Careers in Music - Part 3

Part 3 of our series on types of careers in the music business and music industry here's a few more for all everyone to consider.


The career of a conductor can be associated with a wide spectrum of activities and responsibilities. At the level of the smaller community and metropolitan orchestras, the conductor may have to function as a jack-of-all-trades - raising funds, rehearsing, scheduling, and performing. As the orchestra increases in size, length of season, and budget, the conductor and music director tend to confine their activities to performing, programming, supervising personnel, and working in educational programs.

In addition to his or her performance responsibilities, a conductor also can take on the duties of a music director. A music director is generally engaged by an orchestra's board of directors, in conjunction with a committee of orchestra members. Music directors must concern themselves with every aspect of the orchestra's performance and technique. In addition, they serve as a kind of intermediary between the board of directors and the orchestra members. Since nearly all, the major symphony orchestras find it financially necessary to perform pops and youth concerts, the music director must either supervise these activities or subcontract them to a capable surrogate.

Preparation for such a career requires a thorough knowledge of music theory and music literature, instrumental practice, and mastery of one or more musical instruments. It has been customary for a prospective conductor to spend years as a coach/pianist on the staff of an opera house, which provides an invaluable and indispensable foundation in accompaniment, flexibility, and control of large forces. To these learning processes must be added a native capacity for leadership, clear gesture and expression, and musical imagination.


Music critics are a unique combination of journalist and musician. Their views are published daily, often providing quotations to be used as publicity for performing artists. They affect their audience both indirectly and directly—indirectly by determining which artists will survive in the performance media and will therefore be available for the public to choose from, and directly by influencing choices the public makes, its understanding of performances, and its reactions to them.

The preparation of music critics is largely as one might expect. More than two-thirds of the music critics in large US cities majored in music, with performance and then music history identified as the leading areas of specialization. Nearly half of the music critics have earned at least a master's degree. Music criticism is a highly specialized field, one that blends music and expressive writing skills. The glamour of attending concerts and meeting performers is an undeniable benefit. The quick pace, objectivity and late and sometimes long hours may be less appealing, and require a sincere desire and dedication. However, it is the first-hand encounters with the sight and sound of the performing art of music that is the ultimate reward.

A film music editor helps a composer put his or her music on a soundtrack. When a motion picture is put together, three items on the soundtrack have to be synchronized with the visual portion (dialogue, sound effects, and music. One person works with the dialogue; another does just the effects; and the music editor takes charge of the music portion. The producer and composer run the film and spot the music (choose where it should appear) throughout the film. The music editor then breaks this down into separate cues and times each cue for the composer, who takes these timing sheets and writes the music. The music editor takes the composer's sketches and gets the necessary information from them to set up the film for orchestra recording. The orchestra records the score, the music is cut into reels, and it is then ready for a final dub.

Most phases of film music editing require some background in music, but there are some editing jobs for which it is not compulsory. For newcomers, there are courses now given in many of our colleges and universities. Potential music editors work up through the ranks, observing along the way and learning many tricks of the trade.


The best advice that can be given to any young person interested in preparing himself or herself for a career in the music publishing industry is to acquire as much knowledge as possible of the various music skills and the various mechanical procedures involved. To obtain the latter he or she should seek employment in a music publishing firm that maintains its own production and printing departments and then observe, ask questions, and remember what is being done and how.

Successful writers in any field, not just music, have always given a great deal of credit to their editors. This makes the job of music editor one of peculiar and lasting satisfaction.

Someone contemplating a career in music journalism should not major in music. You should address yourself to acquiring and polishing useful journalistic skills. "Music" is only the adjective, "journalism" is the noun; so major in journalism, English, humanities, languages, anything that will improve your word-handling abilities.

Most journalist jobs in specialist fields, such as music, can be described as operating a funnel. Almost all of the material handled and printed comes from outside the organization(from freelancers(and is put into shape by editors who have become skilled in making silk purses out of sows' ears. Music editors, therefore, must first of all be adept at editing. They must also be inventive and resourceful at finding writers they can edit. If they do this well, if they can trust their sources, they need not even be experts in the material they handle.

Those interested in getting into music journalism should consider language their first business, and music a hobby. Read constantly and read everything. Foreign languages are necessary.

Author: Rock House Staff

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