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Nature of the Work
* Musicians often must supplement their income with earnings from other sources because they can find only part-time or sporadic engagements.
* Aspiring musicians begin studying an instrument or training their voices at an early age; a bachelor's or higher degree in music or music education is required to teach at the elementary/secondary school or college level.
* Competition for jobs is keen because the glamour and potentially high earnings in this occupation attract many talented individuals.
Musicians may play musical instruments, sing, compose, arrange, or conduct groups in instrumental or vocal performances. Musicians may perform alone or as part of a group, before live audiences or on radio, or in recording studios, television, or movie productions. While most musicians play for live audiences, some prepare music exclusively for studios or computers.
Some specialize in a particular kind of music or performance. Instrumental musicians play a musical instrument in an orchestra, band, rock group, or jazz group. Some play any of a wide variety of string, brass, woodwind, or percussion instruments or electronic synthesizers; others learn several related instruments, such as the flute and clarinet, often improving their employment opportunities.
Singers interpret music using their knowledge of voice production, melody, and harmony. They sing character parts or perform in their own individual style. Singers are often classified according to their voice rangesoprano, contralto, tenor, baritone, or bassor by the type of music they sing, such as opera, rock, reggae, folk, rap, or country and western.
Composers create original music such as symphonies, operas, sonatas, or popular songs. They transcribe ideas into musical notation using harmony, rhythm, melody, and tonal structure. Many songwriters now compose and edit music using computers. Also, they may play the composition into the computer, which can record and play it back.
Arrangers transcribe and adapt musical composition to a particular style for orchestras, bands, choral groups, or individuals. Components of musicincluding tempo, volume, and the mix of instruments neededare arranged to express the composer's message. While some arrangers write directly into a musical composition, others use computer software to make changes. Compositions created with computer software can also be mailed electronically or placed on an Internet site.
Conductors lead instrumental music groups, such as orchestras, dance bands, and various popular ensembles. Conductors audition and select musicians, choose the music to accommodate the talents and abilities of the musicians, and direct rehearsals and performances, applying conducting techniques to achieve desired musical effects.
Choral directors lead choirs and glee clubs, sometimes working with a band or orchestra conductor. Directors audition and select singers and direct them at rehearsals and performances to achieve harmony, rhythm, tempo, shading, and other desired musical effects.
All musicians spend a considerable amount of time practicing, individually and with their band, orchestra, or other musical group.
Musicians often perform at night and on weekends and spend considerable time in practice and rehearsal. Performances frequently require travel. Because many musicians find only part-time work or experience unemployment between engagements, they often supplement their income with other types of jobs. In fact, many decide they cannot support themselves as musicians and take permanent, full-time jobs in other occupations, while working only part time as musicians.
Most instrumental musicians come into contact with a variety of other people, including their colleagues, agents, employers, sponsors, and audiences. They usually work indoors, although some may perform outdoors for parades, concerts, and dances. Certain performances create noise and vibration. In some taverns and restaurants, smoke and odors may be present, and lighting and ventilation may be inadequate.
An average of about 274,000 musicians held jobs in 1996. Many were between engagements, so that the total number of people employed as musicians during the course of the year might have been greater. Many musicians were self-employed, and nearly 3 out of 5 musicians employed in 1996 worked part time.
Many work in cities in which entertainment and recording activities are concentrated, such as New York, Los Angeles, and Nashville. Classical musicians may perform with professional orchestras or in small chamber music groups like quartets or trios. Musicians may work in opera, musical comedy, and ballet productions. Many are organists who play in churches and synagogues2 out of 3 musicians who are paid a wage or salary work in religious organizations. Musicians also perform in clubs and restaurants, and for weddings and other events. Well-known musicians and groups give their own concerts, appear "live" on radio and television, make recordings and music videos, or go on concert tours. The Armed Forces, too, offer careers in their bands and smaller musical groups.
Aspiring musicians begin studying an instrument at an early age. They may gain valuable experience playing in a school or community band or orchestra, or with a group of friends. Singers usually start training when their voices mature. Participation in school musicals or in a choir often provides good early training and experience. Musicians need extensive and prolonged training to acquire the necessary skill, knowledge, and ability to interpret music. This training may be obtained through private study with an accomplished musician, in a college or university music program, in a music conservatory, or through practice with a group. For study in an institution, an audition frequently is necessary. Formal courses include musical theory, music interpretation, composition, conducting, and instrumental and voice instruction. Composers, conductors, and arrangers need advanced training in these subjects as well.
