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What Music Directors and Composers Do

Music directors (also called conductors) lead orchestras and other musical groups during performances and recording sessions. Composers write and arrange original music in a variety of musical styles.


Music directors typically do the following:

Music directors lead orchestras and other musical groups. They ensure that the musicians play with one coherent sound, balancing the timing, rhythm, and volume. Working with a variety of orchestras and musical groups, they give feedback to musicians and section leaders so that they can achieve the sound and style they want for the piece.

Music directors may conduct youth orchestras or orchestras at colleges and universities. Some work with orchestras that accompany dance and opera companies.

Composers typically do the following:

Composers write music for a variety of musical groups and users. Some work in a particular style of music, such as classical, jazz, or rock. They also may write for musicals, operas, or other types of theatrical productions.

Some composers write scores for movies or television; others write jingles for commercials. Many songwriters focus on composing music for popular audiences. Some composers are hired by music publishers and producers to write music for bands and groups that are under contract with the company.

Some composers use instruments to help them as they write music. Others use software that allows them to hear a piece without musicians.

For more information about careers in music, see the profile on musicians and singers. Some music directors and composers work as self-enrichment teachers, giving private music lessons to children and adults. Others work as music teachers in elementary, middle, or high schools. For more information, see the profiles on self-enrichment teachers, kindergarten and elementary school teachers, middle school teachers and high school teachers.

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2012-13 Edition