Giving Voice to your Dream— the PASSION of MUSIC

You play the guitar, the piano, the violin. You play an instrument in the band. And when you play, you feel it. You always did. It’s like magic running through your body, out through the instrument, to fill the air, and grab the people listening.

Some people think music education is a privilege, but I think it’s essential to being human.--- Jewel

Music connects the passion of the artist to the emotions of audience like no other art. If you grew up playing an instrument, you’ve felt that thrill. You’ve played, maybe poorly, maybe well, and you’ve looked up and seen the faces watching you in wonder. The dreamy look of their feelings. And you realize, I did that.

From that time on, you imagined yourself in a concert hall, on a stage, or in a sound studio. You wondered what it would be like, to see yourself in a music video, or pulling your car up to a stoplight, and hearing yourself singing on a CD in the car next to you.

You could try doing it the way many do, on your own, in a room, teaching yourself. But many of the great musicians and singers begin studying an instrument or training their voices in an academic setting, learning from professionals— from reading music, to complex music theory, everything from the bottom up.

They go to college and get a degree in music. Why? Because there’s so much to learn.

music guitar

Musicians, singers, and related workers play musical instruments, sing, compose or arrange music, or conduct groups in instrumental or vocal performances. They may perform solo or as part of a group. Musicians, singers, and related workers entertain live audiences in nightclubs, concert halls, and theaters; others perform in recording or production studios.

Students need the time and place for professional-level education, to build the skills and hone their talents, for this level of paying musical lifestyle. Musicians need extensive and prolonged training and practice to acquire the necessary skills and knowledge to interpret music at a professional level. Courses typically include music theory, music interpretation, composition, conducting, and performance in a particular instrument or in voice. Music directors, composers, conductors, and arrangers need considerable related work experience or advanced training in these subjects.

While working toward your degree, you may learn one or more new musical instruments. Many musicians learn to play several related instruments and can perform equally well in several musical styles. Instrumental musicians, for example, may play in a symphony orchestra, rock group, or jazz combo one night, appear in another ensemble the next, and work in a studio band the following day. Some play a variety of string, brass, woodwind, or percussion instruments or electronic synthesizers.

Like other artists, musicians and singers continually strive to improve their abilities. Formal training may be obtained through private study with an accomplished musician, in a college or university music program, or in a music conservatory. An audition generally is necessary to qualify for university or conservatory study.

A master’s or doctoral degree usually is required to teach advanced music courses in colleges and universities; a bachelor’s degree may be sufficient to teach basic courses. A degree in music education qualifies graduates for a State certificate to teach music in public elementary or secondary schools. Musicians who do not meet public school music education requirements may teach in private schools and recreation associations or instruct individual students in private sessions.

Singers interpret music and text, using their knowledge of voice production, melody, and harmony. They sing character parts or perform in their own individual style. Singers are often classified according to their voice range—soprano, contralto, tenor, baritone, or bass, for example—or by the type of music they sing, such as rock, pop, folk, opera, rap, or country.

music director

Music directors and conductors conduct, direct, plan, and lead instrumental or vocal performances by musical groups, such as orchestras, choirs, and glee clubs. These leaders audition and select musicians, choose the music most appropriate for their talents and abilities, and direct rehearsals and performances. Choral directors lead choirs and glee clubs, sometimes working with a band or an orchestra conductor. Directors audition and select singers and lead them at rehearsals and performances to achieve harmony, rhythm, tempo, shading, and other desired musical effects.

Composers create original music such as symphonies, operas, sonatas, radio and television jingles, film scores, and popular songs. They transcribe ideas into musical notation, using harmony, rhythm, melody, and tonal structure. Although most composers and songwriters practice their craft on instruments and transcribe the notes with pen and paper, some use computer software to compose and edit their music.

Arrangers transcribe and adapt musical compositions to a particular style for orchestras, bands, choral groups, or individuals. Components of music—including tempo, volume, and the mix of instruments needed—are arranged to express the composer’s message. While some arrangers write directly into a musical composition, others use computer software to make changes.

Music students learn many musical styles. A broader range of interest, knowledge, and training can help expand employment opportunities and musical abilities. Voice training and private instrumental lessons, especially when taken at a young age, also help develop technique and enhance one’s performance.

Young persons considering careers in music should have musical talent, versatility, creativity, poise, and a good stage presence. Self-discipline is vital because producing a quality performance on a consistent basis requires constant study and practice. Musicians who play in concerts or in nightclubs and those who tour must have physical stamina to endure frequent travel and an irregular performance schedule. Musicians and singers also must be prepared to face the anxiety of intermittent employment and of rejection when auditioning for work.

Musicians, singers, and related workers held about 264,000 jobs, according to a USGOV study in 2006. Around 35 percent worked part time; 48 percent were self-employed. Many found jobs in cities in which entertainment and recording activities are concentrated, such as New York, Los Angeles, Las Vegas, Chicago, and Nashville.

Music industry employment chart

Music industry wage estimate chart

Musicians, singers, and related workers are employed in a variety of settings. Of those who earn a wage or salary, 35 percent were employed by religious organizations and 11 percent by performing arts companies such as professional orchestras, small chamber music groups, opera companies, musical theater companies, and ballet troupes.

Musicians and singers also perform in nightclubs and restaurants and for weddings and other events. Well-known musicians and groups may perform in concerts, appear on radio and television broadcasts, and make recordings and music videos. The U.S. Armed Forces also offer careers in their bands and smaller musical groups.

Overall employment of musicians, singers, and related workers is expected to grow 11 percent during the 2006-16 decade, about as fast as the average for all occupations. Most new wage-and-salary jobs for musicians will arise in religious organizations. Five percent growth is expected for self-employed musicians, who generally perform in nightclubs, concert tours, and other venues. The Internet and other new forms of media may provide independent musicians and singers alternative methods to distribute music.

Median annual earnings of salaried music directors and composers were $39,750 in May 2006. The middle 50 percent earned between $23,660 and $60,350. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $15,210, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $110,850.

Some of the industries pay the highest level for musical services—
Music industry chart

For self-employed musicians and singers, earnings range from nothing (as we all know), to (as we also all know) many millions of dollars yearly!

The dream is yours for the taking. If you want a career in music badly enough, invest yourself fully in the learning that makes it much more possible.

The National Association of Schools of Music accredits more than 600 college-level programs in music. Find the one that suits your dream the best, and start making it happen.

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