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Alternate Career Titles:

 Executive Director, Chief Administrator

Career Overview: Handles the administrative duties of the orchestra.

Career Salary Range: $24,000 to $1,000,000+

Managing Director

Become a Managing Director

Career Description

The top administrative position in the orchestra is held by the Managing Director, who is responsible for overseeing all administrative personnel. He or she works with the Orchestra Operations Manager to supervise and develop different departments including public relations, business, educational activities, and ticket subscriptions.

The Managing Director also acts as a liaison between the orchestra’s board of directors and the administrative departments, ensuring that established policies are carried out. This individual attends board meetings, and will also report on any administrative problems. Also, the Managing Director takes part in all labor negotiations that involve the orchestra, so the individual must have the ability to effectively negotiate with unions.

The Managing Director of an orchestra usually works within other orchestra administrative departments before moving on to become the Managing Director. The Managing Director is the one responsible for making sure the orchestra meets the needs of the community from a cultural standpoint – which means that if the community needs more children’s concerts, the Managing Director must work with the orchestra board, along with members of the community to make that happen, for example.

Also, the Managing Director will have to work with the Personnel Manager, because the Managing Director might be responsible for hiring and firing. Other times, the Managing Director will work with the Director of Development to make sure budgets are established and money is raised for the orchestra.

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Depending on the size, budget, and location of the orchestra, Managing Directors will earn differing amounts. All things considered, salaries can range from $24,000 to over $1,000,000 plus per year.


Due to the limited number of major and regional orchestras, employment prospects are limited. However, positions are more available at the metropolitan and urban levels.


Advancement for the Managing Director may come by securing a job with a more prestigious orchestra. This is because the Managing Director already holds the top position in the administrative side of the organization.

Education and Training

Managing Directors are usually preferred to hold a degree, which is always useful in such a competitive environment. Helpful courses include arts administration, music arrangement, business, publicity, and journalism. The American Symphony Orchestra League (ASOL) holds seminars which are beneficial to attend.

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Experience, Skills, and Personality

In terms of personal skills, the Managing Director must be enthusiastic, and should be personable because he or she deals with orchestra administrators and the board of directors. Additionally, the Managing Director needs to have the ability to supervise members of the orchestra and needs to show sensitivity towards members of the orchestra and administrative members.

Unions and Associations

The American Symphony Orchestra League (ASOL) is an option for Managing Directors to join. This association sponsors seminars and internship programs. They also publish a magazine/newsletter. Additionally, many Managing Directors belong to local arts councils.

Suggestions for Getting Started

  • Start at the bottom by getting an internship. This role means you’ll have a better chance of obtaining an entry level position, especially after an internship with a school or orchestra.
  • Try to attend seminars on the topic of orchestral management. Usually, these seminars are given by colleges, orchestras, and associations such as the American Symphony Orchestra League (ASOL) as mentioned earlier.
  • Check the (ASOL) newsletter, the Associated Council of the Arts newsletter, and other regional arts organizations’ publications for available positions.

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