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Orchestra/Band Conductor

Orchestra and band conductors produce their own interpretations of musical works by directing performers in musical groups such as chamber orchestras, wind ensembles, concert bands, marching bands, symphony orchestras, jazz bands and orchestras for ballet, musical theatre and opera performances.

Also Known As

Conductor, Music Director

NOC Codes

In Canada, the federal government groups and organizes occupations based on a National Occupational Classification (NOC) system. This alis occupation may not reflect the entire NOC group it is part of. Data for the NOC group can apply across multiple occupations.

The NOC system is updated every 5 years to reflect changes in the labour market. Government forms and labour market data may group and refer to an occupation differently, depending on the system used.

Here is how this occupation has been classified over time.

2006 NOC

  • 5132.1: Conductors

2006 NOC-S

  • F032: Conductors, Composers and Arrangers

2011 NOC

  • 5132: Conductors, composers and arrangers

2016 NOC

  • 5132: Conductors, composers and arrangers

2021 NOC

  • 51121: Conductors, composers and arrangers

2023 OaSIS

  • 51121.01: Conductors
Updated Mar 31, 2017

In general, orchestra and band conductors:

  • select music that is appropriate to the talents, abilities and strengths of the group
  • study musical scores to learn the music in detail and develop their own interpretation of it
  • use conducting gestures to shape the music (develop colour, tone, volume, pitch and desired quality) and to keep the musicians in time
  • audition instrumentalists to select musicians for their group
  • schedule, prepare for and direct rehearsals.

They also may:

  • contact and meet with composers to discuss interpretations of their work
  • perform administrative duties, such as scheduling performances, organizing tours, negotiating recording contracts, applying for grants and budgeting
  • work with music librarians to ensure musical scores are available
  • work with others to produce promotional materials
  • conduct guest soloists in addition to the ensemble.

Conductors usually schedule rehearsals, allowing sufficient time to prepare new works while reviewing the standard repertoire. The principal conductor or guest conductor meets separately with each soloist well in advance of a performance. They also work closely with concertmasters (principal solo violinists) in preparing for rehearsals.

A conductor’s reputation is based largely on presenting a strong, dynamic presence as a leader. This comes from exceptional talent (most conductors are outstanding performers themselves), a unique style and an ability to communicate with musicians individually and collectively.

Some conductors hold the additional role of music director of an orchestra or musical group. Music directors make artistic decisions for the group, including choosing the repertoire and guest artists for the upcoming season.

Symphony orchestras often have a general manager who works closely with the music director or conductor to handle financial matters. Overseeing the activities of the music director and general manager is a board of directors.

In larger organizations, the management team also includes an artistic administrator. This person works closely with the conductor or music director and management and is usually a member of negotiating teams.

Working Conditions
Updated Mar 31, 2017
  • Strength Required Lift up to 5 kg

Guest conducting often involves a considerable amount of travelling. It may include conducting singers as well as players. Sometimes, orchestra conductors conduct several hundred performers at one time, including instrumentalists, choirs and soloists.

Conductors may work in indoor and outdoor settings, such as concert halls and city parks. Their working hours vary based on the nature of the task. For example, rehearsals and recording sessions are typically held during business hours, while performances mostly take place in the evenings and on weekends.

Orchestra and band conductors often must stand for long periods. They also must use repetitive motions with their arms and may experience repetitive strain injuries.

Interests & Abilities

In Alberta, this occupation is part of 1 or more 2006 National Occupational Classification (NOC) groups. If there are multiple related NOC groups, select a NOC heading to learn about each one.


