Careers in Music - Part 4

Part 4 of the series on the types of careers in the music business and music industry. Here are a few more for all everyone to consider.


Ethnomusicologists, simply stated, are translators between an audience and population (e.g., mainstream Americans) and foreign music or music’s. They provide insights, understandings, and bases for appreciation of this foreign expression. Their translation may take many forms (research, teaching, recordings with informative notes, films about an ethnic tradition, or even arts administration.

The majorities of ethnomusicologists are in college and university positions and are thus engaged principally in teaching and research. Ethnomusicologists are also to be found, however, in such diverse areas as international organizations, government arts agencies, the recording industry, and the entertainment industry.

Study in ethnomusicology is generally at the graduate level, with both master's and doctoral degrees available. A few institutions offer an undergraduate concentration in ethnomusicology as well. Training involves field research and a thesis documenting the research, performance study of many music traditions, and mastery of a foreign language.


Although instrument making is called an industry, it is tiny in comparison with most other manufacturing industries. Consequently, the number of jobs in design and engineering is quite limited. Second, its products have nothing to do with convenient living; they are integral parts of a fine art and tightly bound by the traditions of that art.

What does this mean for the music student whose mechanical inclinations, sense of beauty, and need to make a living combine to suggest a career in instrument design? Obviously, there is little opportunity for revolutionaries and mavericks. The closest our industry has come to an Edison, or even a Wankel, was Adolphe Sax, who spent a lifetime creating new types of instruments, only two of which—the saxhorn and saxophone—ever achieved a place in the band or orchestra. Instead, instrument designers are not concerned with the creation of new products, or even new models of old products, but with improvements in the materials and methods of producing them. This is where the most striking recent advances have come, and the people who have made them are for the most part comparable with the industrial engineers, production experts, metallurgists, and machine and tool designers in other modern industries. If this kind of work attracts you, you will find the instrument industry as attractive as any other.

If you count yourself among these, what should your training include? As always, the ability to play—the more kinds of instruments the better. You won't have to become a virtuoso, but your theoretical knowledge of music should be good enough to understand the problems musicians face and you are keen enough to distinguish between the problems and their solutions.


Before one can repair any instrument, one must know a number of important things about it(the materials of which it is made, its construction, special characteristics, and so on. A good understanding of the way the instrument is played and of its fingerings is also essential. A music repairperson must know what specialized and common tools to use and where tools and supplies can be obtained.

One can master such facts and a proficiency in such skills at colleges that offer music instrument technology courses or programs.

Students who enroll in such a program generally pursue a sequence of required courses including Basic Music Instrument Technology, Woodwind Instrument Repair, String and Fretted Instrument Repair, and Brass and Percussion Instrument Repair. Students also should take a course in Music Store management.

Although is it true that most positions in instrument sales require no music background but only selling ability, there is no denying that those who play music instruments, appreciate music, and possess the skills for production of music products have an advantage. Music instrument sales are one field in which a music background can be put to good use. Instruments used by grade schools, junior high, and senior high schools are sold best by a manufacturer's representative who is intimately acquainted with the school band and orchestra program. You don't have to be a music educator to be a good salesperson, but music education experience and skilled salesmanship are an unbeatable combination. You are, in effect, an educational consultant to the music dealers whom you contact. You can advise the local dealer on the kinds of products the school music teachers want. You can talk to educators about the qualities your product has over competitive lines. Before becoming a sales representative for a manufacturer, retail-selling experience is valuable to get the feel of the retail end of the business.

The person in sales at an instrument company works either in the field or at the home office. The field sales representative calls on dealers in a given area (usually several states), makes regular calls on established dealer outlets, and creates new outlets for his or her company. This involves planning, creativity, and hard work. The ability to create new outlets is a most rewarding feeling to a good salesperson. To become a salesperson, besides having a music education, one should have some knowledge of bookkeeping and selling, as both are important. Knowledge of music instrument repair can also be very helpful in selling your products as well as evaluating them in comparison with those of competitors.

The office sales position is similar to the field sales job except that it involves a lot of correspondence and telephone selling. You also must become familiar with office procedures and record keeping and develop a facility to interpret reports and take action.

There are some instances in which a retail salesperson is so good that the storeowner, to keep his or her services, will make the salesperson a partner or allow him or her to buy into the business. Salespeople at the store level and the manufacturing level, and also repairpersons, often branch out on their own and start a store or buy an established music store of their own.

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