Band Leader

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Band Leader


There are many types of bands. Small garage bands, swing bands, orchestras. The bigger they get, the more likely it is that a group can lose focus. A group of four punk rock players has a simpler time discussing issues like band members, tour dates and finances, while an orchestra with 50 musicians needs a spokesperson to act on their behalf.

Band leaders solve this problem. They choose the band's music, audition musicians, organize rehearsals and schedule performances. They might even sing, or talk to the audience. Depending on the size of the band they lead, they may work in all facets of management, or they may work alongside an accountant and manager. Regardless of the size of the band, the band leader is required to be a supervisor as well as an artist.

As such, a band leader must have a dynamic personality, and be organized, efficient and driven. They are usually very good musicians themselves, who communicate well with individuals and groups. Band leaders have thorough training regarding rhythm, phrasing and dynamics, but all develop their own style of working with their bands. They usually come up with unique ways of expressing directions to the musicians, telling them when to get louder, quieter, faster or whatever the music and the mood calls for at the time.

It is up to the band leader to ensure that the musicians all stay in time, follow the music at the right speed and arrive at the finish together. This means they have to be able to hear each instrument independent of the others as they play. This could involve listening for 50 different instrument voices, and loud, rousing performances can leave a band leader exhausted with mental and physical strain and effort.
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  Interests and Skills  
Band leaders must be quite confident, and inspirational to others. They should be flexible, sensitive, and caring. They should be take-charge kind of people, who enjoy controlling situations and coming up with creative solutions when tackling problems. They need to appreciate all types of music, be able to play a number of instruments and read complicated music.

  Typical Tasks  
  • Select music that is appropriate to the talents, abilities and strengths of the band
  • Study music intently to learn the music in detail
  • Develop a particular interpretation of the music
  • Use gestures to shape the music and to keep the musicians in time
  • Audition musicians for the group
  • Schedule, prepare for and direct rehearsals.
  • Meet with composers to discuss interpretations of their work
  • Perform administrative duties
  • Meet with soloists for extra sessions
  • Coordinate promotional activities
  • Liaise with concert promoters and booking agents
  • A band leader's tasks will vary, depending on the size and nature of the group. Generally, though, each day is spend listening to music, analyzing music, and perfecting the band's interpretation of the music. Some time will be spent traveling to and from concert sites, as well as in meetings with other band administrators, venue owners and the musicians themselves.

  Workplaces, Employers and Industries  
  • Band leaders can work in a number of environments. They can be found in public and private schools, high schools, university and colleges. They may work with small ensembles, as well as large orchestras. If they work with schools, they will spend time in a classroom, while band leaders outside of the school system work in concert halls and practice studios. If they lead a dance band, they may play weddings, clubs or restaurants. They will work long hours, especially when preparing for a major performance. They may travel for concerts with their bands, all over the world.

  Long Term Career Potential  
Band leaders have a few options open to them. They may become department heads in schools, or become leaders for orchestras or ensembles. They can tour the globe as guest leaders with bands and orchestras. They can become composers, arrangers, or musicians themselves.

  Educational Paths  
Band leaders need quite a few skills. They should be able to read music, understand the role of most instruments, as well as rhythm and tempo. They need to learn rules of conducting, and they should understand the standard repertoire of great composers. Usually, band leaders obtain this knowledge in university, although it is possible to attend a conservatory. Band leaders who wish to work in the school system need to also complete teacher training. These students may complete their education degree alongside their music degree, or after their music degree, or may choose to only get their education degree, but specialize in music.

Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2014-15 Edition,
Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Employment Statistics, 2002,

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