This is an ideal career for a creative and visionary thinker. The Artistic Director provides overall artistic leadership of an arts company to ensure every production is of the highest artistic standard.
An Artistic Director is usually found in a large performing arts organisation. Often it is coupled with the role of Music Director in smaller companies. The Music Director is in charge of the musical quality of the company, such as a symphony orchestra, choir, theatre, or the musical component of a film or television show.
The range of responsibilities of an Artistic Director is broad and varied, and depends on the company size and the nature of its productions. In a small theatre company, you may do everything from selecting the play to sitting on the audition panel to directing rehearsals. An Artistic or Music Director working in television may be responsible for teaching the in-house musicians within a short period of time and overseeing their performance.
As the Artistic Director of an orchestra you focus on music selection for concert programs, the appointment of conductors, soloists and orchestra members. You are also involved in the orchestra’s partnerships with businesses, and other performance arts organisations.
Working in the creative industry usually means working long and irregular hours. Until a production is complete, it will consume most of your energy and spare time. However, it is a crucial role in the preparation of a production and experiencing the final product is incredibly satisfying and fulfilling.
What you do every day
An orchestra’s Artistic Director selects concert programs, conductors, national and international soloists and liaises with guest artists. You will also decide on fees and schedule requirements for the programs. Your artistic activities will involve:
- auditioning musicians
- developing the arrangements of musical pieces
- consulting with the Managing Director
- scheduling and attending rehearsals
- spending one-on-one time with individual musicians and
- possibly conducting the performance.
If you are the Artistic Director of an orchestra you will spend each day listening to your performers, analysing the sound, and then perfecting the orchestra’s interpretation of the arrangement.
You work with other arts organisations, arrange productions with partners and cultivate sponsorships.
There are no set hours for the work of an Artistic Director. Your daily schedule is just as likely to go from 9am-5pm as it is from 7am-11pm. Weekend work is to be expected. If you work in schools you will have more predictable hours of work, although after school rehearsals will be expected.
Personality that best fits this career
Overall, Artistic Directors need to have a strong comprehension of both business and music, and a range of skills and music styles. You need a commercial appreciation of the production, As well as the ability to read music, know the role of each instrument, and understand tempo, style and voice work. Not only must you have stamina to perform in peak condition, self-confidence, motivation and dedication, but you must inspire others, and be able to handle problems that arise during the production process. You need to be able to keep a cool head under stress and meet deadlines.
The best Artistic/Music Directors also have good communication skills along with a creative way of thinking. They are also visionary people, always thinking of the next brilliant musical number. As you are constantly overseeing people in various areas of a production, you need to communicate easily and effectively. If you are not consulting with the director or composer, then you will be rehearsing with musicians and vocalists. The musicians must be able to understand your directions, and you need to recognise when they are facing performance challenges. You are also in constant communication with your production team. Without these skills a performance cannot be guaranteed success.
The ability to work as part of a team is also vital. You will generally report to the director, and work alongside the lighting and sound and stage directors. As supervisor of the team of musicians, you will also need to work efficiently to be of the most value.
Best thing about this career
Being an Artistic/Music Director is an artistically rewarding and commercially satisfying occupation. You may spend months negotiating and scheduling programs; auditioning and arranging; rehearsing and conducting. You may have even gone a fortnight with no sleep and sky-high pressure to meet an impossible deadline. But when you reach the production, there is no limit to the pride you feel with your hard work and creative effort all coming together. The praise and feedback from audience members can often be inspirational. You also tend to keep your mind constantly active and involved in your work, even after rehearsal hours.
Worst thing about this career
Finding a job in the creative industry can be difficult, because you need to be motivated. Many creative jobs are not advertised in mainstream publications, if at all. Job opportunities are more likely to be advertised in niche arts publications or you hear about them from other people. Even when in a job, you will have to be on the lookout for the next job that will support you once your current production is over. Self promotion and building up a large range of contacts within the industry is essential, and can take some time. While there are ongoing positions in creative organisations, like Artistic Director at Orchestra Victoria, many careers will consist of moving from one production to the next with the possibility of jobless periods. Financial security cannot be guaranteed.