Careers in Music - Part 7

Part 7 on the series of the types of careers in the music business and music industry. Here are a few more for all to consider.


A prospective employee for a retail music store should have sufficient music experience or training to be conversant with the majority of the standard repertoire and expert in one of its facets. This is especially true in those stores where one can expect to handle requests for many different instruments, vocal music, textbooks, and study scores. Areas of specific interest such as instrumental or vocal ensembles do not, as a rule, require such a wide range of knowledge.

Anyone considering a career in instrument sales should be acquainted with a wide range of instruments, a knowledge of how each instrument works, its component parts and necessary accessories, and should be able to demonstrate the instrument for a customer.

The store or department manager must possess in abundance the same qualities as a retail clerk and have a solid grounding in how the business works. He or she must be able to control inventory and, at the same time, have on hand items that he or she knows will be in demand. The most advantageous sources of supply, both economically and in regard to delivery time, always must be considered. One of the manager's most important duties is to train new employees and to oversee the total operation. Ideally, he or she would be the final source of reference in the store. Various publishers' and manufacturers' policies must be well known to him or her since the manager will have to deal with them constantly.


Religious musicians view their work as a music ministry to members of the congregation and the community they serve. Behind this premise is the conviction that the use and expression of music in church liturgy is more a matter of congregational celebration and less a matter of specialized groups performing for an audience. The church musician, therefore, should be well prepared with an appreciation for the life and mission of the religion he or she serves. Administrative ability, interest and skill in working with people (usually volunteers and amateurs), as well as knowledge about the field of religious music (including traditional and contemporary literature and forms of expression), are important.

The musician is responsible for administering the congregation's music program in consultation with clergy or appropriate committees. He or she is responsible for developing and maintaining a music program that is in keeping with the spiritual and educational needs, desires, and resources of the congregation and that provides music for designated worship services and related activities. Sometimes an organist and a choir director are employed to serve in a team arrangement; under such circumstances the choir director usually assumes the major part of administrative responsibilities for the music program. The choir director may wish to delegate the conducting of one or more choirs of a multiple choir program, as well as other duties, to the organist and qualified laity of the congregation. Typical responsibilities may include conducting, choral and instrumental ensembles, playing the organ or piano, teaching voice, supervising the maintenance of musical instruments, preparing and controlling the music budget, attending regular staff meetings, and serving as an arts resource person to the congregation and the community.

Those considering a career in this field would be well advised to survey the profession by interviewing full-time religious musicians and by obtaining additional information from several colleges and universities that offer church music degree programs.

For the person seeking life/work opportunities combining a unique and rewarding involvement with people and music, a career in religious music is certainly a worthy avenue to explore.


An electronic music synthesist creates, modifies, and controls sound electronically. Although he or she generally uses a keyboard to do this, a synthesist may adapt and use almost any acoustical instrument to control a synthesizer. With some additional training, virtually any musician can, in effect, become an electronic music synthesist, opening up career opportunities in education, performance, composition, production, software design, and electronic hardware design.

Opportunities in education include work as a director of an electronic music studio or lab in a college or high school. The role includes teaching, preparing the course of study, set up, and maintenance of the studio or lab. Candidates should have appropriate college degrees or certificates for teaching in addition to specialized training in electronic music synthesis, acoustics, recording techniques, and composition. A knowledge of electronics is helpful but not necessarily required.

Synthesists, frequently called keyboardists, are visible in pop, jazz, and rock groups. They are in great demand, especially in the area of jingles, TV and radio commercials, and movie soundtracks.

A product specialist in electronic music is employed by a manufacturer of synthesizers or other electronic music equipment. The job may vary from situation to situation, but generally the duties include representing the manufacturer as a clinician at trade shows, music dealer clinics, and music education conferences; contributing to the design of new instruments, giving feedback to engineers from a musician's point of view; and assisting the marketing director with public relations work for performers who use the manufacturer's products.

The background for this type of work usually calls for enough musical skill to present an effective demonstration of a product, a fairly extensive technical understanding of synthesizer design, and some business or marketing skills. One advantage of this type of work is the opportunity to be directly involved with new developments in technology.


The job of music supervisor/administrator encompasses a vast number of tasks that will vary daily and that usually are unpredictable. There are as many descriptions of this job as there are people trying to fill the position. For example, in a district of twelve elementary schools, the tasks of the music administrator would be quite different from those in a district of 60 or more schools that have grades K-12. Another variable is the title used to describe the music administrator's position. Some of the most common are director of music education, supervisor, coordinator, curriculum specialist, and music consultant.

Required qualifications for every school music administrator are experience as a music teacher, in-depth study in music education including a graduate degree related to music and not just to education; experience as a conductor of both choral and instrumental ensembles; and a willingness to learn. Some less obvious but still necessary qualifications include the ability to adjust to change and the ability to work with people at all levels of the education spectrum(that is, students, teachers, administrators, parents, professional musicians, and others. The music administrator should be tolerant, warm, understanding, responsive, and helpful to his constituents. Although some of the foregoing qualities and qualifications are rather intangible, they are important. Anyone working in a position related to teaching must be able to work with and get along with people.


The role of a music teacher in the college or university is highly diversified. Within a department or a school of music there are teachers of performance, theory, composition, history, and education. In some institutions you will find further specialization in areas of church music, music therapy, commercial music, and other allied fields.

The typical music teaching assignment in higher education, for both music majors and non-majors, is one in which the faculty member is responsible for helping each student make independent judgments about all types of music. When working with music majors the task is that of assisting each student in becoming, to some degree, a performer, theorist, composer, historian, and teacher. Faculty members in small departments frequently are responsible for developing more of these roles in their students than the specialist in the large school of music. Fortunately, many schools, whether small or large, now are recognizing the need to avoid fragmenting the areas of music and are selecting their most comprehensive musicians to teach a basic musicianship class to all music majors.

In searching for suitable faculty for teaching music in higher education, an administrator looks for an individual with competencies as both a musician and a teacher. The usual formal education requirements are the doctoral degree or its equivalent. Some of the most prestigious universities have given adjunct or full professorships to outstanding performers who have gained national recognition but do not have graduate degrees. Even though colleges and universities are wisely becoming more concerned with what their faculty can do, rather than what degrees they hold, the music administrator still seems to believe that advanced degrees are essential employment requirements for music faculty.

Colleges and universities provide an outlet for musicians to perform in all sorts of media from the jazz ensemble to the a cappella choir. They provide opportunities for the composer to compose and the researcher to conduct research. But most of all, they provide an opportunity for artists and scholars to interact with students in a way that allows everyone to grow.

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