Careers in Performance

Performing Artist (Recording Artist/Group)

Performing artists specialize in the performance of music, theater, or dance. Whether performing new original material or previously created works, a performing artist’s skills define their marketability. The performing artist may work as a solo act or with a group. Many modern performers incorporate technology and sound design into their performances by using electronic instruments, accompaniment tracks, and special effects. In addition to skill in their chosen craft, contemporary performing artists are required to have a basic knowledge of marketing such as community management through social media and content generation (e.g., video, text, and photos) for promotional purposes.

Vocal/Instrumental Soloist

A vocal/instrumental soloist is similar to a performing artist and may perform in much the same capacity. However, 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 also be called, depending on the source, a studio musician, a session player, a sideman or sidewoman, a freelance musician, or a backup musician. The main responsibility of the session musician is to back up the leader of a group in the recording studio, or possibly during a live performance, playing in a style or manner that the leader of the group or the producer desires. In addition to being a great musician, the session musician must be responsible, reliable, and easy to get along with. Session musicians should know how to sight-read, be familiar with a number of different styles, and, preferably, be proficient on more than one instrument.

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/Band Member

An orchestra/band member plays a supporting role as an instrumentalist in a musical group. A vast knowledge of repertoire, musical skill, and sight-reading ability are important qualities for the orchestra/band member to develop, especially in the orchestral environment. In addition, the orchestra/band member must be able to play well with other members of the group and must be highly organized so as to know the material before rehearsal. The ability to play more than one instrument is often very helpful to the orchestra/band member, whose responsibility is to follow the directions of the group leader or conductor to deliver the desired performance of 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 support 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 significant plus for successful background vocalists.


The DJ/remixer may be charged with editing a song or completely recreating it to sound different from the original version. The DJ/remixer may also mix recorded music live for an audience. Skills required involve knowledge of audio editing and music production software as well as performance dynamics and knowledge of current musical trends.

Floor Show Band

Floor show bands work in nightclubs, hotels, resorts, cruise ships, cafes, bars, and concert halls to entertain patrons. 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.