Career Paths for Musicians

Usually, I write about stuff that would appeal to all sorts of musicians. I try to appeal to both amateurs and professionals. But not all music topics will be for all musicians. So today, I’m focusing on those of you who are professional musicians or aspiring professionals: career paths for musicians.

Hannah B Flute | Career Paths for Musicians

A music career is very difficult. Pro and aspiring pro musicians often have to work multiple jobs to bring in enough income. It is not impossible to become a professional musician; technology has actually made it easier than ever.

In this post, we are going to explore some different career paths for musicians. Some common, others not so common.

Portfolio Careers

Most musicians have what is called a portfolio career. They do multiple different things. Performing on the weekend and teaching during the week is a common combination.

Some musicians even have day jobs outside of music. They pursue music on the side until they can do it full time.

A portfolio career is important for any musician. You don’t want to rely on one stream of income. If you’re a performer and suffer from a huge injury, you need something else to fall back on until you are well enough to perform.

A composer needs another way to make their income in case they have a bad bout of writers block.

If you’re a musician who plays or works in the music industry professionally, you need options. This blog post will help you figure out those options that are right for you.

Related: Portfolio Careers: What, Why, Who?


This is the most common career path in music, and it is also the most competitive. It is also the most draining, because performing usually means a lot of time spent traveling.

But performing solo, in a chamber group, or in a larger orchestra can be a fulfilling career path. Most performers supplement their income in other ways, because a lot of them don’t make a full time income on performing alone.

If you love being on stage and playing music for other people, consider working towards a performance career.

There are many performance jobs out there, including orchestral positions, pit orchestras, musical theatre, opera, chamber groups, and solo jobs. It can be tough to get started in a performance career, so be sure to never stop working and building connections.


Music education is a major at almost every school that has a general music major. Why? There is a a growing need of qualified music educators. Even though school budgets have cut many music programs, there are other places where you can teach music.

You can teach anyone from preschool to adult, and you can teach for a school, a community center, or on your own. You can even teach music online with some programs now.

If you enjoy working with people and you are good at helping others learn, consider being a music teacher.

There are dozens of ways you can teach music. There are the traditional teaching careers: K-12 teaching in a public school and college/university teaching. With the advancement of technology, however, there are even more ways of teaching.

You can also set up a private teaching studio, where you teach who and what you want. Your studio could be online, out of your home, out of a music store, or a combination of these.


Music therapy is a growing field. It combines music with other therapy techniques. Music therapist work with people with disabilities. They use music to help patients in various ways.

This includes allowing a person with autism to express themself or helping a patient with early stages of dementia slow down memory loss.

While it is a new field, music therapy it is a legitimate career path with a growing number of jobs.

If you want to work with people with disabilities and you are patient and caring, consider being a music therapist.

You do need special training, either a bachelors in music therapy of a bachelors equivalent for those who already have a degree. If you are interested enough and willing to do the work, music therapy can be a very rewarding career.

Music therapists either work in hospitals or for themselves with a private practice. Some even work in music stores.


Another new way to make money as a musician is by writing articles, blog posts, and even books. With the internet, it is even easier to write and publish a book on your own. A blog is even easier to set up.

There are a few different free platforms where you can start a blog. The most common are and Blogger (Google). I started this blog on Blogger, because I could use my already active Google account to set it up.

Blogger is totally free, and it allows more features than the free plan on and other “free” blogging sites. Other free sites usually have some strings attached.

The platform might post ads on your blog, and they keep any profits. Free blogs also have certain limitations on what you can do. And almost all of those free sites? They can claim ownership of your content. They can even shut down your site if they feel it goes against their policies.

Whether on your own website, a free blog, or in a book, writing is a great way for musicians to make a living. Writing is flexible; you can do it from the couch or in an airplane.

A blog is the easiest way to get started with writing. It can build your web presence, and you can figure out if you like writing enough to make it part of your career.

Related: How to Start a Blog


One popular career path for musicians is composing and/or arranging music. Composing is pretty straightforward. You write new music. Arranging is where you take music already written and write it for a new instrumentation.

An example would be a concerto written for a solo instrument with piano accompaniment. A concerto, by definition, is for a soloist with orchestra. But since most musicians don’t have easy access to a full orchestra, music publishers will make and sell arrangements with piano.

If you are good at improvising or you like experimenting with new instrumentations, composing and arranging might be the path for you.

Composers and arrangers either work for themselves or with a tv or film company. A film composer writes music for film and television, and is sometimes even a full time employee. Most composers do start off self employed.


