Trumpet Job Numbers

Screen Shot 2013-08-31 at 12.14.03 AMFollowing up on my exploration of trumpet degrees versus jobs, I would like to clarify my reasons for pursuing this data.

From my comment reply from yesterday’s post:

There are two thoughts on college education: the first is that it is a pathway to greater knowledge and mastery; the second is that it is a precursor to better employment. Reading a Gallup pole blog, I quote: “No matter who you ask — whether it’s a representative sample of Americans, incoming college freshmen, or parents of 5th-12th graders — they say the most important reason for a degree beyond high school is to get a good job.” I think the economics of getting a degree (between $40K and $200K depending on what institution you choose) involve a financial risk, unless you somehow can independently afford your degree without concern for future employment. So . . . getting a job is, at the very least, in the back of students’, parents’ and teachers’ minds.
Of course, no one knows who will be successful in their chosen college career path, nor who will try a different path after college. Most will arrive at their place of success if not immediately, then after some wait, or after a long and winding road. All of that is good.
I want to reveal some of the discrepancies between music degrees and the job market as a “consumer” disclaimer so that everyone can make the best decisions. If nothing else, a trumpet student who more accurately understands the numbers, can get really motivated!!

Today I want to show some fairly accurate numbers on last year’s trumpet employment as listed on the ITG Employment Webpage (thanks to editor Dr. Jason Dovel for providing this break-down):

Job Type Total Jobs Tenured (continuing prospect of employment) Temporary Full time (visiting or 1 year appointment) Part-time
American Ochestra Jobs 10 6 4
Foreign Orchestra listed in ITG employment Page 3 3
Academic Non-jazz Positionis 21 16 2 3
Academic Jazz Positions 4 3 1
Military Trumpet Jobs 5 5
Other trumpet jobs 4 The breakdown of “other trumpet jobs” is not known
Assistantships 15
Total U.S. Jobs (not counting assistantships or foreign listings) 44 at least 33 at least 2 8


Obviously, there are many other employment opportunities than these listings. Many small performing groups do not get listed in the ITG Employment Page. Many part-time faculty jobs are unannounced, as well. There are a very few trumpeters who have unusual jobs that are never listed, such as studio trumpet jobs or Broadway musical jobs. Getting one of these jobs differs from the orchestra audition or academic interview process  (the exploration of which would make a good future blog entry). Nevertheless, most of the big jobs ARE listed on the ITG site. In addition to “positions” in the trumpet employment world, many trumpet players are fully self-employed and take a variety of ad hoc jobs.

This link will take you to an excellent breakdown from the Bureau of Labor Statistics on Occupational Employment and Wages (May 2010) for Musicians and Singers.

It is interesting to me that, based on this page, there are currently 42,100 music jobs in the U.S. Now, what I want to know is how many trumpeters figure into that? Based on the HEADS survey of NASM institutions that I referred to yesterday, trumpet enrollment in the fall semester last year was 1,549 compared with a total music student enrollment of 116,351 in the same semester. That means that trumpeters in general represent 1.3% of the total music population (at least in academia). If we extrapolate that figure as it relates to the 42,100 music jobs in the U.S., we come up with about 560 trumpet jobs. The traditional figure used to calculate replacement needs is 8.7%. Thus, we can guess that there are about 49 new trumpet jobs each year.

Screen Shot 2013-08-31 at 12.12.40 AMJust to recap my findings:

  1. We are teaching about 1,549 trumpet students in higher education
  2. We confer about 369 trumpet degrees each year
  3. Women, blacks and hispanics are under-represented by a large factor (a third to a tenth less than the general population)
  4. If the trumpet students are trying to get a job in the real world, they are seeking to replace vacancies in the approximately 560 trumpet jobs that we have in the U.S. (this is about 49 as figured above)
  5. They are vying (along with former graduates who are still unemployed) for 44 listed job openings, 33 of which are full-time, 2 of which are temporary, and 8 are part-time
  6. The remaining 5 (49 total vacancies less the listed openings) “jobs” will be cobbled together from part-time positions and ad-hoc jobs.
  7. If every trumpet graduate this year wanted to get a job upon graduation, this would unfortunately result in unemployment for 320 of the 369 graduates, which correlates to about 87% trumpet unemployment. But, as mentioned before, the unemployed graduates remain in the job market for some time. This creates a much higher rate of unemployment.

