Wednesday, January 3, 2007


Music is a basic part of the human experience. On any given day, how long can you go without hearing some type of music? For some who are class clowns at heart, music is not just some- thing to be heard and enjoyed. Instead, it is an outlet for the desire to perform, whether it takes the form of singing or playing musi- cal instruments. Are music and performing at the core of your very being, some- thing from which you derive great enjoyment? Has music always been a special part of your life? Have you always longed to appear before audiences? Did you ever stand in front of your mirror and pretend your hairbrush was a microphone? Did you play your musical instruments for friends, family, pets—virtually anyone who would listen? If so, then a career as a musician may be the ideal choice for you. For Genuine Music Lovers Successful professional musicians are artists who express them- selves through their music by conducting, playing instruments, singing, or all three, at one time or another. Through their talent, many years of hard work, initiative, and perhaps a lucky break, they make a living and entertain audiences doing what they love most—making music. Some musically inclined individuals succeed early in life. Lorin Maazel conducted two major symphony orchestras before the age
of thirteen and went on to enjoy a successful career as an adult conductor. Yehudi Menuhin made his violin debut at age seven. Sergey Prokofiev was already performing as a pianist at the ripe old age of six and composed an opera at the age of nine. His Peter and the Wolf has been a source of entertainment for both children and adults for many decades. No matter how old you are, this chapter will provide you with the information you need to pursue a career in performing music. Jobs for Musicians Millions of people play instruments or sing in choirs or amateur groups, but the number of professional musicians is much smaller. About 215,000 men and women are employed as musi- cians in the United States, according to the U.S. Department of Labor. Included are those who play in regional, metropolitan, or major symphony orchestras. (Large orchestras employ from 85 to 105 musicians, while smaller ones employ 60 to 75 players.) Also counted are those who are a part of hundreds of small orchestras, symphony orchestras, pop and jazz groups, and those who broad- cast or record. Instrumental musicians may play a variety of musical instru- ments in an orchestra, popular band, marching band, military band, concert band, symphony, dance band, rock group, or jazz group, and their instruments may be string, brass, woodwind, percussion, or electronic synthesizers. A large percentage of musi- cians are proficient in playing several related instruments, such as the flute and clarinet. Those who are very talented have the option to perform as soloists. Rehearsing and performing take up much of the musicians’ time and energy. In addition, musicians, especially those without agents, may need to perform a number of other routine tasks, such as making travel or rehearsal hall reservations; keeping track of auditions and recording schedules; arranging for amplifiers and other equipment to enhance performances; designing lighting, costuming, and makeup; keeping financial records; and setting up advertising, concerts, tickets, programs, and contracts. In addi- tion, it is necessary for musicians to plan the sequence of the numbers to be performed and/or arrange their music according to the conductor’s instructions before performances. Musicians must also keep their instruments clean, polished, tuned,and in proper working order.In addition,they are expected to attend meetings with agents, employers, and conductors or directors to discuss contracts, engagements, and any other busi- ness activities. Performing musicians encompass a wide variety of careers. Here are just a few of the possibilities. Section Member Section members are the individuals who play instruments in an orchestra. They must be talented players and able to learn the music on their own. Rehearsals are strictly designed for putting all of the instruments and individuals together and for establishing cues such as phrasing and correct breathing. It is expected that all musicians practice sufficiently on their own before rehearsals. Session Musician The session musician is the one responsible for playing back- ground music in a studio while a recording artist is singing. The session musician may also be called a freelance musician, a backup musician, a session player, or studio musician. Session musicians are used for all kinds of recordings—Broadway musi- cals, operas, rock and folk songs, and pop tunes. Versatility is the most important ingredient for these profes- sionals—the more instruments the musician has mastered, the greater number of styles he or she can offer, the more possibilities for musical assignments. Session musicians often are listed through contractors who call upon them when the need arises. Other possibilities exist through direct requests made by the artists themselves, the group members, or the management