There are dozens of other career paths for musicians that we haven’t even touched on. If you would like to see a part two in the future, leave a comment below!


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Garner’s Abuse of Power

Today is a sad day for flutists young and old, near and far. It was revealed to many that the well known and well respected flutist and professor, Dr. Brad Garner, has been accused of sexual harassment and assault.

Hannah B Flute | Garner's Abuse of Power

Garner taught at University of Cincinnati, and he basically built the flute program from scratch.

But he used his power and authority to manipulate and harass students for over two decades.

In this special, extra post, I will be discussing the issue as well as my thoughts on sexual assault and the vulnerability of young flute students.

Who is Garner?

Garner is most know for being the first flutist to receive a doctoral degree (DMA) in flute from Juilliard. Until last December, he was the flute professor at University fo Cincinnati.

He is also know for being a headjoint maker, with his company Garner headjoints.

Garner has played with the New York Philharmonic and the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra. He has performed in venues such as Carnegie Hall and Lincoln Center as well as around the world.

He is a very prolific flutist. But that doesn’t give him the right to abuse that power and status.

Why this Matters.

Garner used his power to scare students. If a student spoke out about his abuse, he had the power to stunt their career growth. He could assign them the “bad” parts in orchestra. He could use (or refuse to use) his contacts to get auditions for his students.

This case parallels that of Larry Nassar, the famous doctor of Olympic gymnasts who was recently sentenced for up to 100+ years in prison for sexual abuse.

If you know anything about that case, simply change the word “gymnastics” to “flute studio.”

We cannot let anyone else get away with something like this. Garner deserves a similar sentence to Nassar.

What he did/said.

According to the Daily Mail, Garner would inappropriately touch his female students. He would send them explicit photos, and he would even record his sexual interactions with students.

One student claimed he smacked her butt when she bent down to pick up her flute.

Garner has responded to the allegations as a “witch hunt.” He has denied all allegations.

One student told the Cincinnati Enquirer that if you were on Garner’s bad side, he had the power to destroy your career.

All of this, and possibly more. It’s disgusting.

What I think.

Again, I think it is disgusting.

Anyone in a position of power should know better than to use that power to control others. Be it students, employees, or otherwise.

What now?

Share this. Share this article and others like it with as many people as possible.

Support others. If someone confides in you about being abused, listen to them. Believe them. Help them.

Spread the word about Garner’s heinous acts. He deserves to have his reputation tarnished.

Actually, he deserves more than that. He deserves to pay for what he did to who knows how many students.

So share this.


Even though I don’t normally post on Wednesdays, I could not stay silent about this issue.

Please, share this article as well as this one in the Cincinnati Enquirer.

We will never forget this.

Life Update

Hey guys. I know it’s been awhile since I posted something here. That is because I have had a lot going on in my personal life. So, I thought it was time for a life update for you all.

While I do not make any money from blogging (some bloggers do), I still love sharing tips and tricks with you all. I also like being able to give you small glimpses into my life offline.

Killer Harmony | Life Update | Grey background with maroon text "Life Update" and teal text "About Me"

In today’s post, I am going to do a bit of the latter. I have some news to share, and I want to share my thoughts on the future of this blog. Don’t worry; I don’t plan to quit blogging anytime soon.

My New Job

I got a new, full time job! It took a few months of on and off job searching and about a dozen interviews, but I did it. At the beginning of this month, I accepted an offer to work as a teller for a local bank.

It may not be a music or writing job, but I have been enjoying it so far, and I think it fits my strengths and skills. I have always been good at mental math, and I am also very meticulous and detail-oriented.

I started last Monday, so I have officially completed a week of training, and I still have another week of training this week. These two weeks are at a different, busier branch than where I will be working. Then, next week, I get to go to the branch where I was hired.

Now, some of you might be curious about the bank I work for. For privacy reasons, and to stay in compliance with the company social media policy, I will not be stating the name of my employer.

*NOTE: The views and opinions in this post do not represent those of the bank for which I work.

Future Posts

With my full time job, I do have less time to dedicate to blogging, so I think I will stick to one post per week. If I have time to write a second post, then I will. I definitely don’t want to limit myself to one post a week.

However, I also need to have time to do other things, like cook myself some food and practice flute, and just be a twenty-something. Another change I am considering is adding some posts here and there that relate to my new found career path.

I am thinking about writing posts on applying for jobs (part time and full time), the interview process, and then maybe a few posts about the basics of my job.

Since blogging is not my job, I don’t feel bound to stick to one niche or subject. I have the freedom to write about what I choose. Blogging is something I do for fun, one day it might be for profit, but that is not the case right now.

