Symphony staff handle the back end work that makes it possible for symphonies to perform.
A lot of work goes into planning a performance season. There are so many things to coordinate, from
There are a number of standard staff positions that can be found at any symphony. At the top of the hierarchy is the executive director, who deals with the board, spearheads fundraising and development efforts, and plans strategic initiatives. They oversee every aspect of symphony operations and must approve all decisions. The executive director and music director tend to be the public face of a symphony; a music director makes creative decisions on behalf of the orchestra, including music selections, fundraising, and outreach. Next there is a layer of managers who lead small teams in different pursuits. An orchestra manager handles the business side of things, including scheduling, booking, contracts, commissions, and archival. This person is the go-to for questions having to do with orchestra activity and oversees most of the administrative work associated with the players. They may supervise the general manager, operations manager, marketing manager, box office manager, and their respective teams.
The development team works to secure funding from patrons of the arts, writing grants, planning benefits, and running campaigns. They work alongside the marketing team, which is responsible for curating the public's perception of the symphony. The box office deals with ticket sales and interfaces directly with audience members. The particulars of many of these jobs vary, but the general structure is the same.
Symphony staff work may include...
- Developing seasonal performance programming
- Creating, maintaining, and renewing performer contracts
- Running education or residency programs
- Acquiring rights to pieces or commissioning new works
- Raising and allocating funds
Symphony staff come from all manner of backgrounds, but most have some connection to music performance. Music directors in particular tend to be former conductors with long careers; they possess impressive repertoires and encyclopedic musical knowledge, as well as technical skills, which combine to help them select music for each performance and season. Some staff have a background or a degree in business or arts administration, which can give them a helpful framework for many of the day to day hurdles of the job. Finding jobs in the symphony world can rely heavily on networking and recommendations, especially since valuable workers with the right knowledge base can be difficult.
The work of a symphony staff is essential to the culture and continuation of live orchestral music. If you're committed to seeing symphonies thrive, maybe it's the right career for you.
The League of American Orchestras leads, supports, and champions America's orchestras and the vitality of the music they perform.
The Association of Arts Administration Educators represents the world's leading arts administration programs.