Careers for Trumpet Players & More
Choose your career in music early and get informed
Careers in music and trumpet playing are abundant. You have many options!
Here is an non-conclusive list of CAREERS IN MUSIC divided into two main sections: involving trumpet playing and not involving trumpet playing. It’s important to know that the music world is abundant in career options for those who love music, but don’t necessarily want to play trumpet professionally.
Before we begin, know that a freelance musician is a professional musician who takes on multiple music-related jobs such as playing in a symphony, teaching private lessons and working in a university. Freelancers are self-employed and are usually able to play a variety of musical styles.
I hope this list helps steer you in the right direction or at least open your mind to possibilities. Remember that all careers in music require dedication and drive, just like any other career choice.
Chamber ensembles are usually small, like quintets for example, and they play a variety of music ranging from classical, pops (popular), house, latin and more. Some throw in electronics, a piano or drum set player and maybe even dance and have choreography. There are even chamber ensembles that specialize in one type of event like weddings. Being a chamber trumpet player is very demanding, with the trumpet parts always exposed.
Rock, jazz, pop, musical theater, big band, films and TV jingles are all fair game for a commercial trumpet player. Being “commercial” means that they play what the masses want to hear, focusing on popular music with the goal to increase their income. You will often hear them playing on famous singer’s albums and on movie soundtracks. They have control over the full range of the trumpet, a wide variety of styles in their pockets and expert sight reading skills.
Knowledge of jazz styles including blues, bebop, contemporary, dixieland, standards, big band, latin, bossa nova, smooth and many more are in the job description. Improvising is a must-have skill because the trumpet player almost always has an improv solo. Learning these styles comes through listening, getting an education and most of all, gigging as much as possible. Some jazz players sign contracts with cruise ships and play nightly on the ship for weeks or months at a time, plus they get to travel!
Symphony orchestras come in many shapes and sizes. Some of them pay per concert, which means you go to rehearsal, play the concert and get a flat fee, while others are salary based, meaning you attend rehearsals, concerts and get paid the same amount every month. The salary orchestras are usually bigger and harder to get into. Becoming an orchestral trumpet player takes many hours of practice, an education with a very good teacher with experience in the field and taking a lot of auditions. It’s an extremely competitive field and the expectations for musicality and expression are at the highest level.
If you love teaching one-on-one, I highly recommend this job. You can go about it in different ways, from teaching through a retail store or organization, to teaching out of your home and even teaching online. Although it’s a bit difficult to build your own studio, it’s definitely worth it and has the potential to be a full-time job. The requirements include having advanced skills at your instrument, being creative and having (or building) knowledge on website and marketing. If you teach through someone else you won’t have to worry about marketing and such, but you will take a pay cut.
Playing in the United States Army, Navy or Air Force band is one awesome job. You must go through a competitive audition process and once accepted you will go through basic training just like any other soldier. A lot of them help you repay your college music education and open doors to traveling within the US and around the world, not to mention playing at many important events. If you’re up for a lifestyle with a lot of traveling, keeping in shape physically and on your instrument, then this might be the career for you.
Teaching at the university level can be a very rewarding experience for many. To become a university professor you will need to go college for a Bachelor, Master’s AND Doctoral degree. Some small and private universities/colleges do hire teachers with a Master’s degree, so make sure you are informed. Sometimes bigger universities will even hire someone with a Master’s degree if they’ve had a ton of playing experience. Teaching college students is a big responsibility because you will be preparing them for their careers. Ample knowledge on trumpet playing, teaching methods and repertoire are just a few must-haves.
Playing for wedding ceremonies (not receptions) is a skill on its own, but it’s usually part of a freelancer’s life, meaning most players don’t just play weddings for a living. Playing weddings can be a difficult gig because there is usually only one trumpet and a couple string players, meaning you will be very exposed. All those solos have to be 100% on point. Also, playing piccolo trumpet is almost a requirement since many wedding pieces are written for that instrument. Be prepared to play outside in the freezing cold or intense heat. The good thing about wedding ceremony gigs is they usually pay really well for a short amount of playing time.
More on careers…
BE AWARE that most professional trumpet players are actually freelance musicians. They balance two, three or more music jobs, which may be a combination of the ones listed here. This is very common in the world of careers in music. It is absolutely possible to have one single job that pays extremely well and manage to do just that, but most people don’t do that. This is because once you perform really well at one job you will often be recommended and requested at other jobs, and that’s how the majority of trumpet players end up playing with a lot of ensembles and teaching. I mean, who turns down work? The life of a trumpet player can be very fun and varied if you work hard, practice a ton, remain humble and listen to your mentors.