I also want to use that freedom of a personal blog to appeal to a wider audience. You may not be interested in everything I post, but I want to have a little something for everyone.

That’s what blogging should be about, right?

I Still Love Music

I am still playing in a local flute choir, and I take private lessons when I can. Music is what I studied in college, and I want to maintain the skills I achieved.

Flute and piccolo will always be a part of my life; I have no doubts about that. Since I do have a job in another field (which I love), music has taken a slight back seat. I can’t get in much practice except for evenings and weekends.

I think that has been hard. As a music major, the bulk of my day was spent practicing alone or with others. That is not the case anymore. Music is still a huge passion of mine, and I want to keep that passion alive as best as I can.

Changing My Diet (Slowly)

This may or may not interest you, but since I have been out of the dorms, I have slowly changed my eating habits. In college, I was subject to what food was in the caf. If I didn’t find anything, I would have to order in or eat from the vending machines.

Now that I am back at home and have access to a kitchen, I have become more mindful of what I am eating. I meal prep my lunches for the week. I try to find healthier alternatives for snacks. Small changes have made me want to make bigger changes.

I have also started to limit my consumption of animal products. I already don’t eat any red meat or fish. Milk products and eggs don’t really appeal to me on their own. When I do consume animal products, I try to be more mindful of what I am putting into my body.

It’s the little things.


I know this post is a bit out of the ordinary. I normally write more informative content. But, I wanted to share a life update with what has been happening and why there was no new post last week.

With these changes, I will be blogging a little less frequently. For more regular updates and content, follow me on my other social media accounts.

Facebook: Killer Harmony

Twitter: @HannahHaefele

Instagram: @killerharmony

Is Blogging My Career?

Now that I have been out of college for a few years (excuse me…months), it is time for me to start my career. I have kept up with this blog and have increased my posting frequency, because I have had more time.

I have contemplated blogging for a living, and I have searched for jobs and clients. It has been hard, and I would love a career in digital media. However, I need to be realistic. I need to find a way to make money and to start my career sooner rather than later.

Killer Harmony | Is Blogging My Career? | Graduating college has made me really think about what I want out of my career. Is blogging for me? Is music for me? Here are my thoughts.

In a way, it does feel like I have given up on a dream. Two dreams: blogging and music.

But I like to look at it as finding a new dream. A dream that involves what I love about blogging and playing music, but not in those fields.

I love working with people and communicating with others. Working with the public is stressful, but I do enjoy it. If I were to hole myself up at home or in some other office box, I wouldn’t be happy. That’s why I love performing; I get to be in front of people and to entertain them.

The skills I have learned from my music degree and from this blog will transfer with me no matter where I end up. There are so many transferable skills in music, I even wrote a blog post about it. So I won’t list those skills here.

Related: Transferable skills for musicians

What now?

This does not mean that I am going to quit blogging or quit playing music. We all need things to do in our off time, and I love having multiple things that fit that need. It means that if I don’t feel like playing flute one day, I can write a blog post.

If I don’t want to write a blog post, I can play some music.

I am still extremely happy with my decision to major in flute performance. It will not lead me directly to any sort of full time job, but that’s okay. I love being able to use this blog as a way to communicate other skills that I have.

I can write and edit written content. I can create basic graphic images and can create templates for them.  Blogging allows me to create content to educate people all over the world. I can speak to a bigger audience.

The point is that I don’t plan on quitting any time soon, but it will probably become a hobby or a side gig.

A new dream

I have had to think long and hard about what I want to do now, and I don’t even know if I should publish this post. What I do know is that I want to work with others and to help or entertain people in some way.

I love being able to make someone’s day, either by playing flute or simply complimenting them. It could be as small as helping a customer finish their errand a little bit faster.

I know it sounds general, but working with people, and also with technology, is what I really enjoy. Yes, I am introverted, but I work well with others one on one or in small groups. That comes from my experiences in music school.

So while I may not be able to pick out a single dream job, I do know what I want to do and how I work best.

I want you reading this to know that it is okay for dreams and plans to change. We can’t plan for this kind of thing.

Keeping up with me

I do plan to continue blogging about music, but I want to include more content that is relevant to amateur and semi-pro musicians. Music is a tough industry, and it can be a smart choice to keep music as a fun thing.

Please take a look through the archives and if you have any questions that I haven’t answered, comment below and I would love to write a blog post about it (music or career related, of course).


I know this isn’t the type of post I normally write, but I wanted to write it so that if you feel this way, you can get some sense of okayness. It can be very hard to set your dreams aside, but sometimes it is necessary in order to have a better life.