2006 NOC: 5132.1

Interest Codes

Interest Codes for This NOC Group

Interest in instructing instrumentalists and performers to achieve rendition required; and in leading bands, orchestras and choirs during rehearsals and performances, in auditioning and selecting instrumental and vocal performers, and in supervising and co-ordinating activities of studio and company personnel


Interest in synthesizing information to control balance, rhythm, dynamics and entries of instruments and voices to create interpretation of scores; and in planning and organizing musical productions, and in assigning parts to performers so the meaning and feeling of interpreted scores are expressed


Interest in precision working to memorize musical scores; and in selecting music to accommodate talents of groups, and in positioning performers to obtain balance and harmony of instruments and voices

Your Interest Codes

To identify or change your interest codes, complete the Interests Exercise in CAREERinsite.

Reading Interest Codes
A Quick Guide

The interest code helps you figure out if you’d like to work in a particular occupation. 

It’s based on the Canadian Work Preference Inventory (CWPI), which measures 5 occupational interests: Directive, Innovative, Methodical, Objective, and Social.

Each set of 3 interest codes for this NOC group is listed in order of importance.

A code in capital letters means it’s a strong fit for the occupation.

A code in all lowercase letters means the fit is weaker.

Learn About Interests


Typical ability expectations for this NOC group
Your abilities

To fill in or change the values for your abilities, complete the Abilities Exercise in CAREERinsite.

Mental Abilities

General Learning Ability

Verbal Ability

Numerical Ability

Visual Abilities

Spatial Perception

Form Perception

Clerical Perception

Physical Abilities

Motor Coordination

Finger Dexterity

Manual Dexterity

Understanding Abilities

A Quick Guide

You are born with abilities that help you process certain types of information and turn it into action. These abilities influence which skills you can learn more easily.

The abilities or aptitudes shown for this NOC group come from the General Aptitude Test Battery (GATB). The GATB measures 9 aptitudes. It groups them into 3 categories: mental, visual, and physical.

The abilities scores range from 1 to 5, with 5 being stronger.

Learn About Abilities

Traits & Skills
Updated Mar 31, 2017

Orchestra and band conductors need:

  • passion, insight and musical talent
  • excellent performance skills on their instrument
  • flexibility, to respond to members’ needs, abilities and ideas
  • verbal and non-verbal communication skills
  • the ability to inspire members of the orchestra or band
  • the ability to work within time constraints and in stressful or demanding musical settings.

They should enjoy taking charge and controlling situations, and developing innovative approaches.

Educational Requirements
Updated Mar 31, 2017
  • Minimum Education 4 years post-secondary

Orchestra and band conductors must have a thorough knowledge of music, beginning with the study of an instrument (usually the piano). In general, they need:

  • mastery of at least 1 instrument and performance experience
  • an overall understanding of musical instruments and their techniques
  • interpretive skills and instincts
  • ear training (the ability to hear and distinguish between several voices at a time)
  • practical experience in composition
  • advanced skills in musical analysis
  • demonstrated mastery of various musical styles
  • knowledge of conventional conducting techniques (use of the baton, right and left arms)
  • the ability to express themselves through gestures.

Conductors also may have:

  • studied the languages of great composers (Italian, French and German)
  • studied the standard repertoire of various musical periods
  • cultivated a broad appreciation for the arts and history through travel and study beyond their music training.

Formal academic training for conductors often starts with a 4-year bachelor’s degree in music (for example, a BA, BFA, or B. Mus.). Most conductors continue their music education with a master’s degree or even a doctoral degree in music, or they study at a music conservatory. Admission to a graduate program generally requires an acceptable average in a related bachelor’s degree program.

Those wishing to teach music and conduct groups in schools may take any of the following education routes:

  • a 4-year bachelor of education (B.Ed.) degree with a specialization in music
  • a 5-year program that combines a B.Ed. degree with a bachelor of music (B.Mus.), bachelor of arts (BA) or bachelor of fine arts (BFA) degree with a major in music
  • a 3- or 4-year bachelor’s degree in music followed by 2 or more years in a post-baccalaureate (after degree) B.Ed. program.