team. The ability to sight-read is important for all musicians, but it is particularly crucial for session musicians. Rehearsal time is usu- ally very limited, and costs make it too expensive to have to do retakes. Concertmaster The role of concertmaster is an important one.Those chosen to be concertmasters have the responsibility of leading the string sec- tions of orchestras during both rehearsals and concerts. In addi- tion, these individuals are responsible for tuning the rest of the orchestra. This is the "music" you hear for about fifteen to twenty seconds before the musicians begin to play their first piece. Concertmasters answer directly to the conductor. They must possess leadership abilities and be very knowledgeable of both the music and all the instruments. Floor-Show Band Member Some musicians belong to bands that perform in floor shows and appear in hotels, nightclubs, cruise ships, bars, concert arenas, and caf├ęs. Usually the bands do two shows per night with a particular number of sets in each show. Additionally, they may be required to play one or two dance sets during the course of the engagement. Here, the audience is seated during the shows and gets up to dance during the dance sets. Shows may include costuming, dialogue, singing, jokes, skits, unusual sound effects, and anything else the band decides to include. Floor-show bands may be contracted to appear in one place for one night or several weeks at a time. As expected, a great deal of traveling is involved for those who take up this career. Choir Director Choir directors are responsible for recruiting and directing choirs and planning the music programs for churches or temples. They
are often given the job of auditioning potential members of the choir, setting up rehearsal schedules, overseeing and directing rehearsals, and choosing the music. They may be in charge of the church’s or temple’s music library or may designate another indi- vidual to oversee it. Working closely with the minister or other religious leader of the congregation, choir directors plan all con- certs, programs, and other musical events. In addition, choir directors develop and maintain the music budgets for their religious institutions. In some cases, choral directors are expected to maintain office hours each week. During those times, they may write music, handle administrative chores, or work with small groups of singers and/or the organist or accompanist. Usually a bachelor’s degree in music is required, with a special emphasis on sacred music. A master’s degree may be preferred. Organist Organists carry on a long-standing tradition. They play their instruments at religious and special services,such as weddings and funerals. Recitals may also be given as part of the congregation’s spiritual programming. Organists choose the music to be played or may work with the choir or music director to accomplish this task. Organists are also responsible for making sure organs are in proper working order and may also advise the congregation on other music-related issues. Sometimes the organist also serves as the choir director or assistant director. Singer Singers use their voices as their instrument of choice. Using the techniques of melody, harmony, rhythm, and voice production, they interpret music and both instruct and entertain their audi- ences.They may sing character parts or perform in their own indi- vidual style. Classical singers are identified by the ranges of their voices: soprano (the highest range), contralto, tenor, baritone, and bass (lowest range). These singers typically perform in operas. Singers of popular music may perform country and western, rap, ethnic, reggae,folk,rock,or jazz as individuals or as part of a group.Often singers also possess the ability to play musical instruments and thus accompany themselves when performing (guitar or piano,for instance). Religious singers include cantors, soloists, and choir members. Conductor and Choral Director The music conductor is the director for all of the performers in a musical presentation, whether they are singing or playing instru- ments.Although there are many types of conductors—symphony, choral, dance band, opera, marching band, and ballet—in all cases, the music conductor is the one who is in charge of inter- preting the music. 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 such as harmony, rhythm, tempo, and shading. Orchestral conductors lead instrumental music groups, such as orchestras, dance bands, and various popular ensembles. Choral directors lead choirs and smaller singing groups, such as glee clubs, sometimes working with a band or orchestra conductor. Announcer or Disc Jockey Radio and television announcers play an important role in keep- ing listeners interested. They are the ones who must read mes- sages, commercials, and scripts in an entertaining, interesting, or enlightening way. They are also responsible for introducing sta- tion breaks, and they may interview guests and sell commercial time to advertisers. Sometimes they are called disc jockeys, but actually disc jockeys are the announcers who oversee musical programming.
