Do you love playing the piano? Have you considered turning your musical hobby into a career?
A lot of people don’t consider careers in music because it might seem like a competitive field with a lot of instability. That can be true, but many pianists are able to find full-time work to support themselves and their families.
If you’re someone who enjoys the consistency of managing a single responsibility at your job, working as a musician might not be for you.
It is unlikely that someone who plays the piano for a living operates on a 9-5 schedule. Most musicians wear many hats. They are involved in many different musical endeavors and hold a number of responsibilities.
Many musicians thrive with this type of work because they enjoy the variety of tasks, music and people they encounter. This lifestyle is usually life giving rather than draining for musicians.
There are many different types of jobs that pianists can do, but we’ll just explore a handful of them today. Accompanying, teaching and performing are the 3 most common routes pianists tend to go.
There are many different ways to use your piano skills as an accompanist. Here are a few of the different applications:
- Ballet schools
- Community choirs
- Vocal and instrumental lessons
- Rehearsals for musicals and other productions
- Vocal and instrumental competitions and festivals
Accompanying requires you to have excellent sight-reading skills. You also have to be able to adapt quickly and think on the spot.
It’s unlikely that you’d have much control over your schedule since many of the groups listed above have pre-determined practice times. However, between all of the types of groups, there is a lot of variety in rehearsal times, so you’d likely be able to secure more than one accompanying gig and choose collaborations that appeal to you most. For example, you could fill day-time hours accompanying high school choir classes, evening hours as a ballet rehearsal accompanist or weekends as a church accompanist.
Some of these jobs are ongoing and others are seasonal. For example, churches and schools almost always have year-round rehearsals, or at least follow an academic year calendar. These jobs usually have a pre-determined pay that is hourly or salaried.
Accompanying for competitions and festivals would be more inconsistent. Many states and school districts hold music competitions for band, orchestra and vocal students. The students usually need an accompanist the day of the competition, but they may also need to rehearse with the accompanist for several weeks leading up to their competition. For these types of situations, you may be able to set your own rates.
Teaching is a really common way to use your piano skills. There are a number of settings where you could teach:
- Local piano studio
- In your own home
- Traveling to students’ homes
- High school piano lab
- University piano lab or private lessons
Teaching piano is a very accessible job. Although you don’t need any specific degrees or certifications to teach private piano lessons independently, you do need to be qualified to teach in a school or university setting.
Piano teachers need to have excellent interpersonal skills, a creative approach to piano and good business sense.
Schools and universities will probably offer you a pre-determined salary; however, studio teaching can have more variance.
If you’re teaching for someone else’s studio, you will likely earn a portion of what students are paying for lessons. If you offer lessons independently, you have complete control over how much to charge.
Performing is probably the most competitive of these jobs. Concert pianists perform at a very high level. They are talented and put in many years of work to earn the privilege of performing in large concert venues.
On a smaller scale, there are many opportunities to perform in local communities. Some restaurants or malls may have pianists or small musical ensembles who perform for their guests.
Churches will occasionally hire professional musicians to make guest appearances for special church services, especially around Christmas or Easter. Pianists are also often needed for special events such as weddings, receptions and parties.
Piano performers need to play with exceptional artistry and skill. They need to create a name for themselves and have the reputation of being an excellent performer.
There is a huge range of pay for piano performers depending on experience, the type of venue and the nature of the performance.
Of these three career paths, most pianists probably do some combination of all three of these jobs in some capacity.
Other Careers For Pianists
While these are the main ways pianists can earn a living, there are a number of other directions you could go.
This is a special skill that may not be suitable for many musicians. However, if you are a musician who happens to have an excellent ear and a knack for the mechanics of a piano, this job might be for you. There is definitely a demand for qualified people to repair, tune and maintain pianos.
If you love creating your own music, there may be opportunities to compose music for a living. Video game music, soundtracks, commissioned work, and pedagogical music are some types of music that current composers are creating.
If you love using your music to help others, music therapy might be a good direction for you.
Piano is a really versatile and provides many opportunities for income. However, it’s always a good idea to expand your skill set to broaden your options even more.
For example, if you have some conducting skills, you could be an accompanist and leader of a choral group.
Or, if your teaching interests include early childhood, you could teach music classes in daycares or elementary schools.
Another nice aspect of the jobs we discussed is that many of the can be part-time or side hustles that fit well with busy seasons of life or other career endeavors.
Piano jobs can be challenging, satisfying and interesting. If you love playing the piano or are studying the piano, there are a lot of different options for you!