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Become An Orchestra Director

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Working As An Orchestra Director

  • Thinking Creatively
  • Establishing and Maintaining Interpersonal Relationships
  • Performing for or Working Directly with the Public
  • Developing and Building Teams
  • Getting Information
  • $80,000

    Average Salary

What Does An Orchestra Director Do

Music directors, also called conductors, lead orchestras and other musical groups during performances and recording sessions. Composers write and arrange original music in a variety of musical styles.

Duties

Music directors typically do the following:

  • Select musical arrangements and compositions to be performed for live audiences or recordings
  • Prepare for performances by reviewing and interpreting musical scores
  • Direct rehearsals to prepare for performances and recordings
  • Choose guest performers and soloists
  • Audition new performers or assist section leaders with auditions
  • Practice conducting to improve their technique
  • Meet with potential donors and attend fundraisers

Music directors lead orchestras, choirs, and other musical groups. They ensure that the musicians play with one coherent sound, balancing the melody, timing, rhythm, and volume. They also give feedback to musicians and section leaders so that they can achieve the sound and style they want for the piece.

Music directors may work with a variety of orchestras and musical groups, including church choirs, youth orchestras, and high school or college bands, choirs, or orchestras. Some work with orchestras that accompany dance and opera companies.

Composers typically do the following:

  • Write original music that orchestras, bands, and other musical groups perform
  • Arrange existing music into new compositions
  • Write lyrics for music or work with a lyricist
  • Meet with companies, orchestras, or other musical groups that are interested in commissioning a piece of music
  • Study and listen to music of various styles for inspiration
  • Work with musicians to record their music

Composers write music for a variety of musical groups and users. Some work in a particular style of music, such as classical or jazz. They also may write for musicals, operas, or other types of theatrical productions.

Some composers write scores for movies or television; others write jingles for commercials. Many songwriters focus on composing music for audiences of popular music.

Some composers use instruments to help them as they write music. Others use software that allows them to hear a piece without musicians.

Some music directors and composers give private music lessons to children and adults. Others work as music teachers in elementary, middle, or high schools. For more information, see the profiles on kindergarten and elementary school teachers, middle school teachers, and high school teachers.

For more information about careers in music, see the profile on musicians and singers.

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How To Become An Orchestra Director

Educational and training requirements for music directors and composers vary, although most positions require related work experience. A conductor for a symphony orchestra typically needs a master’s degree; a choir director may need a bachelor’s degree. There are no formal educational requirements for those interested in writing popular music.

Education

Employers generally prefer candidates with a master’s degree in music theory, music composition, or conducting for positions as a conductor or classical composer.

Applicants to postsecondary programs in music typically are required to submit recordings, audition in person, or both. These programs teach students about music history and styles, as well as educate them in composing and conducting techniques. Information on degree programs is available from the National Association of Schools of Music.

A bachelor’s degree typically is required for those who want to work as a choir director.

There are no specific educational requirements for those interested in writing popular music. These composers usually find employment by submitting recordings of their compositions to bands, singers, record companies, and movie studios. Composers may promote themselves through personal websites, social media, or online video or audio of their musical work.

Important Qualities

Discipline. Talent is not enough for most music directors and composers to find employment in this field. They must constantly practice and seek to improve their technique and style.

Interpersonal skills. Music directors and composers need to work with agents, musicians, and recording studios. Being friendly, respectful, and open to criticism as well as praise, while enjoying being with others, can help music directors and composers work well with a variety of people.

Leadership. Music directors and composers must guide musicians and singers by preparing musical arrangements and helping them achieve the best possible sound.

Musical talent. To become a music director or composer, one must have musical talent.

Perseverance. Music directors and composers need determination and perseverance to continue submitting their compositions after receiving rejections. Also, reviewing auditions can be frustrating because it may take many different auditions to find the best musicians.

Promotional skills. Music directors and composers need to promote their performances through local communities, word of mouth, and social media platforms. Good self-promotional skills are helpful in building a fan base and getting more work opportunities.

Training

Music directors and composers typically begin their musical training at a young age by learning to play an instrument or singing, and perhaps performing as a musician or singer. Music directors and composers who are interested in classical music may seek additional training through music camps and fellowships. These programs provide participants with classes, lessons, and performance opportunities.

Work Experience in a Related Occupation

Music directors and composers often work as musicians or singers in a group, a choir, or an orchestra before they take on a leadership role. They use this time to master their instrument and gain an understanding of how the group functions.

