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How Do I Become a Band Director?

Tara Barnett
Tara Barnett

In order to become a band director, you need strong musical skills and, in most cases, a degree in music education. The exceptions to this rule usually involve a high degree of prestige and talent, and, sometimes, even experience leading a band at a professional level. For most people, the safest and most direct way to become a band director is to obtain a music education degree at the bachelor's level or above and begin gaining experience in leading bands.

The most important qualification required to become a band director is a degree in music education. This degree allows a person to work at the elementary school level and above, which is where a large number of band directors work. It is possible to work in this field without a degree, and it is sometimes possible to find bands outside of an educational setting, but having this degree opens up a lot of opportunities.

Woman with hand on her hip
Woman with hand on her hip

It is also important to have experience when applying for band director jobs. Internships and volunteer opportunities can provide some experience, which is useful when looking for jobs. Building connections to other professionals in the field can also yield directing opportunities.

Some school band programs specialize in a particular instrument, such as strings or drums, so being an expert in at least one instrument can be an advantage when trying to become a band director. Even so, breadth is also important. At the elementary school level, a band director may be the only instructor a student has for a particular instrument. This can be extremely challenging, as the director must be able to help improve their performance on instruments with which the director has only minimal experience.

For many people, directing bands at the college level is the ultimate professional goal. In many cases, this involve getting a PhD in music or, at the very least, a master's degree. At the college level, there are many different types of bands, and the musicians are usually more polished. This makes it possible to play more complex music, which some band directors find more satisfying. Even so, any person who wants to become a band director should expect to have a job in an educational field.

Looking for a job as a band director can be challenging, but there are many job boards specifically tailored to this profession. Some people find work directing bands in which they once played. For this reason, many people believe that experience playing music is just as important as experience directing, as this type of experience builds a professional network and provides experience from the musician's side of being in a band.

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Discussion Comments


Band directors also must be possessed of nearly unlimited patience -- especially high school band directors. Those folks are frequently candidates for sainthood, in my opinion. The ones who manage to have good bands, with good students, and teach them something in the process are nothing short of miracle workers.

I guess the ultimate tribute to band directors -- and good teachers -- everywhere is the movie "Mr. Holland's Opus." It's one of my very favorites. I've seen it numerous times and I still love it. Great movie. Should have had the Oscar.


A good band director should be proficient in at least one instrument in every instrument family. He or she should be able to play at least one woodwind, one brass instrument, one stringed instrument, one percussion and one keyboard.

Most band directors are most comfortable on piano, but I have known some who could play nearly every instrument in the band. They're usually the best directors, because they understand the dynamics of how a band works, and how all the parts work together for one purpose.

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