Careers in Jazz Composition

Jazz Composer

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

Read Juan Andrés Ospina's alumni interview.

Jingle Writer

Jingle writers are songwriters/composers/lyricists who specializes in writing music for radio and television commercials. They are responsible for representing their client musically as directed. They must be skilled in all styles, be strong musical arrangers, and be able to compose well for a very short form.

Film Scorer/Composer

A film scorer/composer scores music to accompany a motion picture for film or television. This could include dramatic underscore as well as popular songwriting. The traditional role of a film composer is to provide the orchestral dramatic underscore, and only more recently has the popular soundtrack begun to stand on its own.

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.


A songwriter writes both lyrics and music and is either a staff writer with a publishing company or a freelance songwriter. A songwriter may also perform and/or produce his/her own songs.


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.


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, organizing rehearsals, and possibly planning an entire season of musical events, as well as 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.


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


The jazz composition teacher usually teaches in a higher education setting such as in a college, conservatory, or university. A jazz composition teacher may also teach other students privately, or teach other subjects in addition to jazz composition, such as music arranging; jazz history; or conducting big band jazz groups, jazz combos, or vocal jazz ensembles.

“I think that it is very important to be open minded, to enjoy the ‘challenge’ of having to learn to do many different things” – Juan Andrés Ospina


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.