Let me know what you think about dreams and choosing what to follow (or not). And don’t forget to subscribe for exclusive ┬ámusic tips and tricks sent straight to your inbox!


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Transferable Skills for Musicians

The ability to play music is amazing. It can open up a new method of expression, allow you to learn new and inspiring music, and a whole lot more. There are tons of transferable skills for musicians, too. The benefits of music are endless.

Killer Harmony | Transferable Skills for Musicians | There are so many skills to be gained from playing a musical instrument, and a lot of them are transferable. Here are 7 transferable skills for musicians.

It can seem like music should only be taken seriously if it is a career goal for you, and that’s not true. While career bound musicians do need to take their craft seriously, amateurs also benefit from disciplined study.

Many musicians go on to pursue careers in other fields, but they can use a lot of skills that they developed through music. From teamwork to time management, musicians of all levels are well rounded and prepared for almost anything.


Possibly the biggest skill that musicians can transfer to other career fields as well as to other parts of life is discipline. The time and effort it takes to learn an instrument and get good at it is huge.

It is impossible to go from beginner to pro in a month. That discipline required for learning an instrument can be applied to tons of other things, such as keeping on track at work or sticking to a healthy diet.

Discipline is a very good skill to have no matter what career you choose, and music is the perfect way to become more disciplined.

Time Management

As a musician, you have to manage your time well. Even the professionals don’t have an endless amount of time to practice. You need to know what you need to work on and how to get that work done.

If you have a job outside of music, it can be hard to get as much practice time in, but time management will help. You can also use time management skills in other areas of your job and life, too.

Time management skills are beneficial to everyone, because you can spend more time on what matters and less time trying to complete a small task. If you only have half an hour to do something, you can prioritize and get more done in less time.

Related: Time Management for Musicians


A big part of music is playing and working with others. Yes, you can take private lessons, but bands, orchestras, and choirs are so much fun. You can meet other people and learn more repertoire than if you only played alone.

Joining a music group, though, requires that you work as part of a team. If one piece of the machine isn’t running smoothly, it can derail the whole train. The same is true for music groups.

You have to learn to fulfill your role in the group so that everyone can succeed. Even if you have other people playing your part, one wrong note can still be heard. And of course, teamwork is important in almost every job or professional situation.

Hand-Eye Coordination

Unless you are only a singer, you have probably had to learn a bit of hand-eye coordination. Reading music while also forming the correct hand position and getting the right fingerings is difficult.

However, hand-eye coordination can be used in other parts of your life. Even a task as simple as driving requires a good relationship between your hands and eyes. If your work is very physical, then hand-eye coordination is imperative.

Sight reading is especially helpful in developing the skill of hand-eye coordination. You have to be able to look ahead, and your fingers need to react appropriately.


This skill applies more to those who have studied music a bit more seriously, but anyone can still learn from it. If you are part of a group that is putting on a concert or you are giving your own recital, you will usually have to help spread the word.

While word of mouth is only one form of marketing it is powerful, and you can also use social media to share more about your upcoming performance.

You certainly won’t learn as much about marketing as a marketing student, but the basic principles can be applied to a lot of business minded jobs and careers.


Whether it’s with an orchestra director, a private teacher, or another musician, you will have to communicate. If you are a section leader, you will have to be a resource to the people in your section. You might have to coordinate sectionals.

If you need to cancel a lesson, you should be able to contact your teacher to let them know. Same with rehearsals. Communicating with those around you is vital to your success as a musician and as a person.

Music will teach you how to communicate in person, through email or text, and possibly by phone. You also get to communicate a composer’s thoughts and feelings during a performance. Good communication skills will take you far in life.

People Skills

This could fall under teamwork and communication, but I thought people skills needed its own section. In most careers and in daily life, you will have to interact with people. That includes people who come from a different background than you.

You have to be able to work with the people who are different from you. You might not always agree with everyone or like everyone, but you need to accept that. Professionalism and building a good relationship is more important.

One of my biggest regrets of this past year is ruining a possible relationship with another musician. I let one small thing that person did get to me, and my relationship with them and other musicians suffered. It made me so bitter, too. So, just be nice and learn to deal with people you may not get along with.

It’s difficult, but you will come across those people. Those people who you will butt heads with. Those people who make you feel like the bad guy. But you need to get over it and be the bigger person. That skill will get you places.


Did I miss any transferable skills for musicians? Let me know in the comments! And don’t forget to sign up below so that you get exclusive music tips sent right to your inbox!

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