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The main types of cello jobs include performance, repair and restoration, manufacturing, teaching, sales and demonstration. Each of these cello jobs requires a slightly different skill set and expertise, having very different settings and pay rates. No matter what position a person chooses, however, he must be able to play cello competently. Many individuals overlap jobs, such as both teaching and performing.
Cello performers typically have to have a formal degree in music performance, simply because this type of education allows the player to learn music in a more well-rounded, in-depth way. A degree also verifies a specific level of competence in music and performance ability, which employers consider. Some people do succeed through private study, however, so this rule is not absolute.
If a person goes into cello performance, they have many options for where and what to play. Some of the more common jobs are chamber music gigs, such as performing as part of a string quartet as a wedding. Other cellists are able to get work performing in jazz ensembles, such as at clubs. Individuals such as Ron Carter have gained fame for jazz cello work, but generally speaking, people prefer the double bass instead of the cello for jazz playing. A cellist also can play with an orchestra or appear as a soloist, but these positions are extremely competitive, with only the best cellists offered contracts.
Another option for cello jobs is cello repair. Individuals who have this career may do everything from string replacement to replacing bridges or refinishing. These workers often are employed in music shops, but some are experts employed by particular manufacturers who have provided training. Cello repairers must have a solid understanding not only of cello construction, but also of physics and how adjustments and materials impact the overall tone, responsiveness and projection of the instruments they fix. They typically work on fairly inexpensive instruments in the student range, but repairers who work on professional models may have instruments worth many thousands of dollars on their work bench at any given time, making quality work and precision critical.
Related to cello repair work is restoration. Workers who focus on this area of repair are concerned with getting older models of cellos back into working order. Often, the instruments they work on are of enormous value because of their rarity and antique status, with some cellos being hundreds of years old. Cello restorers must be familiar with the entire history of the cello and cello music, because their job is to restore the cellos in such a way that the instruments can produce an authentic sound while played in the originally-intended manner.
Cello jobs also include manufacturing. Some of these cello workers concentrate on creating new cello designs the manufacturer can produce. Others focus on moving the design into production, overseeing the mechanical aspects of mass production. Although it is rarer, a handful of people in cello manufacturing create cellos by hand, custom-making each instrument over a period of several weeks based on the specifications indicated by the client. This type of work takes considerable skill and is labor intensive.
Many people with an interest or talent in cello become teachers. Cello instructors fall into two broad categories: private and public. Private instructors give individual lessons, often out of their home, having up to 30 students per week. Public instructors work in schools, with some teachers being the general music director who teaches not only cello, but all instruments, ensembles, bands and choirs. Those at the university or college level usually have to have a doctorate in music education and operate more like private instructors, often performing while not teaching.
Some people looking for cello jobs have luck with sales or demonstration. Sales workers have the task of promoting different cello models, either in person or through other means such as digital marketing through the company website. They often work in music shops, showing customers different models and explaining the pros and cons of each. Demonstrators also are concerned with generating interest in the cello similar to sales workers, but their goal is to create more players, not necessarily to gain a sales profit. They typically target elementary-aged children, playing the cello to show its sound, size and technique and giving some basic historical and performance information.