Careers in Music - Part 9

Part 8 on the series of the types of careers in the music business and music industry. Here is the last part of this series. Good luck with whatever field of study you choose.


A music therapist uses music in the therapy of human disabilities. Music therapists are most likely to be located in settings that normally employ other members of the helping professions such as physicians, clinical psychologists, social workers, and rehabilitation specialists. In these settings music therapists work either as team members or individually to assist their clientele to become healed, rehabilitated, or specially educated. Most music therapists do their work in hospitals, training centers for the developmentally disabled, rehabilitation centers, and(to a lesser extent(public and private elementary and secondary school settings.

The purpose of the music therapy session is to help the client improve through the use of expressive experiences of performing, composing, listening, and moving to music. In order to plan and direct such activities, the music therapist must be a competent musician as well as one who understands the fundamental tenets of clinical procedure.

Music therapists must be educated in a degree-granting college or university that has been officially approved by the National Association of Schools of Music (NASM). As part of that education, the student is required to successfully complete a clinical experience (or internship) in an approved clinical setting. The music therapist conducts or directs prescribed music activities designed to assist patients or students to achieve definite therapeutic goals. Music therapists frequently work directly with physicians and other members of medical teams.

The university curriculum approved by the NASM requires basic course work in music therapy, psychology, sociology, general education, electives, and music. Graduates of NASM-approved baccalaureate programs should be able to demonstrate proficiency in some traditional area of music performance as well as in the use of social or informal instruments. They should have the ability to accompany music groups on the piano. They must be able to sing, arrange music, and direct vocal and instrumental ensembles. In addition to these and other music skills, music therapists must be able to report music behavior in clinical terms. They must be able to translate medical, psychological, or educational prescriptions for any group or individual into musical experiences.


There is no single route for a young student who has his or her eye on this music business, but it seems that an ideal background would incorporate college-level study in several areas: music business (copyright law, promotion, marketing, production), television production, graphic arts, visual design, and communications. A working knowledge of computer programming also would be an asset in today's technological careers.

Students also would do well to try to avail themselves of positions such as voluntary radio internships. Many radio stations offer this opportunity to interested individuals. There is no monetary compensation and the hours are often long, but "paying dues" is the name of the game. And the experience will be invaluable. A recommendation from a guidance counselor or civic leader may be of help in gaining an internship position.

Admittedly, to follow a jack-of-all-trades course of study such as the one outlined requires a pioneering open-minded spirit.


Most pop vocalists earn their living in a variety of music areas - concerts, recordings, club work, radio and television commercials, Broadway musicals, and even teaching. Versatility is absolutely essential in this career, especially to the vocalist who may not have the good fortune to gain star status. Performance situations are competitive, often demanding years of experience to gain a solid reputation and a high level of proficiency. A vocalist who sings reasonably well, can sight-read, knows all styles of music, and has a solid knowledge of music theory is going to be in demand.

To reach this level, one must become proficient in ear-training, sight-reading, and theory; get the best vocal instruction available; listen to and learn as much music as possible to develop a large and varied repertoire; gain a working knowledge about contracts, managers, agents, and unions; take any opportunity to sing (even in freebies such as rehearsal groups and civic choruses); and develop a reputation for being reliable - word of undependable actions spreads very quickly in the professional music world.

One of the ways to get into the professional field is to contact a music agent and ask to audition for him or her. The agent is the person who acts as the middleman between the entertainer and the employer (club, concert promoter, and the like). Check with professional musicians in your area for the names of reputable agents. These agents are also in the phone book under Entertainment Bureaus. You can also go directly to recording studios in your area and make it known that you are available for any work that they may have. Most studios have projects that require their supplying the musicians and singers. Because most professional musicians participate in a variety of musical expressions, the career of a vocalist is rarely routine. Though the years of preparation and training require discipline and strong dedication, the successful pop vocalist can look forward to a career of excitement, variety, and artistic recognition.

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