Disc jockeys must be very knowledgeable about music in gen- eral and all aspects of their specialties, specifically the music and the groups who play or sing that kind of music. Their programs may feature general music, rock, pop, country and western, or any specific musical period or style, such as 1960s or 1980s tunes. Work Settings for Musicians You’ll find musicians working in all kinds of settings. Popular instrumentalists are spread nationwide from small towns to large cities. Many consist of small groups that play at weddings, bar mitzvahs, church events, funerals, school or community concerts, dances, festivals, and other events. Accompanists play for theater productions or dance recitals. Combos, piano or organ soloists, and other musicians play at nightclubs, bars, or restaurants. Musi- cians may work in opera, musical comedy, and ballet productions or be a part of the armed forces. Well-known musicians and groups give their own concerts, appear live on radio and television programs, make recordings, appear in movies, create music videos, or go on concert tours. Many musicians work in cities in which there are fairly large populations and where entertainment and recording activities are concentrated, such as Nashville, New York, Los Angeles, San Fran- cisco, Boston, Philadelphia, and Chicago. Working Conditions for Musicians The life of a musician is not an easy one. Professional musicians are often forced into work schedules that are long and erratic, depending on how heavy the rehearsal and presentation schedules are. Usually daily practices or rehearsals are required, particularly for new projects. Work weeks in excess of forty hours are com- mon. Travel is often a familiar part of a musician’s or singer’s life, and a routine that includes daytime, nighttime, weekend, or holi- day work is entirely possible. Musicians who are lucky enough to be hired for a full season (a "master agreement") work for up to fifty-two weeks. Those who must work for more than one employer are always on the lookout for additional gigs, and many supplement their incomes by find- ing work in other related or unrelated jobs. 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. In some taverns and restaurants, smoke and odors may be present, and lighting and ventilation may be inadequate. Learning the Music Game Many people who become professional musicians begin studying their instrument of choice (whether it be voice, organ, harp, harp- sichord, string, woodwind, brass, or percussion) in childhood and continue the study via private or group lessons throughout ele- mentary and high school.In addition,they usually garner valuable experience by playing in a school or community band or orches- tra or with a group of friends. Singers usually start training when their voices mature. All musicians need extensive and prolonged training to acquire the necessary skills, knowledge, and ability to interpret music. Par- ticipation in school musicals, religious institutions, community events, state fairs, bands, or choirs often provides good early train- ing and experience. Necessary formal training may be obtained through conservatory study, college or university study, personal study with a professional, or all of the above. Over six hundred colleges, universities, and conservatories offer four-year programs that result in a bachelor’s degree in music or music education. Usually both pop and classical music are studied. Course work will include classes in music theory, music composition, music interpretation, literature, conducting, drama, foreign languages, acting, and how to play a musical instrument. Other academic studies include course work in science, literature, philosophy, and the arts. Classroom instruction, reading assign- ments, discussion groups, and actual performances are included. A large number of performances are encouraged and expected, and students are evaluated on their progress during their time at the college. At the undergraduate level, a typical program for a violin major might consist of the following courses: • Instrument • Materials and Literature • Ear Training • Piano • Music History • Orchestra • Piano and Strings Chamber Music • String Quartet • Introduction to Literature • French, German, Italian, or Spanish (or another foreign language) • Academic electives The types of schools offering such courses vary widely. Here is an example of several. Small College Brenau University, a small college in Gainesville, Georgia, offers a bachelor’s degree program in performance. Areas of concentra- tion include voice, piano, and piano accompanying. The advantages of this type of school are that classes tend to be small, the atmosphere is friendly, and students receive a great deal of one-on-one attention. Before they can major in music, Brenau students must go through an audition. Once accepted, they com- plete courses such as the following: • History of Music • Theory • History • Period History • Choir • Major Instrument • Minor Instrument • Conducting • Diction • Opera Literature • Music Literature and Pedagogy They also complete electives in music, theater, dance, or foreign languages, along with general education courses in English, math and other areas. For more information, contact: Director of Music Brenau University One Centennial Circle Gainesville, GA 30501 Large University At a large university, students generally have access to more pro- grams than at smaller schools, including those at the graduate level. In addition, more courses within each program may also be available. Michigan State University, for instance, offers a bachelor of music degree in music performance with concentrations in five performance areas: piano, stringed instruments, wind instru- ments, percussion instruments, or voice.A piano pedagogy option is also available. Piano majors, for example, must take the following courses in addition to meeting performance requirements and completing general education courses: • Chamber Music • Keyboard Skills • Conducting for Music Performance Majors • Keyboard Methods and Literature • Piano Accompanying • Piano Performance • Keyboard Literature to Mid-Nineteenth Century • Keyboard Literature since the Mid-Nineteenth Century They also must complete two of these courses: • History of Oratorio • Song Literature: German • Art Song Literature: European and American • Music of the Eighteenth Century • Nineteenth-Century European and American Music Literature • Twentieth-Century European and American Music Literature • History of Opera Students in other areas have a similarly diverse range of course selections. Community College For students who don’t want to spend four years or more in col- lege, or who would like to save money and transfer later, commu- nity college