Many colleges, universities, and music conservatories grant bachelor's or higher degrees in music. A master's or doctoral degree is usually required to teach advanced courses in music in colleges and universities; a bachelor's degree may be sufficient to teach basic courses. A degree in music education qualifies graduates for a State certificate to teach music in an elementary or secondary school.
Those who perform popular music must have an understanding of and feeling for the style of music that interests them, but classical training can expand their employment opportunities, as well as their musical abilities. Although voice training is an asset for singers of popular music, many with untrained voices have successful careers. As a rule, musicians take lessons with private teachers when young, and seize every opportunity to make amateur or professional appearances.
Young persons who are considering careers in music should have musical talent, versatility, creative ability, and poise and stage presence to face large audiences. Since quality performance requires constant study and practice, self-discipline is vital. Moreover, musicians who play concert and nightclub engagements must have physical stamina because frequent travel and night performances are required. They must also be prepared to face the anxiety of intermittent employment and rejections when auditioning for work.
Advancement for musicians generally means becoming better known and performing for greater earnings with better known bands and orchestras. Successful musicians often rely on agents or managers to find them performing engagements, negotiate contracts, and plan their careers.
Competition for musician jobs is keen, and talent alone is no guarantee of success. The glamour and potentially high earnings in this occupation attract many talented individuals. The ability to play several instruments and types of music enhances a musician's employment prospects.
Overall employment of musicians is expected to grow faster than the average for all occupations through the year 2006, reflecting the growing popularity of this form of entertainment. Almost all new wage and salary jobs for musicians will arise in religious organizations, bands, orchestras, and other entertainment groups. A decline in employment is projected for salaried musicians in restaurants and bars, although they comprise a very small proportion of all wage and salary musicians. Bars, which regularly employ musicians, are expected to grow more slowly than eating establishments, where live entertainment is unusual, because consumption of alcoholic beverages outside the home is expected to continue to decline. Overall, most job openings for musicians will arise from the need to replace those who leave the field each year because they are unable to make a living solely as musicians.
Earnings often depend on a performer's professional reputation, place of employment, and on the number of hours worked. The most successful musicians can earn far more than the minimum salaries indicated below.
According to the American Federation of Musicians, minimum salaries in major orchestras ranged from about $22,000 to $90,000 per year during the 1996-97 performing season. Each orchestra works out a separate contract with its local union. Top orchestras have a season ranging from 29 to 52 weeks, with most major orchestras working 52 weeks. In regional orchestras, minimum salaries are between $8,000 and $22,000 per year; the season lasts 7 to 48 weeks, with an average of 35 weeks. In contrast, community orchestras have more limited levels of funding and offer salaries that are much lower for seasons of shorter duration.
Musicians employed in motion picture or television recording and those employed by recording companies were paid a minimum ranging from about $120 to $250 per service (3 hours of work) in 1996.
Musicians employed by some symphony orchestras work under master wage agreements, which guarantee a season's work up to 52 weeks. Many other musicians may face relatively long periods of unemployment between jobs. Even when employed, however, many work part time. Thus, their earnings generally are lower than those in many other occupations. Moreover, since they may not work steadily for one employer, some performers cannot qualify for unemployment compensation, and few have typical benefits such as sick leave or vacations with pay. For these reasons, many musicians give private lessons or take jobs unrelated to music to supplement their earnings as performers.
Many musicians belong to a local of the American Federation of Musicians. Professional singers usually belong to a branch of the American Guild of Musical Artists.
There are many music-related occupations. These include librettists, songwriters, and music therapists. A large number of music teachers work in elementary and secondary schools, music conservatories, and colleges and universities, or are self-employed. Many who teach music also perform.
Technical knowledge of musical instruments is required by instrument repairers, tuners, and copyists. In addition, there are a number of occupations in the business side of music such as booking agents, concert managers, music publishers, and music store owners and managers, as well as salespersons of records, sheet music, and musical instruments. Others whose work involves music include disc jockeys, music critics, sound and audio technicians, music librarians, and radio and television announcers.
For a directory of schools, colleges, and universities that offer accredited programs in music and music teacher education, contact:
National Association of Schools of Music, 11250 Roger Bacon Dr., Suite 21, Reston, VA 22091.
Information on careers and employment opportunities for organists is available from:
American Guild of Organists, 475 Riverside Dr., Suite 1260, New York, NY 10115.
For information on careers for bluegrass musicians, contact:
International Bluegrass Music Association, 207 East 2nd St., Owensboro, KY 42303.
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