How to Become a Freelance Music Director

How to become a freelance music director

Music directors—traditionally known as conductors, are the artistic leaders of musical theater productions, operas and symphonies. Their job duties may vary depending on the place of work and include the selection of music needed to be performed, ensuring the musicians or cast are well-acquainted with the music, supervision in the interpretation of the music and organization of the orchestra.

Music directors have a great role to play in the casting of musicians. They are the masters of music, and without them no artistic performance is complete. The idea of music in our lives is more or less inspired by the wonderful scores these conductors create.

Music direction is among the most popular freelance options currently. With the progressive expansion of the freelance community, especially with the advent of the Internet, there is a dramatic increase in the number of work opportunities. One can establish a rich career as a music director in the freelance community by keeping in mind certain pointers. Well, now, you may wonder what those pointers are, and how to go about them.

In this article, we shall take all those four factors involved in the making of a successful freelance music director step-by-step. To know more, read below:

1. Job requirements to become a freelance music director

There are hundreds of disciplines in music direction, and you will have to decide what kind of music you will be comfortable with. For example, not everyone is comfortable with orchestral music or jazz, and therefore, you will have to keenly research in this area before actually planning to become a freelance music director.

Let us just presume you know what kind of music you want to learn, then follow whatever is written in the following paragraphs and implement them with due consideration.

The following are the necessary job essentials to become a music director:

  • The minimum educational requirement, in this case, is a Bachelor’s degree. Generally, a Bachelor’s degree is essential for choir directors whereas those willing to become symphony orchestra conductors generally required post graduate
  • In addition to that, you must possess knowledge of musical instruments and other basics. While you may have acquired it through training, certificate courses or music-related degree courses may help you a great chunk in this regard. Keeping that in mind, we shall enumerate a few music schools in India, which offer a myriad of music courses.
  • VisvaBharati University, Shantiniketan, West Bengal is a reputed autonomous university, which offers a range of courses in music; The University of Delhi offers post-graduate degree courses in music and Ph.D. in Music; Delhi School of Music is a prestigious music school in the country, having a tie up with a number of internationally renowned music schools such as Trinity College of Music, London; KM Music Conservatory has been established by none other than A.R. Rahman and provides two globally recognized degrees in collaboration with Middlesex University, UK, etc.
  • In case you wish to learn music direction in a foreign institution, you may go for Royal Academy of Music, England; Berkeley School of Music, Boston; the Julliard School of Music, New York; Radcliffe Institute of Advanced Study, Massachusetts.
  • Formal education is important and so is the experience. The portfolio of skills must highlight your list of experiences, and to ensure you have the best of them, you will have to gain performance experience. Become an apprentice to professional music directors in the region or country, and study the art of direction more closely. Find out about orchestras in the country and work in them. In India, the Symphony Orchestra of India is a prominent symphony orchestra founded by the National Centre for the Performing Arts, Mumbai. Outside India, there are a number of orchestras such as Vienna Philharmonic, Cleveland Orchestra, Saito Kinen Orchestra, Leipzig Gewandhaus, Russian National Orchestra, etc.

2. Skills needed to become a freelance music director

Music direction is a tedious job, requiring a lot of patience, hard work, and coordination. Thus, without considerable skills, you will not be able to come up with a composition.

Take note of the following mentioned skills and work on them:

  • Interpretative skills: You must work on your interpretative skills and instincts. For that to happen, you must engage in different types of direction experiences such as a soloist, orchestral musician, chamber musician, conductor, etc. You must frequently attend musical performances and learn from them.
  • Communicating the thought: There is always a purpose in music. When composing a musical piece, you are trying to give melodious contours to the idea behind it. This skill is extremely difficult to explain, but those who know the overtone in the statement must have already understood.
  • Creating emotional responses: The music director must have the capacity to evoke sentimental, dramatic and powerful imageries. The audience must feel the message being communicated to them through music.
  • Deep understanding of instruments: You must be well-acquainted with all the instruments being used in the performance.
  • Conducting skills: There are a number of techniques involved in conducting a musical performance such as the Baton technique, which involves the ability to sustain the continuity of line, rhythm, structure and interpretative integrity throughout the performance; rehearsal techniques, which require the ability to diagnose, recognize, correct music, identify intonation problems, etc.
  • Inter-personal skills: You must be able to communicate your thoughts and suggestions to the musicians working along. Without injuring their dignity, you must express your disappointment but also ensure they are not discouraged in playing music.
  • Administrative skills: Music direction involves the interplay of a number of administrative matters such as fundraising, governance, public relations, business operations, etc. Thus, administrative skills are important for handling the operations effectively.

3. Work opportunities for freelance music director

A music director can work in a number of settings:

  • You can start your own orchestra and become its conductor, or become a conductor for an already established orchestra.
  • You may start a career in the film and music industry and offer music direction in related projects.
  • There is a lot of scope as a music director in religious organizations, dance troupes, opera companies, etc.
    Becoming a music director is not that simple, but keeping tabs on job availability has become relatively easy. There are a number of websites that offer the convenience of finding all kinds of jobs in one place and only a few clicks away. To secure the benefits of these websites, create profiles, update a properly drafted portfolio of skills and submit applications. When creating profiles, the website will usually create a database of your preferred skills and will, accordingly, send emails whenever a job related to any of the preferred skills is posted. Examples of these websites are,,, and

4. Pay scale of a freelance music director

The pay scale varies depending upon a host of factors such as the educational qualifications and work experience of the music director, the status of the workplace, the degree of direction involved, and whatnot. While in freelancing the freelancer often quotes the price, but if the freelancer is fresh in the field, he may not necessarily enjoy much discretion in this respect; on the other side, an experienced music director knows his value and will name the price accordingly. Thus, a lot of research is needed to be carried out.