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Jazz Musician: Job Description and Education Requirements

Oct 04, 2019

Jazz careers require a lot of practice and deep understanding of music theory. Learn about the education, job duties and licensure requirements to see if this is the right career for you.

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Jazz musicians rehearse regularly and perform in a variety of venues, sometimes traveling from city to city for performances. While many jazz musicians master their craft through practice and experiential learning opportunities, they often opt for postsecondary education of some kind as well.

Essential Information

Students interested in studying jazz as a career can expect to learn about syncopated rhythms and improvisation with different instruments. Some instruments these musicians play include the violin, saxophone, vibraphone, flute and bass. A majority of these musicians' time is spent rehearsing or playing live performances. Jazz artists can play in big ensembles or small bands. Although formal education is not required, students can better their understanding of jazz by getting a degree in music. Bachelor's degrees offer courses in harmony, rhythms and ear training.

Education Requirements High school diploma or equivalent; postsecondary education is common
Job Growth (2018-2018)* 0% for all musicians and singers
Median Wage (2018)* $28.15 hourly for all musicians and singers

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Job Description

Jazz is a type of music that originated in America and often incorporates ensemble playing, syncopated rhythms and some degree of improvisation during live performances. Jazz musicians play such instruments as the guitar, drums, horns, flute, vibraphone, violin and saxophone. Some jazz musicians specialize in several of these instruments. Jazz musicians play in both big bands and smaller ensembles in a number of venues. They may spend a majority of their time either in rehearsal with their band or practicing by themselves.

Jazz musicians perform before a variety of audiences in multiple types of venues. They could play music on live TV shows as part of an ensemble and market their band through media interviews. Jazz musicians could also spend a lot time traveling to different locations for performances and tours. Professional musicians tend to arrange their own music and transpose music in order to fit their band's individual tastes and sounds.

Salary and Job Outlook

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) states that musicians and singers are likely to see little to no employment growth (0%) from 2018 to 2028, largely due to increasing attendance at live musical events. Despite this, competition is expected to remain strong because of the high level of interest in these positions. In 2018, the BLS reported a median wage of $28.15 an hour for musicians and singers. The metropolitan areas that employed the largest numbers of these professionals at that time included New York City, Los Angeles and Nashville. The highest-paying cities were Santa Maria-Santa Barbara, CA, Indianapolis-Carmel-Anderson, IN and Miami-Fort Lauderdale-West Palm Beach, FL.

Education Requirements

A standard educational degree is not always a prerequisite to becoming a professional musician. Aspiring jazz musicians may begin training at an early age, learning to play various instruments in community bands or similar groups until they perfect their craft. Those aspiring musicians who are interested in seeking an education might enroll in a bachelor's degree program in music at a college or conservatory.

Bachelor's Programs

Bachelor's degree programs in jazz studies and jazz arts may give students several performance opportunities with recitals, on-campus performances and possibly even a chance to record inside of a studio. Students could also attend lectures with speakers who are jazz musicians. Before being admitted to a program, schools could require applicants to audition.

Bachelor's programs could teach students more about the tradition and style of jazz music, and may even offer lectures taught by jazz professionals. Individuals could take classes on arranging, singing and composing. Courses may focus on improvisation, harmony, rhythmic analysis, ear training and performing with a group.

Some schools have professional jazz bands residing on campus. Such programs could host workshops and give students one-on-one time with professional musicians. Aspiring musicians may play for both students and faculty while enrolled in a bachelor's degree program. Afterwards, they might be critiqued on their performance.

Master's Programs

Master's degree programs are available for jazz musicians seeking to further their knowledge and skills. Applicants may have to submit transcripts and audition before they are allowed enroll. Being able to sight-read and a certain quality of musical training could also be taken into consideration when applying to graduate school.

A jazz musician may not always need formal education, but bachelor's and master's degrees are common among these professionals. These programs emphasize hands-on performance opportunities with other students as well as working jazz musicians. Between 2018 and 2028, little to no growth in job opportunities is predicted for musicians in all genres, with the best prospects going to the most driven and talented players.

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