Aspiring conductors should observe well-known conductors in action. Some established conductors will allow conducting students to attend and observe working rehearsals. It may be possible for a student interested in conducting to assist a teacher or principal conductor with a youth orchestra or school band.

To expand or narrow your search for programs related to this occupation, visit Post-Secondary Programs.

Completing a program does not guarantee entrance into an occupation. Before enrolling in an education program, prospective students should look into various sources for education options and employment possibilities. For example, contact associations and employers in this field.

Certification Requirements
Updated Mar 31, 2017
  • Certification Not Regulated

There is currently no provincial legislation regulating this occupation in Alberta.

Employment & Advancement
Updated Mar 31, 2017

There are many more conductors than orchestras and bands in Canada. Young conductors may start out by working with community and youth orchestras, as repetiteurs (a type of tutor) for opera ensembles or in staff, rehearsal or conductor-in-residence positions.

Conductors may work with:

  • elementary, junior and senior high school groups
  • university and college groups
  • community groups
  • small professional ensembles (jazz and dance bands, chamber orchestras, wind ensembles)
  • musical theatre orchestras
  • symphony orchestras.

School band or orchestra conductors may be expected to teach music classes as well as direct the school band or orchestra.

Conductors may gain recognition and visibility by:

  • attending conductor training workshops
  • working with soloists who are impressed with a conductor’s performance
  • working with composers of new works
  • winning awards at national and international competitions
  • obtaining study grants and scholarships to study abroad
  • guest conducting with other orchestras or bands
  • adjudicating at festivals
  • presenting at conferences.

Many conductors must work in other music-related areas to make a living while they study and gain experience. This may include performing, teaching, composing or arranging.

Orchestra and band conductors are part of the larger 2011 National Occupational Classification 5132: Conductors, composers and arrangers. In Alberta, 89% of people employed in this classification work in the following industries:

The employment outlook [pdf] in this occupation will be influenced by a wide variety of factors including:

  • trends and events affecting overall employment (especially in the industries listed above)
  • location in Alberta
  • employment turnover (work opportunities generated by people leaving existing positions)
  • occupational growth (work opportunities resulting from the creation of new positions)
  • size of the occupation

In Alberta, the 5132: Conductors, composers and arrangers occupational group is expected to have an above-average annual growth of 3.1% from 2021 to 2025. In addition to job openings created by employment turnover, 13 new positions are forecasted to be created within this occupational group each year.

NOC groups often include several related occupations. Although there is labour market data for the larger NOC group, this occupation makes up only a part of that group. It means data for this occupation may be different than the data shown. For example, only some of the new positions to be created will be for this occupation. It also applies to other data for the NOC group such as number of people employed.

Source: 2021-2025 Alberta Regional Occupational Demand Outlook

Employment turnover is expected to increase as members of the baby boom generation retire over the next few years.

Wage & Salary
Updated Sep 29, 2022

Salaries for school band conductors who have a degree and a teaching certificate are based on the individual’s qualifications and experience (for more information, see the Secondary School Teacher occupational profile). Community orchestras may pay conductors minimal salaries or token honorariums.

Fees and salaries for orchestra conductors generally are negotiated separately for each contract. In smaller orchestras, they can range significantly.

Orchestra/band conductors are part of the larger 2016 National Occupational Classification 5132: Conductors, composers and arrangers.

According to the 2021 Alberta Wage and Salary Survey, Albertans in the Conductors, composers and arrangers occupational group earned on average up to $37.80 an hour. The overall average was $29.84 an hour. For more information, see the Conductors, composers and arrangers wage profile.

Related Post-Secondary Field of Study
  • Fine Arts and Performing Arts
Other Sources of Information
Updated Mar 31, 2017

Cultural Human Resources Council website:

Get information and referrals about career, education, and employment options from Alberta Supports.

Updated Mar 31, 2017. The information contained in this profile is current as of the dates shown. Salary, employment outlook, and educational program information may change without notice. It is advised that you confirm this information before making any career decisions.

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