6 Careers in Classical Music: With Duties, Salaries and Tips

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published 3 May 2022

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Classical music can be a fulfilling career field, allowing candidates to nurture their interests and passions while earning a salary and building their reputations. Candidates with considerable music skills and a specialisation in classical technique may benefit from various career options. Understanding the available careers can help you make informed career choices and encourage you to take the relevant steps to secure a classical music role. In this article, we discuss six careers in classical music, describe the salaries and primary responsibilities for each career and provide tips to secure a role in the classical music industry.

What are careers in classical music?

Careers in classical music refer to careers that practise classical music or contribute to the industry in some way. Classical music primarily refers to orchestral or operatic music dating to the pre-1830s in most European traditions. Careers available in this industry typically consist of professionals who practise this type of music by playing an instrument, singing or composing and sampling music. Alternative career options include managing musicians, hosting live classical music events or participating in public relations within the music industry.

The classical music industry is extremely competitive, and professionals typically require an extensive auditioning or scouting process to become reputable within the industry. Candidates may gain access to this industry by having notable connections via their schooling or by participating in nationally recognised competitions and recitals. Working within the classical music industry requires several transferable skills, such as teamwork, attention to detail, resilience and self-discipline.

Related:16 Top Careers in Music (With Salary Expectations)

6 careers in classical music

The following are six classical music careers to help you refine your job search:

1. Music teacher

National average salary: $83,093 per year

Primary duties: Music teachers are educational professionals specialising in teaching students to read music, sing and play musical instruments. These professionals work in varying settings and at different ability levels, teaching everyone from young children as beginners to university students as experts. Music teachers may specialise in one instrument and have a basic understanding of how to teach various instruments.

They follow a national curriculum that includes both music theory and practice. Music teachers may also complete other teaching duties, such as assigning homework to their students, assessing their work to monitor progress and preparing them for competitions or events.

Related: How to Become a Music Teacher (Including FAQs)

2. Composer

National average salary: $81,623 per year

Primary duties: A composer is a musical professional who writes music to create an original or sampled piece of music for an orchestra. These professionals may create completely original pieces to debut at events or take inspiration from other classical composers to revitalise a piece of classical music. Composers primarily work with large musical companies and take responsibility for organising arrangements, harmonies and melodies.

They may compose music specifically for an event or create an original score for a film or television show. Composers may also work within educational institutions like universities, helping to guide orchestral arrangements and preparing them for competitions.

3. Singer

National average salary: $200,000 per year

Primary duties: Classical singers work with other musicians to provide vocals to accompany classical music, such as operas. Singers can specialise in different genres depending on which style suits their vocal ability.

These professionals may work alone as recording artists, or they may work with a group or band for additional support or instrumental backing. Singers may work in conjunction with composers and conductors to prepare arrangements and ensure that an orchestral accompaniment supports the singer's voice.

4. Violinist

National average salary: $72,457 per year

Primary duties: A violinist is a musician who specialises in violin playing. Violinists may work as part of an orchestra, providing important support to carry the melody in an arrangement. Violinists may also work as solo artists, recording either original work or classical pieces. These professionals may specialise in a specific genre or era of music, which then defines their instrumental technique and choice of music.

Violinists play an important role in the function of an orchestra, with the first violinist taking the major share in the control of the music by working closely with the conductor. Essentially, these professionals lead the rest of the group by setting the pace and the melody.

5. Pianist

National average salary: $67 per hour

Primary duties: A pianist is a musical professional who plays the piano as either a solo artist or in accompaniment to an orchestra. Pianists, like violinists, specialise in a particular genre and play an important role in supporting the melody and guiding an orchestra. It's common to see pianists controlling the pace of the music and having solo opportunities in an arrangement.

These professionals may also teach students to play and read sheet music while having regular positions in orchestral arrangements. Pianists work closely with conductors to control the tempo and mood of the music.

6. Conductor

National average salary: $106,405 per year

Primary duties: Conductors use batons, hand gestures and other signals to control the orchestra's pace and ensure the arrangement stays within the correct tempo for the piece of music. This ensures that all musicians stay in unison with the rest of the orchestra, with no musicians getting too far ahead or behind, as this can disrupt the arrangement.

Conductors are typically instrument players themselves, so they usually have a comprehensive understanding of how to pace the orchestra.

Related: What Do Music Producers Do? (Plus How to Become One)

Tips for gaining a role in the classical music industry

To increase your chance of securing a role in the classical music industry, there are several steps you can take to increase your reputation and build the necessary skills. Here are three ways you may do this:

1. Study for a bachelor's degree

Before gaining experience in the classical music industry, you may consider studying for a degree, majoring in music. Studying for a bachelor's degree in music from prestigious universities, such as the Australian Institute of Music, may help you perfect your music skills and prepare for auditions. During your degree, you might become familiar with multiple genres, which can help you develop your technique. Other topics may allow you to improve your sheet music reading skills, which might be a requirement to secure a classical music career.

Many music companies might require their candidates to possess a bachelor's degree to demonstrate a certain level of expertise before joining their company. During your university experience, you may have the opportunity to perform at events and recitals, which might give you a good opportunity to gain some professional feedback on your technique. Notable music professionals may attend such events, giving you the chance to network and build your reputation in the music industry.

2. Join musical clubs

Joining musical clubs is a good opportunity to become familiar with working as part of a large musical group. Groups such as choirs or orchestras typically offer candidates the chance to learn how to play their instruments or sing in unison, which is a desirable technique for working within the classical music industry. Musical clubs may also compete in competitions around the country, offering candidates the chance to gain recognition for their skills.

Having experience in a musical group is also valuable when constructing your professional resume, as this serves as experience in the industry. This also allows candidates to expand their professional network and connect with like-minded candidates who may offer advice or employment opportunities. Musical companies might expect candidates to have experience playing in a musical ensemble before accepting them for a position.

3. Practise

Music companies may only consider candidates for a position if they have perfected their musical skills. This includes reading sheet music confidently, possessing the necessary grades from the Australian Music Examinations Board and having a high standard in playing instruments or singing.

This means that candidates who practise their skills regularly may minimise the chances of mistakes during auditions and performances. It's a good idea to enlist the help of a professional musician, such as a music teacher, to observe your music sessions as they may be able to give you important advice to help improve your technique by recognising common mistakes or opportunities for improvement.

Salary figures reflect data listed on the quoted websites at time of writing. Salaries may vary depending on the hiring organisation and a candidate's experience, academic background and location. Please note that none of the companies, institutions or organisations mentioned in this article are affiliated with Indeed.

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