do this, they often hold auditions to assess a musicians capabilities.

Music directors could also be tasked to promote an upcoming performance by meeting with potential donors and attend fundraisers. Though they may practice with their musicians during their day, live performances are often scheduled on nights and weekends.

Related Careers to Research:

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.

Article Citations

Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, Music Directors and Composers.

National Center for O*NET Development. 27-2041.01. O*NET OnLine.

The career video is in the public domain from the U. S. Department of Labor, Employment and Training Administration.

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