Be a Music Director: Education and Career Roadmap

Research the requirements to become a music director. Learn about the job description and read the step-by-step process to start a career in music direction.

Do I Want to Be a Music Director?

Music directors, also known as conductors, are the artistic leaders of symphonies, musical theater productions and operas. Their duties include directing and choosing the music to be performed, supervising the interpretations of the music, ensuring the cast or musicians know the music and conducting the orchestra. They may also play a key role in casting musicians in the orchestra. Music directors may work with religious organizations, youth orchestras, dance troupes or opera companies. Travel is often required, and many performances take place during weekends and evenings.

Job Requirements

The required education depends on the directing position. For example, symphony directors often need a master's degree, while choir directors may only be required to have a bachelor's degree. The following table contains the main qualifications and requirements needed to become a music director as noted by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS):

Common Requirements
Degree LevelBachelor's or master's degree
Degree FieldMusic theory, musical composition, conducting or a comparable discipline
ExperienceMusic directors typically begin musical training in childhood
Key SkillsDiscipline, verbal and written communication, perseverance, musical talent

Step 1: Choose the Type of Music Director to Become

The type of music director career that you're interested in will determine the level of education you need. Music directors, or conductors, typically work in concert halls or music studios managing the rehearsals and musical performances for musical theater or opera productions. A choral director, another type of music director, typically lead vocal performances for choirs, bands or glee clubs.

Step 2: Complete an Education or Training Program

The BLS states that bachelor's degrees may be needed for positions as choir directors, while symphony orchestra conductors typically need master's degrees. Bachelor's majors such as music education with an emphasis in choral music or music can provide the musical training needed to become a choir director. Many schools offer master's degree programs in music with an emphasis in conducting or specializations in music conducting, which can provide the necessary advanced training necessary for music directors to succeed in their positions.

In general, a music director should possess at least a bachelor's degree in music with a concentration in composition or singing, or on a particular instrument. These programs require students to audition for a spot or submit a portfolio of original work. Those interested in becoming music directors should also study music history, music theory, performance, conducting and score reading.

Step 3: Gain Performance Experience

Performance experience is an integral part of becoming a music director. Music directors will often start out by playing one or more instruments in symphonies, orchestras, pit orchestras and even bands. In addition to live experience and constant practice, performance experience can also expose musicians to a broad range of music styles and help them become familiar with other instruments, which can be beneficial for music directors when selecting, arranging or interpreting music. Choir directors may play musical instruments, teach music or arrange small choral performances at schools and churches before advancing to the role of music director.

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