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How to Become a Music Conductor in the US

Conducting is the art of using visible gestures to direct a choir, orchestra, concert band or other musical performance. Musical conductors are the artists behind this activity. Their primary task is to unify the performers or singers, resulting in a balanced performance with seamless vocal harmony.

What Do Music Conductors Do?

The primary duties of music conductors include:

  • Organizing rehearsals, conducting auditions and selecting performers
  • Leading rehearsals – This involves training the performers to correctly interpret gestures of tone, tempo and other musical elements
  • Inspiring singers into producing a creative performance
  • Relaying ideas to performers through gestures during performances
  • Ensuring the musical performance begins and ends within the set timeframe

Work Environment

As an aspiring music conductor, prepare yourself for an irregular work schedule. This is mainly because the entertainment industry comes alive when darkness strikes! Unless you lead a church choir, expect to conduct auditions and rehearsals during the day and direct actual performances in the evenings.


The job can also involve extensive travel, especially if you lead a band with a large fan base.

Salary

How much do music conductors make in a year? Find out below:

Occupation

Annual salary Range

Music conductor

$15,000 - $200,000

Source: Berklee College of Music

Entry Requirements

Successful music conductors have a solid background in music. As such, earning a bachelor’s degree in any of the following fields can get you started:

  • Music theory
  • Music composition
  • Music Education

At the graduate level, a few universities offer a master’s degree in music conducting, which you should earn to make yourself the best candidate for the job. The universities offering this credential include:

Important Qualities

Having the right education alone cannot make you an accomplished music conductor. Below are some of the crucial skills and abilities you should possess:

  • Exceptional interpretative skills and instincts
  • The ability to invoke a range of emotional responses from performers
  • A superior mastery of various musical styles
  • Good communication skills
  • A high level of creativity
  • State presence
  • Good eye-hand coordination
  • An appetite for listening to music
  • Good interpersonal skills
  • Teamwork skills

Career Development

As a newly qualified music conductor, you will certainly begin by leading small bands, choirs and orchestras. To heighten your chances of leading large bands, you should:

  • Gain vast conducting experience
  • Attend continuing education classes to keep your job skills current
  • Join a relevant professional association such as the American Choral Directors Association and the Conductors Guild. By securing membership in such associations, you will gain access to professional development resources like training workshops and conferences.

Job Prospects

The employers of music conductors include:

  • Religious organizations, most notably churches
  • Elementary and secondary schools
  • The military (Military Bands)
  • Performing arts companies
  • Independent artists and performers
  • Colleges and universities

Apart from progressing to lead large bands, you can also move into the education sector by earning a doctorate in choral conducting or musical arts.

Finally, the number of people attending musical performances is increasing. This increase is not, however, enough to significantly raise the demand for music conductors. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the employment of music directors will grow by 5 percent -- slower than the 11 percent average for all jobs -- from 2012 through 2022.

So if you have the talent and dedication to become a music conductor, you already have what it takes to beat the competition and get hired.