programs can be ideal if music courses are available. At Lewis and Clark Community College in Illinois, students may earn an associate in fine arts degree in music performance. Programs are also available in music business, music theory, jazz studies, jazz performance, theory and composition, sacred music, and music pedagogy. Along with general education requirements, students complete courses such as Music Theory, Music Literature and History, Introduction to Music Literature, and hands-on instruction with the instruments of their choice, including trombone, tuba, per- cussion, violin, string bass, electric bass, guitar, piano, organ, or voice. Basic Traits for Success Those who are considering careers in music definitely need musi- cal talent. They also should have improvisational skills, versatility, the ability to sight-read, outstanding music memory, finger dex- terity, the ability to distinguish differences in pitch, determina- tion, imagination, creativity, perseverance, the ability to work with others, poise, and stage presence. Since high-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. For announcers and disc jockeys, additional education beyond secondary school, particularly course work in areas such as public speaking, writing, English, communications, music, or radio and television broadcasting, is very advantageous. Desirable personal qualities include charisma, a pleasing voice, a good sense of humor, and expertise about the field of music. In addition, gain- ing experience as a production assistant or writer is beneficial, as well as securing a radio telephone operator permit from the Fed- eral Communications Commission (FCC). Musical conductors must have at least a high school diploma (and usually a college education) and knowledge of the arts, musi- cal history, harmony, and theory. Some understanding of lan- guages, such as French, German, Latin, and Italian, can also be helpful.Desirable qualities include charisma,a great ear for music, an air of style, and both business and musical savvy.Also desirable are knowledge of a wide range of instruments, advanced sight- reading skills, a sense of showmanship, the ability to lead, skills in performing in an appealing way, and the ability to use a baton to control timing, rhythm, and structure. Individuals become musi- cal conductors only after spending many years as musicians while studying to become conductors. Earnings for Musicians The range of financial rewards for musicians is wide.According to the U.S. Department of Labor, median annual earnings of salaried musicians and singers were just over $36,000 in 2002. The middle 50 percent earned between $18,660 and $59,970. While the lowest 10 percent earned less than $13,040, the highest 10 percent earned more than $96,250. Salaries tended to be higher than average in performing arts companies and lower in religious organizations. For a relative few who become famous, earnings may be in the millions of dollars annually. This is not true just of rock stars; some orchestra conductors earn seven-figure salaries. But for most performers, such earnings will never be a realistic possibility. A number of factors may affect income. Earnings often depend on the number of hours and weeks worked per year, a performer’s professional reputation, and the setting. The most successful musicians earn performance or recording fees that far exceed the median earnings. The American Federation of Musicians has reported that weekly minimum salaries in major orchestras ranged from $734 to $1,925 during the 2002–2003 performing season. Each orchestra works out a separate contract with its local union, and individual musicians are eligible to negotiate salary variations. While top orchestras have a season ranging from twenty-four to fifty-two weeks, regional orchestras tend to have fewer perfor- mances. As a result, minimum salaries are often lower. The same is true in community orchestras, which often have even more lim- ited levels of funding. Some musicians employed by larger symphony orchestras work under master wage agreements that guarantee a season’s work up to fifty-two weeks. Other musicians, however, may face relatively long periods of unemployment between jobs. Even when employed, it is very common for musicians and singers to work part-time in unrelated occupations. Because 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 paid vacations. As a result, 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 Associated Actors and Artists of America. Future Prospects for Musicians Music is a crowded field. Competition for musician jobs is keen, and talent alone is no guarantee of success. The glamour and potential high earnings in this occupation attracts many talented and ambitious individuals. The U.S. Department of Labor projects that overall employ- ment of musicians will grow about as fast as the average for all occupations through the year 2012. Most new wage and salary jobs for musicians will be found in religious organizations and in bands, orchestras, and other entertainment groups. Slower-than- average growth is projected for self-employed musicians, such as those who perform in nightclubs, restaurants, concert tours, and elsewhere. Competition is always great for announcers or disc jockeys. They must sometimes work on a freelance rather than a salaried basis. Ongoing changes in the world of radio, such as the growth of syndicated programs and the rise of satellite radio, may limit the number of openings in the future. For musical conductors, the outlook is not especially promis- ing. Job openings will be limited, and competition to fill them will be fierce. Career Development Strategies in Music The Job Search In a way, getting ready for a job search is like getting ready to do battle; you must arm yourself with all the best weapons avail- able to you and make the best possible plan of attack. The best weapons available to you include a well-designed resume, a well- conceived cover letter, a well-selected portfolio, and an audition tape or disc in the form of video or audio. The Resume For prospective musicians or for those who aspire to other per- forming careers, a resume is an essential tool just as it is for other career fields.A resume should include significant information that would make an employer want to hire you above all others, or at the least grant you an interview. Standing as a summary of your experience, skills and abilities, strengths, accomplishments, and education, the resume’s importance cannot be underestimated. Most experts agree that the best approach is to keep a resume focused and as brief as possible. Complete sentences are not nec- essary; phrases are acceptable. Keep your resume to a maximum of two pages—one is even better. Don’t list