Whatever you decide to do, remember that in the music business everything is about good relationships and consistent good performances. Always arrive 20 minutes early, smile at everyone, say thank you for having you, BE PREPARED to play anything, be outgoing and talk to the other musicians, bring a pencil and all your mutes even if the music doesn’t call for one, and behave in a way that says “it’s great to be here.” People want to work with pleasant people.
Lastly, the music community and especially the trumpet community is a very tight group. Everyone knows everyone or at least has a friend that knows a specific person. The word runs fast and we are not shy to exclude a player who doesn’t represent the values of musicianship, good work ethics and camaraderie. This is true of ANY industry. Remember that!
Duties of a church choir director include picking music, leading rehearsals, providing musical direction and conducting services. To do this job you must have a thorough understanding of vocal and instrumental music, score reading and of course you should be able to sing well.
Composers capture melodies onto sheet music to be played by musicians. Just like instrumentalists, they specialize in one or a few genres like film, video games, band, orchestra, chamber, pop and more. Most composers display talent early on and go on to study at the university level to further they skills. As a composer, it’s important to invest in music notation software and be prepared to meet deadlines for your clients. As far as careers in music go, the composer route is, in my opinion, as competitive as the performance route.
Being a symphony conductor is a long and rewarding career. Most conductors of major symphonies have put in years of work and education. Generally, you will get at least two degrees in music, with one of them being in orchestral conducting, then sometimes you will have to work at a middle or high school for at least 4 years to gain experience and finally, you might be able to land a job as a conductor at a university to gain more experience.
You could stay there, which can be a wonderful career, or you may want to switch to a professional setting and conduct, say, the Austin Symphony in Texas. To do this you’d have to wait until the current conductor leaves, then apply and audition. The same goes for conducting a professional wind ensemble like the United States Army Band. There are many symphonies and wind ensembles out there waiting for conductors, but you might need to move in order to find a job. These careers are extremely rewarding, and require years of experience, patience and constant drive to move forward.
Someone has to make our trumpets and mutes. Creativity, wielding skills and a thorough understanding of how the instrument works are the basic requirements. Some of the biggest brand names today started in their garage…and some are still in their garage making mouthpieces for famous players around the world. To really do this job well you should play the instruments yourself and be able to figure out what’s lacking and how you can fix that problem. If you’re really good, other players will notice and spread the good word.
Fixing dents, realigning valves and restoring old horns are only a few things an instrument repairer might do. Although there are certainly repairpeople who specialize on the trumpet, most fix all brass or all common instruments. This job can get very busy during the school year as local high and middle school bands bring their instruments in for repair. The most common places to work are local music stores and instrument manufacturers like Yamaha for example.
If you enjoy the business side of things you could be an artist’s manager or booking agent. The job usually involves booking gigs, making all the arrangements for the talent’s arrivals in new cities, planing tours and communicating with marketing to ensure the success of the artist. Lots of emails and phone calls will be had.
Music lovers with a passion for writing might find this is a great job to have. While most music journalists do it on the side, some are such good critics they’ve become famous for it. If you have a remarkable ear and a passion for music and writing, definitely check it out.
Music retail is like working at Sam Ash, Guitar Center or similar. You could even work at a specialized trumpet or brass shop. The job is about building good customer relationships so they’ll come back, sell instruments and accessories, maintaining the shop clean, educating people on instruments and much more. There is usually room for advancement and promotion to supervisor or manager positions.
It’s no secret that music can reach the depths of our minds like no other art can, so it’s obvious why music therapy is absolutely a thing, and you can get a degree in Music Therapy from an educational institution. If you love music but also want to be in a therapy profession, this might just be the career that puts it all together for you. Helping patients physically and mentally through music can be a very rewarding job.
I decided to add this section because there are many other things you can do to further your career. You could build music apps, be a web designer for artists, build creative websites related to the music industry, build your own music school, create and run summer music programs, specialize in playing for the elderly and much more. Find what you love, throw music in and cook up something exciting. Check out the music entrepreneurship page to get ideas on creating your own jobs.
This option has potential to be a very high paying career as you could end up recording Beyonce’s newest album. Some paths for work in a recording studio include being a recording engineer (who sets up all the fancy machines and takes care of equipment working properly), a record producer (who helps the talent by giving them tips during the recording session) and a record mixer (who takes all the layers of music and mixes them to the highest possible quality).
If you had a band director in middle or high school, then you know this isn’t a job for the faint of heart. Choosing music, filing forms, attending school faculty meetings, planing marching shows and concerts, directing the band during school and at after-school rehearsals, and planning successful band camps are only a few of the responsibilities. Band directors sacrifice a lot of their time outside of school for the benefit of the band. If you just love marching band, conducting, working with a variety of personalities and don’t mind putting in extra hours, get a music education degree and go for it. By the way, being a school orchestra teacher is also an option!