Just as every English Literature student thinks they’ll be the one to write the next Ulysses, it’s tempting for music students to think their post-studies career must be as a professional musician or bust. Of course, bold ambitions are a fine thing, and the next great composer isn’t going to emerge from nowhere, but there are more fascinating and rewarding career pathways for the musically talented than you may realise. From mastering scoring software to create exceptionally engraved music, to applying music as medicine, here are some of the professional music roles you may not have considered.
One of the features that distinguishes music from other art forms is that, often, the original creator will have little to no direct influence on how the work is presented to an audience. Painters know exactly what their audience will see, but unless a composer is physically present whenever their music is performed, they have to trust that the written notation is accurate enough to let the players bring it to life correctly.
That’s where copyists prove crucial – they form the bridge between the composer and the performer, engraving the handwritten score into professional notation. Prior to modern computer technology, this would have involved expensive, complex machinery, but now it’s largely done via music notation software.
The UK’s various arts organisations play a vital role in helping bring the arts, including music, to a wider audience than they would otherwise receive. As such, an arts administration role often requires not only a keen interest in the arts, but a strong set of organisational and project management skills, covering everything from planning events and performances to marketing and securing funding.
For those who looking to put their interest in music to practical, tangible use, an arts administration role could help to support and develop the important work of the country’s arts organisations.
The role of a music librarian involves cataloguing and maintaining music libraries and collections, and can cover everything from dealing with reference requests to processing donations and digitizing collections.
There are two main types – academic and public libraries will typically keep books, written scores and media samples, but librarians for a specific group or institution, such as an ensemble, orchestra or opera house, might oversee that group’s own collection of scores and parts. Music librarians can therefore play an important part in music preservation, as well as helping performers keep track of their collections between performances.
Becoming a music teacher can often seem a little unglamorous to musicians still set on becoming the new Beethoven, but it’s an important and worthwhile career that involves more than the old stereotype of failing valiantly to teach an unruly mob a handful of piano chords. Nowadays teaching music can involve pretty much anything from traditional tools and instruments to inspiring students to create their own youthful compositions using scoring software. You never know what fresh new talent you’ll inspire – budding composer Sam Rudd-Jones won the BBC Proms Inspire Competition 2016 in the Upper Junior Category, with a piece he created using the professional notation software Dorico, all while still at school.
If you believe that music really can help the world, then the all-too-often-overlooked field of music therapy could be the perfect career path for you. Musical therapists utilise music’s potential as a language not reliant on words to communicate and develop relationships with patients who may have a range of physical or mental ailments.
Medical research has suggested that music therapy can alleviate symptoms of serious mental health conditions, Parkinson’s disease and depression, among many others. Although it requires additional training, music therapy allows musicians a great deal of creative freedom to work with their patients, and can be a rewarding career option that too many people remain unaware of.
Whether you’re looking to put your musical knowledge to use in a career for life, or hoping to supplement your income as you slowly create your musical masterpiece, these roles offer a range of challenges, rewards and engaging opportunities. There’s more to music than the concert hall and the recording studio, and these roles help bring it out into the world in practical and beneficial ways.
Published by Edward Martin