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Orchestra Director Typical Career Paths

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Do you work as an Orchestra Director?

Average Yearly Salary
$80,000
View Detailed Salary Report
$37,000
Min 10%
$80,000
Median 50%
$80,000
Median 50%
$80,000
Median 50%
$80,000
Median 50%
$80,000
Median 50%
$80,000
Median 50%
$80,000
Median 50%
$172,000
Max 90%
Best Paying Company
The University of Tampa
Highest Paying City
Odessa, TX
Highest Paying State
North Dakota
Avg Experience Level
4.3 years
How much does an Orchestra Director make at top companies?
The national average salary for an Orchestra Director in the United States is $80,681 per year or $39 per hour. Those in the bottom 10 percent make under $37,000 a year, and the top 10 percent make over $172,000.

Real Orchestra Director Salaries

Job Title Company Location Start Date Salary
Orchestra Director Deer Park Independent School District Deer Park, TX Jan 08, 2016 $62,761
Orchestra Director Deer Park Independent School District Deer Park, TX Aug 01, 2013 $59,944
Orchestra Director The University of Tampa Tampa, FL Nov 20, 2010 $56,463
Secondary Orchestra Director Ector County Independent School District Odessa, TX Sep 14, 2015 $44,500

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Top Skills for An Orchestra Director

  1. Grade Orchestra
  2. Instrumental Ensembles
  3. Lesson Plans
You can check out examples of real life uses of top skills on resumes here:
  • Conducted one song with the 6th and 7th grade orchestras at the Pinewood Pops concert
  • Develop and implement lesson plans; Coordinate instruction at five schools; Evaluate progress of students
  • Directed junior high and high school orchestra Instructed junior high and high school students on string instruments
  • Directed participation of Band and Orchestra groups in music festivals, competitions, concerts, and school assemblies.
  • String Ensemble* Beginning Band Director* General Music

Rank:

Average Salary:

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Top 10 Best States for Orchestra Directors

  1. Texas
  2. Minnesota
  3. Georgia
  4. New Jersey
  5. Iowa
  6. Florida
  7. Wisconsin
  8. Washington
  9. South Carolina
  10. Rhode Island
  • (18 jobs)
  • (1 jobs)
  • (3 jobs)
  • (3 jobs)
  • (3 jobs)
  • (10 jobs)
  • (0 jobs)
  • (0 jobs)
  • (2 jobs)
  • (0 jobs)

Orchestra Director Demographics

Gender

Female

46.8%

Male

43.5%

Unknown

9.7%
Ethnicity

White

63.7%

Hispanic or Latino

13.1%

Black or African American

12.3%

Asian

8.0%

Unknown

2.9%
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Foreign Languages Spoken

Spanish

31.3%

French

18.8%

Irish

6.3%

Telugu

6.3%

Chinese

6.3%

Czech

6.3%

Hebrew

6.3%

Hindi

6.3%

Urdu

6.3%

Cantonese

6.3%
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Orchestra Director Education

Schools

VanderCook College of Music

7.4%

University of Oklahoma

7.4%

Texas Tech University

6.2%

University of Phoenix

6.2%

Michigan State University

6.2%

University of Texas at Austin

6.2%

Temple University

4.9%

Boston University

4.9%

Texas State University

4.9%

University of North Carolina at Greensboro

4.9%

Northwestern University

4.9%

Ball State University

4.9%

George Mason University

4.9%

Eastern Michigan University

3.7%

University of Connecticut

3.7%

University of Alabama

3.7%

University of Arkansas, Fayetteville

3.7%

University of Tennessee - Knoxville

3.7%

University of South Carolina - Columbia

3.7%

University of Central Oklahoma

3.7%
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Majors

Music

34.6%

General Education, Specific Areas

30.7%

Education

11.3%

Educational Leadership

4.5%

Elementary Education

3.4%

Music Performance

2.8%

History

1.4%

Business

1.4%

Writing

1.1%

Curriculum And Instruction

1.1%

Law

1.1%

Literature

0.8%

Fine Arts

0.8%

Project Management

0.8%

Accounting

0.8%

Liberal Arts

0.8%

Psychology

0.6%

Religion

0.6%

Educational Technology

0.6%

Computer Science

0.6%
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Degrees

Masters

41.8%

Bachelors

30.0%

Other

17.1%

Doctorate

6.5%

Certificate

2.5%

Associate

1.3%

Diploma

0.8%
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