Marissa Lake

Author: Marissa Lake

How to become a Music Teacher (Elementary, Middle School)

Interested in becoming a music teacher for elementary or middle school students? Read on for some important information on how to get your dream teaching job! 

Job duties:

Here are some specific job duties required for becoming a music teacher. First you must have knowledge of the instrument/instruments in the ensemble. Knowing your instrument(s) inside and out will make teaching your class that much easier. Next you need the ability to manage a classroom. Classroom management is important because sometimes children can get rowdy and not retain the information you are teaching. Finally, you’ll need experience writing curricula, and in this case concert programs with appropriate repertoire. Music teachers not only have to create classroom plans, but they also have to plan exactly what music their ensembles and students are expected to play. 

Where they work:

Oftentimes, any type of music teacher is hired by a school district to teach band, orchestra, or private lessons. Sometimes if hired by a school district you are expected to travel between several schools within the district per week to teach students. You can also be hired by private schools, however, this process can be lengthy and sometimes requires degrees from very specific universities. Many areas are looking for music teachers, especially during the pandemic. Be sure to choose the right area for you by taking into consideration the cost of living + your salary of that particular area to make sure that is where you want to be.

Working conditions:

As a music teacher, you can expect to be working at least 40 hours a week. This is often the minimum for music teachers since they also have to do after-school music programs, concerts, musical rehearsals, etc. The best thing about being a teacher though is that you have a good portion of the summer off of work! Unless you seek out summer music camps to help out with. 


Often times you are working with children in a classroom setting. Your colleagues will most likely range in age, and sometimes you may have to collaborate with a music teacher of another ensemble or even have a teacher’s assistant. 

Education and Training:

The minimum degree for this profession is often a bachelor’s degree in a music-related field. After earning this degree, you are then expected to complete practicum before applying to work within a school district. State licensure is required for teaching in any state within the U.S. Requirements for these do differ by state so it is important to do your research before applying for different school districts. Here at Lawrence, if you are a Music Education major you will be guided to get your certification over the course of the 5-year degree program (4 years of school, 1 year of student teaching).

How to gain experience while in undergrad:

The best way for aspiring music teachers to gain experience while in undergrad is by applying for and attending internships. There are many summer programs that offer teacher internships such as The People’s Music School, Merit School of Music, Wisconsin Conservatory, and much more! You don’t need your teachers certification to apply for these internships, and they are a great way to gain experience in the field.

Pay and Benefits: 

Your pay depends on the school district your working in and its geographical location. Often times your pay is based on price of living for geographic area. On the lower end of the price of living, but you can get by. Substitutes are going to be under a full teaching salary, making around $12-$15. Public school teachers generally have benefits (dental, vision, health) however, private school teachers often times do not.

Job Outlook:

Right now, music teachers are needed EVERYWHERE. There is a shortage of teachers in general, however, music teachers are especially needed. Sadly, music is one of the first classes to get cut out of curricula in elementary and grade schools. Job market is thankfully expected to grow by 12% in the next few years, and many school districts will hire you right out of your student teaching experience. 

Global Considerations:

Teaching jobs that are abroad (outside of the U.S) often offer 2 year contracts. Teachers coming into the U.S are asked to apply for a VISA upon hire; which means you can go through the application process without needing a VISA, however, if you are hired by the school you are required to apply for one. As far as I know, all types of US teaching certificates can be obtained by international students and they can secure a teaching job in the U.S upon graduation. There could be extra steps depending on where certification is obtained (NYC you need fingerprint scans), so it is important to do you research on the district you are applying for. 

Information for becoming an Opera Singer

Interested in become an opera singer? Read on for all you need to know about the field and how to get one step closer to your dream of becoming an opera star. 

