Musical Director

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Musical Director


Have you ever been to a musical? There is a lot of talent up there on stage: acting, singing, dancing, sets, lighting, and costumes. The well-choreographed dances and well-fitting costumes did not just appear. Each aspect of a show has someone in charge of it: the stage manager worries about props and lines, the makeup artist ensures the actors look great, and the musical director teaches the songs, coaches the actors, and directs or monitors the orchestra. Musical directors are talented musicians and/or singers, who understand many aspects of music, and do everything from auditioning players to conducting the music.

Musical directors can also be in charge of choirs, symphony orchestras, and the musical content of a musical or awards show. The range of their responsibilities varies depending on the size of the group they work with. Musical directors can choose the music the group will perform, audition musicians and singers, organize and direct rehearsals, conduct the players, and schedule performances. They may be responsible for all facets of management, or they may work alongside an accountant and manager. Regardless of the size of the band, the musical director is required to be a supervisor as well as an artist.

As such, a musical director must have a dynamic personality, and be organized, efficient, and driven. They are usually very good musicians or singers themselves, who communicate well with individuals and groups. Musical directors have thorough training regarding rhythm, phrasing, and dynamics, but all develop their own style of working with their performers. Their jobs can be tiring, and loud, rousing performances can leave a musical director exhausted with mental and physical strain and effort.
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  Interests and Skills  
Musical directors must be 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 love all types of music, and be able to play a number of instruments, sing, read complicated sheet music, and have a love of music, song, and theater.

  Typical Tasks  
  • Select music that is appropriate to the talents, abilities and strengths of the performers
  • Study music intently to learn the music in detail
  • Develop a particular interpretation of the music
  • Conduct the musicians
  • Audition musicians for the group
  • Schedule, prepare for and direct rehearsals.
  • Meet with composers to discuss interpretations of their work
  • Meet with show's acting director to discuss the musical
  • Perform administrative duties
  • Meet with soloists for extra sessions
  • A musical director's tasks will vary, depending on the size of the group, and the nature of the group. Generally, though, each day is spend listening to music, analyzing music, and perfecting the performers' interpretations of the music. Some time will be spent traveling, to and from halls, as well as in meetings with other administrators, directors, venue owners, and the performers themselves.

  Workplaces, Employers and Industries  
  • Musical directors 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 and huge musical play casts. If they work with the schools, they will spend time in a classroom, while musical directors outside of the school system work in concert halls and practice studios.

  Long Term Career Potential  
Musical directors have a few options open to them. They can become directors of musicals, composers, conductors or arrangers. They can act, sing, or dance in performances. They can leave the theater for the symphony, or vice versa. They can write music or theater reviews.

  Educational Paths  
Musical directors need quite a few skills. They should be able to read music, understand the role of most instruments, as well as tempo, theatrical style, and voice work. Usually, musical directors obtain this knowledge in university, although it is possible to attend a conservatory. The university route can be thorough, starting with a bachelor's program in music, followed by a master's degree in music. These degrees can be paired with courses in musical theater, if students are interested in theatrical work. Musical directors 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.

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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