Screen Shot 2013-08-31 at 12.14.40 AMWhat do we do with this information? Do we discourage people’s dreams? I do not advise this. Our dreams are sacred! However, I propose that this problem be tackled from different angles:

  1. Redirect trumpet students who really do not burn with a passion to play trumpet (I do not think this number is negligible)
  2. Use this information to motivate current students as much as possible
  3. Use this information to encourage students to study an alternate curriculum to maximize employability (while still pursuing trumpet studies)
  4. Re-focus on excellence in trumpet teaching for earlier ages (I believe that the magic trumpet “window” of learning is earlier than college)
  5. Encourage students to follow different paths in order to make their own unique trumpet jobs
  6. Encourage more diversity in trumpet programs of study
  7. Encourage teachers to develop their students in creative and personalized ways

What are your thoughts?



28 responses to “Trumpet Job Numbers”

  1. James Monroe Avatar
    James Monroe

    Stan, this is one of the most honest, sobering and informative pieces I’ve read. I have enjoyed many of your blog entries over the last couple years, and have never taken the time to post a reply, but I have to here. My whole teaching career I have suggested that my students do Anything Else for a career…if they could see themselves happy doing so. My earliest teachers gave me the same advice. “If you won’t be happy in any other career, then play the Trumpet”. You have provided evidence here that will certainly motivate. Hopefully to those not inspired to harder, smarter work, it will give a dose of reality. Thank you for caring enough to do the research and lay it out here!

  2. Stanley Avatar

    Thanks James. Good advice. Here’s one thing I’d like to explore:
    We trumpet players were not born out of the womb with an innate drive to play the trumpet. It was developed through our environment. Every time we played in middle school band and received praise, or played in marching band with our family and friends watching, we had a high sense of the worth of playing trumpet in our society. We confer a high degree of “trumpet worth” at a young age without revealing a low sense of “trumpet worth” for older ages (this is naturally conveyed by small job market and low wages)—until the student is well into his or her degree program or even after college.

  3. Stan,

    I think your research here is insightful, and I appreciate your posting this because it kind of underscores some of my thoughts, although I’ve been sort of coming at this from a different direction. If you’ll allow me to share…

    A number of the institutions you’ve listed are suffering in some way, and at the very least, their long term future is debatably cloudy. By cloudy I don’t only mean “exist at all”, but also “exist, but not offer a livable wage for the amount of work needed to keep the structure afloat”.

    I think students should be focused on creating *new* structures, new institutions, new bands, new organizations, new ideas, etc. (i.e. I would make your #5 solution the #1). This probably sounds incredibly naive if you interpret this as some sort of complete just-add-water solution, it isn’t that, most of these endeavors will no doubt fail statistically, and a minority of all students will have the capacity and interest in going this route. However, I think we need to be stimulating as many minds as possible into thinking along these lines particularly while they are young and in school, because the whole “put your head down, work hard, and apply for one of those existing jobs” approach doesn’t work terribly well and won’t start to work for the reasons you’ve cited so well.

    I wrote this blog post a little while ago about reproducing financial success in jazz: . This isn’t a shameless plug for my blog, but what inspired me to comment here was some of the thought process behind this post, and that is the right idea and right approach can have a virtually limitless ceiling. It will sound hopelessly naive/optimistic to suggest that everybody can be a Trombone Shorty or an Esperanza Spalding or whatever, but I think that students should be pushed into vetting a ton of ideas which could lead them towards this sort of success, whether this is with a band or some sort of organization, because, IMHO, we need more of these sorts of outside-the-box thinkers, leaders, risk takers, and fewer people vying for the same gigs in remarkably uncreative ways (which is often ironic to me because musicians are generally creative people). It just takes one awesome idea executed well.