Job duties:

There are many job duties required for being a musician in general. However, here are some specific job duties for becoming an opera singer that stems away from just musical talent. First, you will need advanced sight reading abilities. Being able to sight read music efficiently is a crucial part in the music industry, and especially in advanced opera roles and chorus’s. Next you need knowledge of Italian, German, French and English diction. Thankfully, much of this training comes from your undergraduate and graduate school experiences, however you need to be sure you know how to read and pronounce these languages efficiently. Next you’ll need good time management skills especially in terms of practicing. Knowing your limits in the practice room and how to use your time wisely will help you immensely in the opera world. Finally, you will need advanced memorization abilities. Many operas can be up to four hours long so it is crucial to know effective ways of memorization in order to learn a role in a timely fashion. 

Where they work:

Opera singers work for opera companies and opera houses. Sometimes summer opportunities may arise where you work for smaller, non-profit opera shows and festivals. However, most of your time will be spent in an opera house. 

Working Conditions:

Rehearsals for opera performances are mostly going to be during the evenings. However, the rest of your day is often filled with practicing for your roles, finding auditions, and maybe working a second job. Some opera singers end up travelling a lot during their career, however, a lot also end up staying in one geographic area as well. It all depends on what you see yourself doing. Opera singers are also usually hired on a contract for a particular season. Oftentimes they have to re-audition for certain houses in order to renew their contract. 


In an opera company you often have a set number of people for a certain season you will be working with. Depending on the size of the opera company and also the demands of the repertoire for the season, you can be looking to work with anywhere from 40-150 people on the stage. Directors, coaches, and arts administration workers often stay the same for longer periods of time. However, many opera artists may come and go depending on their careers. 

Education and Training:

Opera singers are often at least required to have a Masters degree in a voice related field. You are then often expected to audition and participate in a “Young Artist Program” featured by an opera house. These programs are often pre-professional opportunities for upcoming opera singers to learn how to work in an opera house before fully committing to a contract. Young Artist Program’s often give a stipend to the artists in their program.

Pay and Benefits:

Depending on the opera house, opera singers can expected to be paid by the show and rehearsal, or by a monthly/yearly stipend. Opera singers range from making $60,000 to $200,000. Like most musicians, benefits are often times not included upon hire, especially within the U.S. However, Europe not only has an abundance of opera houses, but often times these singers are given benefits as well as paid a little more fairly (again, depending on the opera house). 

Job outlook:

Employment for singers in general are expected to grow by 7% in the next few years. This includes opera singers, so expect an increase in jobs, especially after the pandemic once musical performances are expected to be in high demand. 

Global Considerations:

Since there are many opera houses throughout the world, and oftentimes singers come from all over to audition for certain opera houses, the profession of being an opera singer is certainly open to international students studying music. Of course, since there are so many opera houses around the world and so many have different requirements, it is important to do your research in finding the house or company that will be the best fit for you. 

Career Planning Guide Links

Career Planning Guide (links will take you to the CLC website)
Chapter 1 – Resumes
Chapter 2 – Cover Letters
Chapter 3 – Portfolios and Personal Websites
Chapter 4 – Managing Your Image
Chapter 5 – Etiquette
Chapter 6 – Networking/Making Connections
Chapter 7 – Job and Internship Search
Chapter 8 – Other Letters
Chapter 9 – Interviews
Chapter 10 – Components of a Job Offer
Chapter 11 – Graduate School

Important Documents for Musicians: How to Write a Musician’s Resume, Repertoire list, and Bio

As classical musicians, we most often focus on aspects of our individual playing and view auditions alone as being the sole factor in landing a job. Auditions are undeniably a very significant part to obtain professional positions, but some other factors also play an important part in getting to this point. Similar to how most jobs require candidates to submit a cover letter and resume, the same often applies for musicians in order to be invited for an audition. Cover letters are not as frequent with musicians, but could potentially be asked for. Sample cover letters can be found here in our Career Resources. For now, I would like to discuss some of the content and steps involved in writing a musician’s resume, repertoire list, and bio.


  • You should start with a header as you would with any other resume: include your name, email address, phone number, address, and LinkedIn url if you have an account. One additional thing to include next to your name is your instrument/voice type. For me, it looks like this: Abbey Atwater, Clarinet
  • In other resumes, next would usually be your education section. Do include this in you resume, but farther down. If you are submitting your resume in hopes of being invited to take an orchestral audition, your performance experience should take precedence and be highlighted further up and your education should be moved down.
  • Your performing experience can be expressed in a variety of ways and ordered differently depending on the significance. Here is how I personally would go about organizing it:
    • Orchestral (or Large Ensemble) Experiences
      • Example:

Section leader, Lawrence University Orchestra, Appleton, WI,                September 2016 – present

  • Chamber Music
  • Solo Performances/Awards Won/Accomplishments
    • Example:

Winner, Lawrence University Wind Ensemble Concerto Competition, Appleton WI             January 2019

  • In these, include any specific leadership positions you may have had (principal, concertmaster, winner- if for a competition) or any auxiliary instruments played (Eb clarinet, English horn). This will be formatted just as other work experience would look like on a resume: position title, company (or ensemble in this case), location, and dates from start to finish.
  • Refrain from listing specific works played (unless relevant like roles for vocalists)- save this for your repertoire list
  • In these experience sections, either chronological or combination-style orders would be appropriate. Either list everything in reverse chronological order or in terms of importance. For example, if you have competed in various competitions and have won a few, placed second in another, and been a finalist in some, prioritize them in that order with the win being the first listed
  • For ensemble experience, try to include ones that were ongoing and not a “one-and-done” sort of deal like with competitions.
  • Next, you can place your education section which includes: school and its location, graduation year, GPA, degree(s), and major(s)/minor(s).
  • Following this is a list of your primary private instructors. All that needs to be included is their name and dates studied. Master classes (that you played in) will come after this with the same information (name and date)
  • You can also include a section for relevant professional organizations (ex: National Association for Music Education, Music Teachers National Association, Sigma Alpha Iota)
  • Try to keep under one page


  • The purpose of a repertoire list is to provide others with all the repertoire you have worked on that you could potentially perform if asked on short notice.
  • Begin with the same heading/contact info as your resume/cover letter
  • As the title suggests, this essentially is a list of all repertoire performed (for vocalists and instrumentalists) and repertoire conducted (for conductors)
    • Works studied can also be included if studied sufficiently and you feel you could perform competently- not just something sight read once
  • Always include these specific kinds of works:
    • Vocalists:
      • Opera roles
      • Musical roles
      • Lieder
      • Other works
    • Instrumentalists:
      • Sonatas/ solo works with piano
      • Unaccompanied works
      • Concertos
      • Chamber works
    • Conductors:
      • Operas
      • Orchestra works
      • Wind band works
      • Chamber works
  • Depending on what is asked in the requirements for the repertoire list, the following can also be included:
    • Method books studied
    • Excerpts studied
    • Music performed in large ensembles (ex: symphonies and other significant works)
    • Repertoire played on auxiliary instruments
  • Can also indicate:
    • If music consisted of a public performance (recital, concert) or if performed by memory
      • Can use different symbols to indicate each of these: + # *
    • Date of performance
    • If you played in a master class/ who specifically you studied the repertoire with
    • What ensemble you performed with
  • Music should be listed in a way that looks professional and appropriate. These are all formats that work and keep them consistent throughout the list)
    • Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart Clarinet Concerto in A major K. 622
    • Mozart: Clarinet Concerto in A major K. 622
    • Clarinet Concerto in A major K. 622, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart


  • In third person
  • Begin by stating your name, where you are from, and what age you started studying music
  • In the the middle of your bio, mention significant accomplishments including:
    • Solo performances
    • Ensembles performed in
    • Music festivals attended
    • Master classes you have played in
    • Music internships or teaching experiences
    • Leadership positions pertaining to music
    • Performing jobs held in the past
  • You can also mention some background in why you began playing your instrument/singing or any turning points in your musical career
  • At the end mention where you are currently studying, who you are studying with, what year you are, and your plans for next year are if you are graduating
  • If you are out of school, you can also mention where you are currently located and what you are doing (both professionally and/or a fun fact like: “In addition to playing the alto clarinet, Gustav has a passion for cooking and loves taking long walks with his dog, Buddy”)

Below, you can find some additional useful resources and example to help you craft your own!

