How Can I Become an Orchestrator?

Research what it takes to become an orchestrator. Learn about education requirements, job duties, median salary and job outlook to find out if this is the career for you. Schools offering Ethnomusicology degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Is an Orchestrator?

Orchestrators perform a variety of tasks, including creating, transposing and performing music. They may also be called music directors or conductors. They typically lead an orchestra, symphony or other musical group as they perform. They help keep the tempo, cue soloists and control the volume through conducting. Orchestrators may audition musicians for different positions, as well as choose the soloists to perform. They oversee all rehearsals and prepare the ensemble for their live performance or studio recording. These professionals may be involved in fundraising events for the ensemble and help schedule performances. The table below outlines the key points of this article.

Degree Requirements None required, but most have a formal education from college programs or music conservatories
Key Skills Interpersonal skills, creativity and communication skills
Key Responsibilities Create original scores, transpose existing works, perform and conduct performances
Job Growth (2014-2024)* 3% for music directors and composers
Median Salary (2015)*$49,820 for music directors and composers

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

What Skills Should I Have for Orchestration?

If you're considering a career as an orchestrator or arranger, it's important that you have a major passion for all kinds of music. Strong interpersonal skills and a high level of creativity are also useful. Since orchestrators work with many professionals, from conductors to performers, they should be excellent communicators and collaborators as well.

Most musicians sing or play an instrument from an early age and pursue ongoing training. Composers and music directors commonly hold a bachelor's degree in a relevant field, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Orchestrators may create original scores or transpose existing works for instruments or vocals.

Is College Necessary to Become an Orchestrator?

It is not mandatory to have a degree to become an orchestrator; however, most of these professionals are formally trained through college programs or music conservatories. In these programs, you learn music theory, composition and arrangement. Instructors typically expose you to a wide range of composition and orchestration career profiles. Graduate school is an additional option to further your music education.

How Do I Choose the Right School?

Though many colleges offer degree programs in music that teach both the performance and management aspects of the business, some schools include options where students can specialize in orchestrations for theater, television and motion pictures. When choosing an adequate college or university, you may wish to tour the facilities and see that the studio equipment and software is up to date. Another important aspect to consider is a school's internship and job placement opportunities. Pursuing hands-on training and networking experiences can help you get paid work during and after your education.

Online music schools also offer certificate, bachelor's and master's degree options; when considering online programs, it's important to ensure that schools are accredited and include your preferred amount of practical training. Choosing a music program led by experienced teachers and musicians can also be advantageous.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

Musicians and singers have related jobs that do not require formal education, though educational programs in music are widely available and beneficial. Musicians typically perform with some kind of instrument while singers specialize in using their voice. These performers may work with an orchestrator, ensemble or on their own. Actors also have related positions in the performing arts. They typically have some college education, but do not require a degree. Actors portray different characters to help tell a story. They may perform in movies, plays, television shows and more.

To continue researching, browse degree options below for course curriculum, prerequisites and financial aid information. Or, learn more about the subject by reading the related articles below:

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