Careers in Composition


Composers create instrumental pieces, either stand-alone or combined with lyrics. They may compose for a specific situation, such as film/TV composers who score/compose music to enhance videos or films, or they may compose for live performance and/or recording situations.

“Be ferocious with your creativity, fearless with your work, and always open to all styles of music.” – Felipe Lara

Read Felipe Lara's alumni interview.

Arranger (Adaptor)

An arranger provides musical arrangements of a musical composition or song for an artist, band, orchestra, or other ensemble. The arranger determines the voice, instrument, harmonic structure, rhythm, tempo, and other aspects of a song or composition based on the artist, producer, or conductor's specifications. Training in music theory, orchestration, composition, and harmony is required. An arranger should have experience as a copyist, writing music, and playing one or more instruments.


An orchestrator is responsible for transposing music from one instrument or voice to another in order to accommodate a particular musician or group, and writing scores for an orchestra, band, choral group, individual instrumentalist(s), or vocalist(s).


A copyist transfers musical parts from a score onto individual parts. This person must have strong notation and transposition skills, training in music theory, and neat and accurate copy work.


A conductor's main duty is preparing an orchestra or ensemble for the finest performance they are capable of presenting. This includes choosing the repertoire, managing rehearsals, and possibly planning an entire season of musical events, as well as handling the other business-related matters of an orchestra. A conductor must have a strong ability on an instrument (preferably piano), be able to sight read, and have a strong stage personality.


The composition teacher usually teaches in a higher-education setting, such as in a college, conservatory, or university. A composition teacher may also teach others privately, or teach other subjects in addition to composition, such as music theory, music arranging, music history, or vocal or instrumental conducting, or they may conduct chamber groups, choruses, or orchestras.


A transcriber notates musical performances onto a score from a recorded performance.

Editor (Print Music Publishing)

An editor manages and develops a print music publishing company's product line, which usually includes instructional music books for people of all ages and abilities. An editor in this field should have the ability to develop products, topics, and concepts; write; compose; edit; proofread; and manage the print/production process. Prior experience in creative design layout and consumer publications is extremely helpful.

Watch a performance of a piece by Berklee composition major Rickie Lee Kroell here: