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What does a Musician do?

A musician is a person who plays a musical instrument proficiently, or writes music, as their primary source of income. Those who learn several related instruments, and who can perform equally well in several musical styles, have greater employment opportunities.

The nature of the work as a musician can vary greatly. Session musicians entertain live audiences in places such as nightclubs, concert halls and theatres, and outdoors at parades, concerts and festivals; while others perform exclusively for recording or production studios.

General musicians are knowledgeable about many types of music, especially popular music. They play at various functions such as birthdays, weddings and anniversaries, either performing solo or as part of a group.

Other musicians specialise in teaching music privately or in an institution. Regardless of the setting, musicians spend a considerable amount of time practicing, alone and with their bands, orchestras, or other musical ensembles.


What qualifications do I need?

Aspiring musicians should begin studying an instrument through private lessons or at school at an early age. There are no formal education requirements for musicians interested in performing popular music, but those interested in performing classical and opera or teaching music typically need at least a bachelor’s degree. Formal training may be obtained through private study with an accomplished musician or band, in a college or university music programme, or in a music conservatory. In most cases, a National Senior Certificate that meets the requirements for a diploma or degree course is a pre-requisite. In some cases, a particular grade in practical music needs to have been acquired, and/or an audition to assess ability to play an instrument and read music would be necessary. Musicians are not required to register with any governing body or association once qualified.

What subjects do I need?

Contact each institution for their specific requirements, but these subjects are recommended: 
• Music
• Visual Arts
• Business Studies
• Mathematics or Mathematical Literacy


Where can I study?

University of Pretoria
Bachelor of Arts: Music

University of Stellenbosch
Bachelor of Arts: Music

University of the Witwatersrand
Bachelor of Musicology

University of Cape Town
Bachelor of Musicology

South African College of Music
Various Degrees and Diplomas

Bachelor of Musicology

Campus of Performing Arts (FET College)
Various Qualifications

Tshwane University of Technology
National Diploma: Music

South West Gauteng (FET College)
Certificate: Popular Music

Where can I get more info?

South African Music Studies – www.sasrim.ac.za
South African Society of Music Teachers – www.sasmt-savmo.org.za
Associated Board of the Royal School of Music – www.abrsm.org
National Arts Council – www.nac.org.za


Interview with a Musician




What do you do, in a nutshell?
I perform, write, produce and play music.

Why music?
I’ve loved music from a young age and somehow couldn’t get away from it no matter what I did, so figured it was the right thing to do.

What training did you undergo?
I did a year of music theory at MIT in Los Angeles and the rest is self-taught using books, internet and, very importantly, my fellow musicians.

Describe a typical day in your world
It depends what gig I’m on or what stage of the process I’m involved in. For writing, it would mean just sitting and capturing ideas as they come and then working them until I’m happy with the result. For studio, when tracking for an album, getting in early and laying down the music with the right feel is vital, so no sleepy heads normally helps. Touring means early rises, lots of travelling, sound checks, the actual performance, packing up, travelling again and then hopefully getting some sleep.

Aspects you love…
It’s very fulfilling. It gives me great pleasure and I think that somehow that pleasure is transferred to the people listening, so it’s a win-win situation.

Any dislikes?
The activity when music is not played – the business end. This needs to be dealt with diligently and can take up a lot of time, which, in short, frustrates me a little, because, well, we could be playing something!

Hurdles overcome?
Ha ha! Many. All three of them: drugs, sex and rock ‘n’ roll!

Career highlights include…
Hearing my music on the radio, especially when it hits Top Ten or Number One! Playing for 35 000 people. Touring Germany. Having a European label sign you based on a song you wrote. Simply just playing the guitar! It’s all good, but I must say that seeing people get off to your music is always the highlight for me. Then I know my work is done!

Future goals…
Start a side blues/rock project; learn to sing better; write and produce in other genres; keep learning guitar; get Macstanley’s third studio album out, then win a SAMA for it, and get a couple of hits both locally and abroad.

Training versus experience?
Well, you can’t learn experience, but getting a good education in music won’t hurt, depending where you get it.

What makes a successful muso?
Don’t get caught in the hype of light! Stay away from the party scene if you find that you have an addictive personality. Write from the heart, perform from the heart, and be completely honest with yourself.

Advice for newcomers?
Practice, practice and practice some more. Whatever it is you are aiming for, get in that groove and keep chugging away at it until you feel that you’ve got it. Persevere and believe in yourself.