If you have natural music ability and a flair for directing, you may want to combine your talents into one career, as a Music Director. There are several levels you can take this to, but people who specialize in this field can either work in community theater as the lead director for musical productions, in high schools or local theater groups, or go for higher levels of the career by making connections with the “big time,” where they can work in film or the entertainment industry, like John Williams, who composes famous original scores for Steven Spielberg.
Music Director Requirements & Qualifications
To be a music director, you need a background in music and directing, preferably Theater Directing or Dramatic Arts. Most musicals require a director who is skilled in both drama and music, so the more versatile your skills are, the better. A music director should also have a flair for the creative, be able to design sets if needed, and be open to change. A natural talent in both music and theater is also helpful. If you wish to focus on directing instrumental artists, focus on instrumental music and band directing instead.
Music directors may come from different walks of life. But they all share a love of the arts and most get some form of formal education, either from an accredited university or art school, or similar institutions of higher learning. The focus should be on directing, but acting and musical backgrounds are also important and relevant.
An Alternate Route
Some music directors come from the acting field, or have starred in musical plays themselves. This is a good background for directing musical productions, since people who have performed and starred in productions involving musical scores are likely to be more skilled in the area of musical directing than those who have not.
Steps to Becoming a Music Director
1) Get a degree or formal training in stage, acting, and music. This background and education should teach you all the skills necessary to become a great director of musicals or orchestral performances. If you wish to focus on more symphonic music, such as becoming a maestro in an orchestra or a band director, your focus should be more on music.
2) Perform in local productions yourself. Music directors who also act or sing are generally regarded as more talented and versatile. However, there are music directors who only lead, and are not performers themselves. If you are not a performer, you may branch out into composing. Many orchestra conductors are composers of original scores, as well as directors of orchestras.
3) Connect with fellow musicians and artists. It is always valuable to network with those in your profession, even if you plan to “go it alone” in your career. Visit local music or fine arts groups and see if you can join as a member. Share your talents and learn from others.
4) Join ASCAP and other professional organizations. ASCAP is the American Society of Composers and Performers and is widely respected among people in the music field. By joining the professional society of artists and other groups, you can find out what is going on in the field of music, as well as possible opportunities and openings. It also allows you to connect with others in the field and if you are a member, others will take your work more seriously.
5) Learn to think outside the box. Music directing is a very versatile field. You might want to consider taking a job as a band director in a school. (For this, a 4-year degree in Music Education is required.) Then later, you could start your own musical theater company or work for a prestigious musical group. It is all up to you, your salary requirements, and which way you want to go to define yourself in your career.
Music directing can be a rewarding and fun career for the artistic-minded individual who enjoys directing a group of musicians, or who has aspirations of working in the professional music arena. From local community music theater to Carnegie Hall, how far you go with the career depends on you, your level of commitment, and determination to make it work. It all starts with credibility, and that begins with a formal education or training. Start today to make it happen!