Careers in Performance

Performing Artist (Recording Artist/Group)

Performing artists specialize in the performance of music, either original or cover material. Their performing skill defines their marketability. The performing artist may work as a solo act with or without backing musicians, or be packaged as a group.

Read Giancarlo de Trizio's alumni interview.

Vocal/Instrumental Soloist

A vocal/instrumental soloist is similar to a performing artist and may perform in much the same capacity. But this artist may also work as a contracted performer with a group or in a recording situation. For example, an orchestra, church group, or a recording ensemble may hire a soloist. When performing as a contracted soloist, the artist has a responsibility to rehearse and perform the selected music as directed by the group or project leader.

Session Musician

The session musician may be known as a studio musician, a session player, a sideman or woman, a freelance musician, or a backup musician. The main responsibility of the job is to back up the leader of a group in the recording studio, or possibly during a live performance, and play in a style or manner that the leader of the group or the producer desires. In addition to being a good musician, the session musician must be responsible, reliable, and easy to get along with. It is also important to know how to sight-read, be familiar with a number of different styles, and preferably be proficient on more than one instrument. Session musicians are usually hired by a contractor and paid an hourly fee set by the union (AFM). A session musician may work on various types of projects, including television and film scores, records, demos, jingles, and other music industry gigs.

General Business Musician

A general business (GB) musician may work as a freelance artist or perform with a general business group. These groups maintain a widely varying repertoire to allow them to perform in almost any situation, including weddings, bar or bat mitzvahs, private parties, corporate functions, and dance clubs. GB musicians cover material by well-known recording artists in many different styles, and tailor their repertoire to clients' expressed desires. Many general business gigs may be formal dress occasions, so tuxedos and formal dresses are a necessity. The largest amount of work can be found in performances of this type, and pay is generally very good. A general business band may work through one or more booking agencies and/or book themselves.

Orchestra/Group Member

An orchestra/group member plays a supporting role in a musical group as an instrumentalist. A vast knowledge of repertoire, musical skill, reading, and doubling ability are important qualities to develop, especially in the orchestral environment. Also important is the ability to play with a group, and to prepare and know the material before rehearsal. The responsibility of the orchestra/group member is to follow the directions of the group leader or conductor and perform prepared music, in performance and recording situations.

Be versatile, take as many classes as you can and play with as many people as you can” Giancarlo de Trizio 

Background Vocalist 

Background vocalists back up other singers and musicians on recordings, jingles/television commercials, or in live performances. They may work full-time or on a freelance basis, or travel with a performing act, holding responsibility for learning repertoire and attending rehearsals. Background vocalists must be versatile and flexible; those performing on recordings, jingles, or television/radio will need the ability to read music quickly and record it quickly with a minimum of errors. Harmony and improvisation abilities are a plus as well.

Floor Show Band

Floor show bands work in nightclubs, hotels, resorts, cruise ships, cafes, bars, and concert halls putting on show for patrons. They not only perform, they entertain! Show groups may perform many different types of music in their act. Show groups must have pizzazz, and usually involve extensive planning and rehearsal to appear professional at all times. Floor show groups may work in one place for a few days or even weeks before moving on to the next gig, and they travel frequently.

Theatre Musician

A theatre musician is an instrumentalist that plays in the pit orchestra of a music theatre production.

Theatre Performer

A theatre performer is a singer/actor or actress who performs in a music theatre production on stage.

Accompanist/Rehearsal Pianist

The accompanist/rehearsal pianist primarily works with vocalists and/or music theatre groups for rehearsals, live performance, or audition settings.


A cantor is a song leader in a Reformed, Conservative, or Orthodox Jewish Synagogue/Temple Service, or Catholic or Christian Orthodox service. The cantor sings liturgical prayers and leads the worshippers in attendance to sing in a precise and measured "call and answer"-type response to his/her own sung part or line.

Church Musician: Choir Director, Worship Leader, Praise & Worship Band Member, Organist, and Soloist

A musician or vocalist that plays, sings, or conducts during the musical portion of a worship service.

Product Demonstrator

A product demonstrator is a musician that is employed by a music equipment manufacturer to demonstrate the company's product line at trade shows and conferences. Usually, someone with strong playing ability as a musician is selected for this role.