everything you ever did in your life; highlight important skills and accomplishments. One type of resume, the chronological resume, includes the fol- lowing elements: Heading. Provide a heading at the top of the page that includes your name, home address, e-mail address, and phone number(s). Invest in an answering machine or answering service if you don’t already have one—it’s an absolute necessity! Work Experience. This will be the main part of your resume, where your prospective employers will focus to determine whether or not you have the right qualifications for the job. So here is where you must show your expertise by emphasizing your accomplishments. Work experience is usually listed in reverse chronological order, beginning with your most recent position. Entries should be complete, listing the job title, dates of employ- ment, employer, and location, as well as descriptions of your responsibilities in each position. Use action verbs. Passive words don’t have the same impact. Education. Next to work experience, education is most impor- tant. Include all of the schools you’ve attended, the degrees you’ve earned, your field of concentration, and relevant extracurricular activities (student choral director, for example). Other Elements. In addition, your resume might include the following sections: • Professional Associations • Awards and Honors • Special Skills • References Nowadays, many resumes are posted online rather than printed and mailed or hand delivered, but the same basic principles still apply. The Cover Letter A cover letter is a document that sells the recipient on reading the resume. Cover letters are not used as frequently as they once were, since so many job applications are now submitted electronically. But they still have their place when resumes are mailed to poten- tial employers, and electronic versions can also be helpful. When used, a cover letter should be directed to a specific per- son whose name and spelling you have verified. Cover letters should be tailored to each specific company or job opening. Don’t use a form letter here, although some of the information, includ- ing the job you are seeking and some elements of your profes- sional background, may be the same. Cover letters should consist of the following elements: 1. A salutation directed specifically to the person who can hire you. 2. The opening, something that catches the attention of the reader. Be creative! Introduce yourself and specify the job for which you want to be considered. If you have a referral name, by all means mention it, and if you are responding to an ad, state that. If possible, show your researching skills by pointing out something new or positive you know about this employment possibility. 3. The body provides a brief summary of your qualifications for the job and refers to the resume, which will reinforce your selling campaign to win an interview or audition. 4. In the closing, request an interview and state your intention to follow up with a call, preferably on a specific date. If to be printed rather than submitted electronically, use the standard closing,"Sincerely yours," and type your name, leaving room in between for you to sign your name. It’s not a bad idea to put your address, phone number, and e-mail address under your name in the event your letter gets separated from the resume, which includes that vital information. Avenues to Music-Related Jobs What path leads to a job in music? The possibilities are wide ranging. Those who study music at an educational institution may find their first jobs by going through the school’s career-services office. Working closely with these human-resource professionals can provide you with a wealth of worthwhile advice. For example, since orchestra musicians usually audition for positions after completing their formal training, career-services staff at your school may provide you with a list of possible audition locations. Finding positions through want ads or ads published in trade journals is still a popular form of seeking jobs. Even more com- mon nowadays is the use of Internet job sites and those main- tained by employers. Professional organizations and associations may also offer you direct employment possibilities or provide you with agencies,companies,or other employers or contacts that may eventually evolve into positions. Consider joining an association that caters to your own musical specialty or to the field of music in general. It is important to realize that, no matter what the field, the majority of people find their jobs through networking. That means that you must make a concerted effort to let people know what your expertise is and that you are available. Talk to friends and acquaintances; go to club meetings and association work- shops. Volunteer to help with an event. Converse with people you deal with in everyday life: cleaners, bank tellers, personal accoun- tants—anyone you can think of. Of course, you may not hear about an opening directly, but one person may give you the name of another to contact, which could eventually lead to a job. In the music business, it is wise to get to know as many people as possi- ble, not only to make contacts that will lead to jobs, but in order to make contacts that may lead to internships, volunteer opportu- nities, or part-time work. Send a resume and cover letter to everyone you know who has any link to the music business. Let people know whether you have a tape or CD available that showcases your performing ability. If they want to hear it, they’ll get back in touch (don’t send these things out if they are not requested). Keep track of the responses, and follow up with people who respond. Individual musicians often join together with others to form local bands. Once a group is formed, you can advertise by placing ads, putting up notices, and spreading the message by word of mouth.You might also want to create a website for the band.After building a reputation, you may be able to obtain work through a booking agent or be qualified to become part of larger, more established groups. After having some performing under your belt, you might visit recording studios and talk to anyone you can. Tell them about yourself, your experience, your musical specialties. Make sure you leave your business card (or a sheet with your contact information and experience listed) with your instrument written on it. In fact, always carry cards with you and pass them out whenever you pos- sibly can. You may need to have a demo CD made to leave with possible employers. Demos, which are recordings of your voice or instrumental work, provide a good way to display your talents at their very best. Here’s a final birth-name challenge: Ramon Estevez.

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