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Music Director Career

Career Description

A Music Director conducts, directs, plans, and leads instrumental or vocal performances by musical groups, such as orchestras,  choirs, and glee clubs. These leaders audition and select musicians, choose the music most appropriate for their talents and abilities, and direct rehearsals and performances. Choral directors lead choirs and glee clubs, sometimes working with a band or an orchestra conductor. Directors audition and select singers and lead them at rehearsals and performances to achieve harmony, rhythm,  tempo, shading, and other desired musical effects.

Common Work Tasks

  • Use gestures to shape the music being played,  communicating desired tempo, phrasing, tone, color, pitch, volume, and other performance aspects
  • Direct groups at rehearsals and live or recorded performances in order to achieve desired effects such as tonal and harmonic balance dynamics, rhythm, and tempo
  • Plan and schedule rehearsals and performances,  and arrange details such as locations, accompanists, and instrumentalists
  • Consider such factors as ensemble size and abilities, availability of scores, and the need for musical variety, in order to select music to be performed
  • Study scores to learn the music in detail, and to develop interpretations
  • Position members within groups to obtain balance among instrumental or vocal sections
  • Audition and select performers for musical presentations
  • Transcribe musical compositions and melodic lines to adapt them to a particular group, or to create a particular musical style
  • Meet with soloists and concertmasters to discuss and prepare for performances
  • Assign and review staff work in such areas as scoring, arranging, and copying music, and vocal coaching

Other Job Titles

Music Directors are also known by other titles, including:

  • Music Conductors
  • Choral Directors
  • Talent Directors
  • Music Arrangers

Education,  Training, and Experience

Education and Training
  Music directors usually require a bachelor’s degree in a related field. Courses typically include music theory, music interpretation, composition, conducting, and performance in a particular instrument or in voice. Music composers and arrangers need considerable related work experience or advanced training in these subjects.

  Music Directors must be knowledgeable about a broad range of musical styles as well as the type of music that interests them most. Having a broader range of interest, knowledge, and training can help expand employment opportunities and musical abilities. Voice training and private instrumental lessons, especially when taken at a young age, also help develop technique and enhance one’s performance.


The median annual salary for a Music Director is $40,000. The top 10 percent earn more than $111,000, and the lowest 10 percent earn less than $16,000.  Median earnings in the industries employing the largest number of music directors are:

  • Religious Organizations - $41,490
  • Performing Arts Companies - $62,080
  • Elementary and Secondary Schools- $48,080
  • Independent Artists, Writers, and Performers – N/A
  • Motion Picture and Video Industries- $70,940

Job Outlook

  • 2006-2016 Employment growth:  13%
  • Number of new jobs created 2006-2016: 8,800
  • Employment 2006 : 68,000
  • Employment 2016:  77,000
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