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Music Director/Composer Careers
The average value of the Bachelor degree needed to become a Music directors and composers is$511,262.00.
Nature Of The Work
Music directors and composers play musical instruments and may also sing. Both jobs involve composing or arranging music, usually in standard notation, and conducting ensembles of instrumentalists and perhaps vocalists in performance. While performance is not the most important part of the job, both music directors and composer often give solo or group performances in theaters, concert halls, clubs, amphitheaters (sheds) that combine indoor and outdoor seating, and occasionally in stadiums and arenas. A live audience is usually present even when the performance takes place in a radio or TV production studio.
Music is often recorded in studios for use in radio, TV, film or video programs as well as computer games. Composers typically work alone at a piano or electronic keyboard, and increasingly use computer software to produce musical scores. They need to be familiar with the performance techniques, range limitations (highest and lowest notes) and special requirements of a wide variety of musical instruments when creating orchestrations. Music directors are often arrangers as well and therefore need to same kind of broad knowledge of instrumental that composers do.
Music directors are often keyboard players or pianists, but they may play string, wind or brass instruments or even percussion as their main performance instrument. Many music directors are “doublers” who can play several similar instruments with equal skill: players in the saxophone section in the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra can also play clarinet, flute and piccolo in performance. While composers often specialize in a particular musical style, and classical composers attempt to form individual styles, music directors need to be able to play and arrange equally well in many different musical styles. Most music directors are also instrumental performers, who might appear in an orchestra section in the evening, then go on to lead a rock group or jazz band later that night. They might be called for a studio recording date the following day.
Many performances and some recordings require rehearsal in advance of the live or recorded event. Conductors are also music directors. They plan and direct the repertoire of larger ensembles such as orchestra, chamber orchestra, choirs, glee clubs, brass bands, marching bands and “big bands” of jazz musicians. They also lead performances and rehearsals by conducting the ensemble. Many conductors will audition musicians and choose new or replacement members of an organization or ensemble.
Conductors must know the talents and abilities of their group members and choose material that is appropriate to them. Duke Ellington, for example, not only conducted his big band, but composed much of the repertoires with specific musicians in mind: “Concerto for Cootie” was written for the trumpet soloist Cootie Williams. If the ensemble is mainly composed of singers, the music director is called a choral director. They may collaborate with other music directors or conductors on joint appearances by a choir and orchestra, such as a performance of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony.
Choral directors usually have authority to audition and select the members of the vocal group. In rehearsal and performance, the choral director gives indications to help the ensemble produce the tempo, rhythm, harmony and tonal shading that is appropriate for the music. Composers can write anything from pop songs and commercial jingles to musical theater scores, operas, symphonies, chamber music, concerti, sonatas, film scores and other forms. Modern composers tend to use computer software to transcribe their musical ideas into written notation that gives performers guidelines about the tempo, rhythm, melody, harmony and overall structure of the piece. Songwriters are composers who specialize in songs and incidental music: most write lyrics as well as music, and are more likely to compose directly on a chordal instrument such as piano or guitar while singing the melody and lyrics.
Many singer/songwriters perform their own work. Both composers and music director often take work as arrangers, transcribing existing compositions and adapting them to specific style or to the needs and abilities of a particular band, group, orchestra, vocal chorus, or individual performer. Arrangers retain the basic harmonic and melodic building blocks that make a piece recognizable, while altering stylistic aspects such as tempo, rhythm, structure, key and orchestration. While a few arrangers continue to write scores by hand, most use computer software to produce and edit musical scores.
Music is most often performed live outside of normal working hours. Most performances are given indoors, but parades, outdoor concerts and summer festivals are all outdoor events that usually take place in daylight. Music directors and composers spend most of their daytime hours writing music or rehearsing for a performance. A very few music directors have long-term contracts with TV or film production companies or theatrical producers that give them a steady income and minimum time away from home and family. Music directors for solo performers or small groups spend more time traveling, including extended regional, national and international tours that may involve a wide range of venues and audiences. Some nightclubs continue to reflect the stereotype portrayed in classic films: a dirty, poorly lit room full of smoke and unpleasant odors. Excessive noise exposure is an occupational hazard for all types of musicians and singers, especially when electric and electronic instruments and drums are involved.
Classical and Jazz Composers
Classical and jazz composers typically work on commissioned projects and apply for grants from non-profit organizations that support the arts. Composers of incidental or background music for film scores and computer games may have either a steady stream of project work or in some cases an employment contract, for instance with a computer games publisher. Both composers and music directors are frequently unemployed in their chosen field, occasionally for long periods. They may take other types of jobs to supplement their income: it is common for well-trained musicians and composers to teach privately or in a school or conservatory. To reduce the stress of constantly auditioning and applying for positions, many musicians take permanent full-time jobs in other areas and continue to pursue music part-time or as a hobby. While composition is a solitary creative endeavor, all musicians must be able to cooperate successfully with agents, colleagues and employers. They must also establish and maintain good relationships with audiences and sponsors.
Training, Other Qualifications, And Advancement
Composers and music directors usually require a bachelor’s degree in music, and this is becoming more common for musicians and singers as well. There are about 630 accredited college-level programs with membership in the National Association of Schools of Music. Students will take classes in the theory of music, composition, conducting, interpretation and performance on one or more instruments or with the voice. Other courses might cover the history of music in various genres and styles, musical traditions from other parts of the world such as Northern or Southern India, Persia or Southeast Asia, music production and recording technology, and the business of music.
There are also programs specifically designed for music educators, that combine musical knowledge with teaching and classroom management skills. Music directors and composers will take more classes in theory, composition, orchestration and arranging, and de-emphasize performance skills. After graduation, music directors, conductors, composers and arrangers will look for opportunities to gain work experience and credentials. They may also continue with advanced training. A post-graduate degree, at least a master’s and more often a doctorate, is a requirement for faculty positions in college and university music departments. A BFA (Bachelor of Fine Arts) in Music may qualify the applicant to teach basic courses at smaller schools. To teach in public school systems, a State certificate is required, and this requires in turn a degree in music education. Private schools and recreational associations may hire musicians and composers who have not met these requirements.
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