Abbey Atwater ’19
Career Peer Educator

Cover Letter


Repertoire List

resume-and-rep-list.docx – Eastman School of Music


A four-part series from Angela Myles Beeching on NewMusicBox – post 1, post 2, post 3, post 4

Surviving a Summer Internship Far from Home

If you are reading this, it means that you want to secure or have already secured a summer internship. If you haven’t found something yet, set up an appointment with CLC staff to explore some resources. If you are all set, these are some things to keep in mind while you get ready for the best summer of your life. I spent the summer between my junior and senior year in Washington DC, and I made several mistakes while I was preparing for my internship. For example, I had no idea how to find housing, or how to eat on a budget. I hope my mistakes make your summer easier and more fun.

Just like most things in big cities, housing is (very) expensive. You can try to save money by sharing a room or commuting. More traditional options for interns are well-known intern housing options like June Homes. You can find city specific alternatives if you start searching early on; however, these tend to be more expensive, and they fill really fast. Other options that might be less pricey, are reaching out to alumni or personal connections and asking if they know of anyone subletting or in need of a summer house sitter. Another way to learn about subletting options is through subletting groups on Facebook. Try to avoid less reliable websites like Craigslist. If you find something that you like, ask to see the apartment or house through a video call, or if you can have a connection in that city go visit the apartment in person. There are some people out there making money from fake apartment postings. Someone gave me this advice before my summer in DC: “If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is”.

Getting around. The best way to get around on a budget is by using public transportation and walking. If your city has a metro, don’t be afraid to use it. In most cities you can get a metro card and load it at almost every metro station. Usually, metro cards also work for city buses. Another way to move around the city is by using free transportation designed for tourists, in DC it was a bus: the DC Circulator. Buses tend to be less reliable than metros, but they usually reach more places. If it will be your first time on that city, download these apps: Via, a cheaper ride-share option; the metro app, will let you know the best way to get places and how far way buses are; and CityMapper, will show you different options to get places as well as the price for each option.

Eating on a budget. Food is also very expensive, so the cheapest option is to go grocery shopping and cook for yourself. Keep this in mind while searching for housing. If you are planning to cook, make sure you find housing that has a fully equipped kitchen. Remember that in in some cities you have to pay for disposable bags, so bring reusable bags with you when you go grocery shopping. Buy a Tupperware and bring food to work, it is not weird. Most interns are also on a budget, so they will probably be doing the same. In some cases, you can even eat for free. Usually events happening during lunchtime or after five provide free food.

Although food is expensive, most entertainment options are free. Make sure you find things to do after you get out of work. There are hundreds of free events happening all over the city, ranging from congressional briefings about public policy to showings of 90s movies at a park. Summer is a special time: museums have new and exciting exhibits, families have picnics at the park, people to listen to music. Use Facebook, Google, and Eventbrite to learn about free events happening near you.

Contact other interns. The only thing that makes free events better, is going with the right company. Most interns in the area are just like you, trying to find people to hang out when they get out of work, so reach out; again, it is not weird. Reach out to interns at your organization, reach out to interns from Lawrence, and reach out to young alumni living in your city.

Make and cultivate connections. If you find a person whose job sounds like something you’d like to do, tell them. They can be your boss at your organization, or someone that you met at a meeting, request to meet with them for an informational interview and ask them anything you want to know. But it doesn’t stop there, email your connections to let them know what you’ve been up to.

Dress to impress. Make sure to have a business casual wardrobe that will keep you cool during the humid summer months. Most organizations will require you to dress up for work. Remember that you might be using public transportation and walking a lot, so use clothes that look fancy and keep you cool. You might be attending meetings with congress people, CEOs, and other important people in your field. Make sure you look presentable and refreshed. Some people even bring walking shoes with them to ensure comfort.

Be prepared for anything. Summer weather is unpredictable. A morning that looks like a humid summer day, later turns into a thunderstorm that floods the city. While there are no good ways to prepare for that, here are some things to keep in your bag so you can survive hot days, rainstorms, and everything in between: a water bottle, sunscreen, sunglasses, an umbrella, a cardigan or light jacket, and a reusable bag.

