Music Directors and Composers
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.
This is what you may be doing
  • Select musical arrangements and compositions to be performed for live audiences or recordings
  • Prepare for performances by reviewing and interpreting musical scores
  • Direct rehearsals to prepare for performances and recordings
  • Choose guest performers and soloists
  • Audition new performers or assist section leaders with auditions
  • Practice conducting to improve technique
  • Meet with potential donors and attend fundraisers

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

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:

  • Write original music that orchestras, bands, and other musical groups perform
  • Arrange existing music into new compositions
  • Write lyrics for music or work with a lyricist
  • Meet with companies, orchestras, or other musical groups that are interested in commissioning a piece of music
  • Study and listen to music of various styles for inspiration
  • Work with musicians to record their music

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.


A degree in music theory, music composition, or conducting is generally preferred for those who want to work as a conductor or classical composer. To enter these programs, applicants are typically required to submit recordings or audition in person or both. These programs teach students about music history and styles, as well as composing and conducting techniques. Information on degree programs is available from the National Association of Schools of Music. A bachelor’s degree is typically required for those who want to work as a choir director.

There are no specific educational requirements for those interested in writing popular music. These composers usually find employment by submitting recordings of their compositions to bands, singers, and music and movie studios. They may seek representation by an agent, who helps them find employment and performance opportunities.

Work Experience

Music directors and composers typically begin their musical training as a child, learning to play an instrument or sing. Music directors and composers who are interested in classical music may seek additional training through music camps and fellowships. These programs provide participants with classes, lessons, and performance opportunities.