7 Careers in Classical Music (With Job Duties and Salaries)

Updated February 3, 2023

Classical music is a genre of music that involves intricate movements and highly technical performance methods. Many musicians specialize in classical music, especially when they're interested in playing an instrument with orchestras or singing in classical concerts or operas. If you have a background in classical music and want to work toward a career in it, you might benefit from learning about the different jobs you can pursue. In this article, we explore a list of seven careers in classical music, including their average salaries and typical job duties.

Related: 35 Interview Questions for Musicians

What are careers in classical music?

There are many careers in classical music to pursue. Many classical music jobs involve musical performance, like playing an instrument, conducting an orchestra or singing. You can also find work in the industry in administrative positions, such as professionals who oversee performance venues or composers who write their own original pieces of music. Some other common career options in classical music are in education, like music teachers at schools or instrument specialists who offer lessons.

Related: 21 Jobs in Music Composition

7 careers in classical music

Here are seven jobs you can pursue in the classical music industry. Note that some of these salaries come from the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics. For the most up-to-date salaries, please click on the links below:

1. Pianist

National average salary: $23,790 per year

Primary duties: A pianist is a musician who specializes in playing the piano. Pianists who work in the classical music industry can have many responsibilities, such as learning new pieces of music through sight-reading and practice, providing accompaniment for singers and choirs during vocal performances and playing as part of an orchestra or band. Some pianists might also perform their own solo concerts, and others can help with auditions for classical productions by playing the backing tracks for auditioning singers.

2. Singer

National average salary: $37,904 per year

Primary duties: A singer is a musician who performs songs with their voice. Singers who specialize in classical music can have responsibilities like learning the notes for new pieces, perfecting the pronunciations for songs in foreign languages and practicing techniques for projection without microphones, especially in situations where singers perform opera. Many classical singers also perform in choirs or smaller groups that require them to learn specific lines of music within songs and match the tone and volume of the rest of the singers in the group.

Related: How To Become a Singer

3. Musician

National average salary: $42,958 per year

Primary duties: A musician is someone who plays a particular instrument or set of instruments professionally. In classical music, musicians can have varying job duties depending on the projects they take on, such as playing as part of a section in an orchestra or band, performing solo concerts that showcase their talents alone and providing background music for theatrical productions, like musicals or operas. Some classical musicians also work in the recording industry and record music for film soundtracks, independent albums and commercial use.

4. Conductor

National average salary: $43,614 per year

Primary duties: A conductor leads a group of musicians through playing particular pieces of music. Their job can involve hosting rehearsals to ensure each section learns their music, providing specific feedback that can help each musician improve their performance and monitoring a band, orchestra or choir during performances to ensure they remain on time and in tune. Most conductors use a wand or baton to point to direct their musicians and move in unique patterns that signal to each section for when to play.

5. Composer

National average salary: $52,250 per year

Primary duties: A composer is a musician who writes new pieces of music. Composers can have many responsibilities, such as using computer programs to transcribe and digitize original sheet music, playing their compositions out loud to hear how they sound and writing music for specific projects, like films or musical productions, according to specifications from music directors. Many composers also engage in performance or conducting so they can help introduce their musical compositions to the public.

6. Director of public relations

National average salary: $60,050 per year

Primary duties: A director of public relations, or PR director, oversees the publicity and brand awareness for an orchestra or performance venue. PR directors can organize press coverage for upcoming performances, develop promotional materials for advertising campaigns and find new opportunities for funding. Many PR directors also work with individual musicians to help them build audiences and gain positive recognition in the public.

7. Music teacher

National average salary: $66,900 per year

Primary duties: A music teacher educates students about concepts in music and techniques for playing musical instruments. Music teachers who specialize in classical music can have responsibilities like offering lectures about the different periods of classical music and notable artists, teaching students how to play classical music using specific instruments and helping students practice by monitoring their progress and demonstrating playing techniques.

Tips for finding a job in classical music

Here are some tips you can use to enter the classical music industry:

Earn a degree

While some professionals can build a classical music career after teaching themselves about music and performance, many prepare for the field by earning music degrees. This is because music degree programs can provide in-depth training in performance techniques and education in music theory concepts that can be highly valuable in the classical music industry.

To determine which music degree is right for you, conduct some research on programs you might be interested in and identify schools that offer courses in subjects you want to study. For example, if you hope to become a classical pianist, it can be beneficial to find a college that offers courses in piano and piano performance.

Related: 12 Common Music Degrees

Practice often

As many jobs in classical music involve performance, practicing can be a key part of preparing for a career in the field. This can help you improve your techniques and abilities to master new pieces of music, especially complex or intricate songs. Many classical musicians practice every day, so it can be beneficial to play your instrument at least once each day, on your own or with an instructor.

Build a network

Several jobs in the classical music industry involve playing music with groups of other musicians or collaborating with other creative professionals. Because of this, building an extensive professional network can help you access more job opportunities. For example, if you play in an orchestra with a particular conductor and establish a positive working relationship, you might be more likely to secure another job with the same conductor in the future.

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