I hope these tips make your summer internship easier and more fun.

By Barbara Espinosa ’20 who survived an internship in DC during one of the hottest summers ever.

13 Things to do During Your 13 Weeks of Summer as a Music Major

Summer is right around the corner! For some musicians, it could be a great time to take a bit of a break and recollect after being burnt out from a busy school year. For others, including myself, summer is a chance to take advantage of this extra time and explore various opportunities that are available. Here are some of the things I would recommend:

1. Teach lessons

Summer is a great time to gain experience teaching private lessons. Get in touch with music directors, staff at music stores, friends, and family in the area to let them know you plan to teach and ask them to share your name and contact information to prospective students. This is a great time for you to get business cards made and network with others to get your name out there.

2. Take lessons

Get in touch with your high school private instructor or local orchestral musicians and see if they are available to teach you any lessons. I got in contact with various clarinet professors at schools I decided to apply to and did some travelling to take lessons with them. I would highly recommend doing this if you anticipate furthering your education with graduate school.

3. Work at your local music store

Many jobs at music stores can be full-time positions, but it is definitely worth a shot seeking out seasonal or part-time positions! You can learn a lot about different products available, gain valuable customer service skills, and stay updated on current music trends and events. This is a good chance to network too!

4. Work at a music camp for kids

This is especially beneficial for music education majors. Gain experience teaching music and working with kids of various ages and skill levels from elementary school through high school, depending on the program. You could have a significant influence on their musical futures!

5. Secure an internship

There are various internships available for musicians. Many of these may involve working with kids, as mentioned above, but there are many other exciting internships available that may focus more on arts administration if that is something that might interest you. Various symphonies and opera companies have development, marketing, and other internships available. This is another great way to network with others and possibly spend the summer living somewhere new!

6. Attend concerts

During the summer, there are numerous orchestras, wind bands, jazz bands, and chamber ensembles that will be putting on performances. Many of these are exciting pops concerts that take place outdoors and are often free!

7. Play chamber music with local friends

Do you have other musical friends or know of other talented musicians in your area? Hit them up and see if they would be interested in playing any chamber music together! This can keep you engaged with music and keep your rehearsal skills going.

8. Take church gigs

There are many musical opportunities available at churches for their weekly services. I occasionally get asked to perform clarinet for services, but if you have piano or organ experience, these skills are especially valuable. Of course, there’s always church choirs you can get involved with.

9. Do some research and listening

For the sake of my own enjoyment this summer, I started compiling and organizing lists of clarinet repertoire of essentially all possible solo and chamber music I can discover and I have since been going through and listening to all of it and giving them ratings. This is something that really interests me and it kept me quite entertained this summer while teaching me a lot of information that is very valuable for me to know. Projects like this or just listening music is a great way to spend time.

10. Attend a summer music festival

There are so many musical festivals available for all musicians whether they are for orchestras, operas, or chamber music. These are rather competitive to get into and can be very costly. But the experience and the skills learned at festivals can be invaluable and ones you might not learn during the school year. I can say from my own experience, it really sparked a high degree of motivation for me to keep improving and I met so many other great musicians that made me determined to improve.

11. Pursue other performance opportunities

Find performing opportunities for yourself. Find a venue to put on a recital or get a hold of food pantries, warming shelters, or nursing homes to see if you can come in to perform. Chances are they would all be thrilled to have a talented young musician performing!

12. Try something new!

Ever wanted to try a new instrument? Or maybe you want to try your hand at composing? This is the time to do it! Feel free to explore possibilities, take chances, and do something out of you comfort zone. A spark of interest for something could end up developing into a wonderful new passion (and can just be downright fun- I learned bassoon my senior year of high school and loved it!).

13. Practice hard and well

Although you might be gone for a couples weeks on a family vacation or might be busy with work or whatever else you have going on during the summer, don’t neglect practicing. Make sure to find time during your days to really get some high-quality practicing accomplished. Motivation can definitely be a struggle during the summer, but view this is a great time to really be productive and get a lot accomplished!

Abbey Atwater ‘19

Career Peer Educator