Music Conductor: Job Description, Duties and Salary Information

Learn about the education and preparation needed to become a music conductor. Get a quick view of the requirements as well as details about schooling, job duties and experience to find out if this is the career for you.

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Music conductors can direct musicians in a variety of settings and types of performances. Most music conductors have a master's degree in music or music composition, and with a teacher's license they can opt to teach music in high school. They need professional training, experience and good managerial skills.

Essential Information

Music conductors lead instrumental or choir ensembles in rehearsals and performances. Many conductors also have administrative and management duties that involve working with a board of directors, staff and donors to ensure that the ensemble has a working, sustainable budget. Educational requirements vary by employment circumstances: music conductors in school settings may need no more than a baccalaureate degree, but conductors for large symphonies often hold doctorates, in addition to years of experience.

Required Education Bachelor's degree is required to work in schools as a music conductor or director; most conductors hold at least a master's degree in music, music composition or a similar field
Projected Job Growth (2014-2024)* 3% for all music directors and composers
Median Salary (2015)* $49,820 for all music directors and composers;
$57,200 for all high school teachers, including music conductors in secondary schools

Sources: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Music Conductor Job Description

Leading a variety of vocal and instrumental ensembles, music conductors may direct symphonic, opera and ballet orchestras; school bands; film and recording studio bands; church choirs; or glee clubs. Music conductors use well-developed communication skills and an understanding of human psychology to lead music ensembles as performing art companies and business enterprises. A firm grasp of business management practices is often important, in addition to a strong understanding of musical techniques and instruments.

As public figures, conductors may become known for their distinctive conducting styles, usually done with batons or body and arm gestures. They also use skills in public speaking and writing to aid in fundraising activities and the general promotion of the music ensemble. Many conductors develop a unique and attractive stage presence that helps him or her sustain a public persona that reflects a positive emotional life of all of the ensemble's musicians.

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Job Duties

The primary task of a music conductor is to inspire and lead musicians into delivering creative performances. Along with conducting rehearsals and presenting performances, their duties may include auditioning and selecting musicians, deciding on seasonal or special programs, and selecting guest artists. They are able to guide musicians through music scores with effective interpretations of tone, tempo, phrasing, dynamics and other musical elements.

Most conductors stand on solid music backgrounds where, in addition to learning interpretations of different musical styles, they have built skills in such areas as music transcription, sight reading and keyboard facility. They must oftentimes work with nonprofit boards of directors or other funding sources to coordinate finances and develop strategic management plans that insure annual or ongoing budgets.

Salary Information

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the median yearly wage for all music directors and composers, including conductors, was $49,820 as of May 2015 (www.bls.gov). The BLS predicts that job opportunities for music directors and composers will grow by three percent from 2014-2024. Music conductors in high schools, grouped within the salary range of high school teachers, earned a median annual salary of $57,200 in May 2015, reported the BLS.

Music conductors lead musicians or choirs in rehearsals and performances. They need to understand music transcription, be able to sight read music, and have strong communication skills to direct multiple musicians or vocalists. Salaries depend on the type of position, and jobs for music directors are expected to increase slowly over the next few years.

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