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What Does a Music Director Do?

A music director should be aware of microphone placements for a performance.
Church choirs need a good music director to pick their songs and keep everything organized.
A music director may act as a conductor for a church's choir.
A music director may give musicians pointer on how to improve performances.
A music director working for a radio show is responsible for obtaining legal rights for using musical pieces on air.
A music director might be responsible for vocal arrangements.
Music directors oversee a variety of musical ensembles, such as orchestras.
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  • Written By: Amanda Barnhart
  • Edited By: Michelle Arevalo
  • Last Modified Date: 17 November 2014
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Music directors are responsible for overseeing orchestras, choirs, and other ensembles. They often arrange and direct musical numbers, and direct musicians and vocalists during concerts, plays, and other performances. These professionals work in a variety of settings, including schools, churches, orchestra halls, and movie and radio studios.

A school music director is typically in charge of the school band, orchestra, choir, and other musical ensembles. The director chooses musical pieces for practices and performances, and coaches students in musical technicalities, theory, and expression. At a high school, college, or university, this person may also help coordinate marching band drills or dances for choral or musical theater performances.

Churches of all types and sizes often employ music directors to choose songs for church services, plays, and other events. A music director in a small church often doubles as the main musical performer, usually playing piano or other instruments during worship services. He or she may also act as a conductor and choir director for the church’s choir or other vocal groups.

Orchestra halls and other musical theater venues often have one or more musical directors on staff to select, play, and coach musical numbers for performances. A music director that works for a theater company may also assist with auditions and rehearsals. He or she is also usually responsible for overseeing and conducting actual performances.

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A music director working at a movie or radio studio has a very different job than a director who is more concerned with live performances. These directors often assist in obtaining the legal rights to use musical pieces and songs in the film or on the radio. They may also help coordinate appearances by musicians and vocalists, and assist the sound director with coordinating the overall auditory flow of the movie or radio show.

In some instances, music directors also teach private voice or instrument lessons. Students may be individual musicians and performers, who want help to improve their overall musical techniques. Private sessions may be included as part of a director’s employment compensation package, or the director may charge an extra fee for his or her services.

In any setting, a music director’s main responsibility is working with the performers and other members of the management or teaching team to make sure rehearsals and performances go smoothly. Every business or institution has its own expectations of a music director, and his or her required duties. Some settings that involve large groups of performers employ several music directors to work together, to manage the group efficiently.

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shell4life
Post 6

The title of “music director” encompasses so many things. No one ever really knows exactly what I do when I tell them I am one, and I usually have to explain.

I am the music director at a small community center that holds church services weekly. We are non-denominational, so we don't place a whole lot of emphasis on structure. We prefer for the environment to be relaxed and inviting.

So, my job is pretty easy. I simply pick out a couple of songs for the congregation to sing each week, and I work with the pianist to establish what tempo and what key the songs will be in.

I don't have a choir to direct, so basically, I am just directing the pianist and the congregation in a largely informal way. I set the tone for the song service, and I sing into the microphone so that everyone can easily follow along with me.

seag47
Post 5

@jonrss – The cool thing about being a music director in a large church is that you actually get paid. I started out in a tiny church that could not afford to pay me for leading the choir, but I eventually landed a job at a huge one that offered me a salary.

I had to meet with the choir twice a week to come up with a plan for the following Sunday. We would work out which songs we would do during the offering and which ones we would lead the congregation in singing, and by the end of practice, everyone had their parts memorized.

It was definitely hard work for me, though, because some of these kids didn't have a natural musical ability. That can be hard to teach, and I think I really earned the money that I made.

Oceana
Post 4

@cloudel – I was always amazed by my band director. I took band in junior high, and he was able to teach me how to play the flute in just a few months, even though I had never picked one up before.

What truly astounded me about him was that he knew how to play every instrument in the band. He had to in order to teach everyone who had no clue about their instruments. By the end of the semester, we all were able to play pieces together, whereas just months earlier, none of us knew a thing about music.

He also worked with the high school band to coordinate marches and more complicated, longer songs. He definitely had my respect.

cloudel
Post 3

There were a couple of different music directors at my school. One was in charge of the band, and the other led the choir and taught elementary music classes.

The band director worked with every section of instrumentalists, showing us how to play our instruments. He then taught us how to read sheet music as a group, since the basic concept was the same across the board.

The music director taught the young children several simple songs. She would even bring in bells and a xylophone for us to play at times, and I think she helped us develop basic music skills.

She also had the more complicated job of leading the high school choir. She had a very good ear for music and was able to teach everyone their separate parts so that the overall sound flowed together beautifully.

jonrss
Post 2

I sing in a choir at my church and we have a music director who conducts the choir and coordinates the musicians we play with. He is great at his job but very demanding. That is probably why our church is known for our music. He asks a lot of the performers but he gets results.

He used to direct a large university choir but he was looking for something more intimate and returned to a church setting. It has been a joy to work with him even when he pushes us. My voice has never been stronger.

whiteplane
Post 1

I was a music director for my college director. I was responsible for all new music which basically meant new rock and pop stuff. We had other directors who handle hip hop and world music and metal etc. I worked with labels and promotions companies to send us free music, reviewed the music and managed the cd library in the studio and reported information to CMJ and the FCC. It was not a hard job or a huge job but there was a lot to stay on top of.

I loved it. I got to listen to lots of great music, got free cds and stickers and concert tickets and got a cool insiders glimpse at the music business.

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