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Classical musician

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Classical musicians and singers perform classical music in concert, or on film, TV, or radio recordings.

Salary, a pound sign Salary: £23,000 to £40,000 average per year
Hours, a clock face Hours: Variable per week

1. Entry requirements

You’ll usually need to have:

  • learnt at least one instrument at an early age
  • taken graded music exams, including music theory
  • trained at university, or a music college

It can be a good idea to get as much experience as you can of performing in public. You can get this by joining a youth or community orchestra, and by entering competitions. 

The Incorporated Society of Musicians (ISM) has more information on becoming a classical musician.

2. Skills required

You’ll need:

  • a very high level of musical ability
  • self discipline
  • dedication and motivation
  • the ability to accept criticism and rejection

3. What you'll do

You might be a member of an orchestra, performing for audiences, or recording music. 

Your day-to-day duties may include:

  • learning and rehearsing music pieces
  • looking after your voice and instrument
  • setting up your instrument before performances
  • preparing for and attending auditions

You might also compose musical scores, combine playing music with teaching, or work in a related area, like community arts or arts administration.

4. Salary

Starter: £23,000 to £29,000

Experienced: £30,000 to £37,000

Highly Experienced: up to £40,000 (principal)

Your earnings may be seasonal.

You might work freelance. Recommended daily rates can vary from £90 to £250. As a recording artist or well-known soloist, you could earn a lot more.

These figures are a guide.

5. Working hours, patterns and environment

Your working hours could be long and include evenings and weekends. 

You could perform in different locations, like theatres, concert halls, other music venues, hotels and restaurants. You could also spend time travelling around the UK and possibly overseas.

6. Career path and progression

With experience, you could progress in an orchestra to principal player or section leader. You could move into conducting, or start your own ensemble.

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Last updated: 11 September 2018