    This process is really not dissimilar to the process of creating any sort of startup company, particularly tech startups, but a process that is worthwhile working through because even if it doesn’t yield actionable results, it forces us to look at our society and assess where its deficiencies are and what we can do specifically to make them better. To me, music has a definite place in all of this.

    I could provide some examples that have crossed my mind of untapped ideas, but I don’t want to monopolize this blog post 🙂

  4. Joe, thanks for your very insightful comment. I agree that #5 should go directly to the top of the list in terms of priority. Amen to “outside the box thinkers, leaders, risk takers.” Joe, if you’d like to tell us about some “untapped ideas” I would welcome it. As I mentioned in this morning’s post, I need to take a bit of a vacation from my blog to finish a composition, so I would be happy to post some of your ideas. Just let me know.

  5. Thanks for this interesting article, I have to agree completely.
    I can make the same analysis for the situation in Europe, it is time to
    change the form of education for music students as soon as possible, otherwise we have to take the responsality to “produce”
    musicians who- after finishing their studies – enter directly in livetime joblessness.
    Sorry for my bad English…my native language is german…

    1. Thanks, Rudi–I wished my German was as good as your English! I understand that joblessness for the population as a whole is more of a problem in Europe (with the exception of Germany, perhaps). Do you think the unemployment in Europe affects the job possibilities of musicians (trumpeters)?

      1. This is generally a big problem we have now for example in Spain.
        Since a few years there are no audicions in the spanish orchestras, the jobs are payed very poor, there are no more full or longtime contracts for young musicians, its a real frustraring situation for the young spanish students. In my case I am preparing most of my trumpet students for auditions out of Spain( Germany, Austria, Asia,etc..)
        So the selection of the young musicians has to be really tough from beginning, I can only recommand to a few students to study exclusively a music instrument!
        Best wishes!

        1. Rudi, I played in La Coruna for almost three years. I very much enjoyed my stay there, but I remember that there was an unemployment problem in Spain even then. I have just noticed that you are in Alicante? Is that right? How is it going there now? I hope all is well. Do you ever see my old colleague, Aigi Hurn from La Coruna?

          1. I am since 5 years leading the Brass Academy Alicante together with my wife Nury Guarnaschelli(French Horn). We do here a very practical teaching, this means we try to prepare our students for auditions, competitions, etc..
            The other focus is that we make a lot of brass chamber-music with them, we are running 5 ensembles and one big brass group for orchestral repertoire lessons. These works quite well, we seperate totally fom the official education system (conservatories) because we can see ( with a few exceptions) that it doesn’t work. Most of our teachers are coming from the big european orchestras (Vienna/Berlin/Munich), some teachers from Spain (Valencia)and we also organize international masterclasses.
            The economic crisis is tough for all, we don’t have public support, but with hard work we can defend us…always looking for private sponsors wich is really difficult in Spain.
            Until now I did not met Aigi Hun personally, but I heard a lot of good things about him.
            All the best!

          2. Rudi,
            So nice to hear about your life in Alicante! I love that you are doing your own system of teaching–perhaps this is the idea more of us need to grasp.

  6. Interesting article. I think, though, when you consider and add in the music education majors who are trumpet players, the numbers change a bit. Especially when considering public school employment.

    1. Thanks Glenn, but the numbers that I worked with for trumpet students in post-secondary institutions was for trumpet performance majors. There are far more students pursuing education, who happen to also study trumpet. The good thing is that these students have better job prospects when they graduate.

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    1. Thanks so much, Drumminman49. This sounds like a great new approach. Is this just starting up, or has it been up and running for a while?

  8. Stan,

    Thank you for this informative post. We had a chat on career development in our trumpet studio class here at James Madison University on Monday, Sept. 2 and we discussed this blog post. It helped make a great point as many students rarely think about this important data.

    Your takeaways on what we do with this information really hits the nail on the head. Thinking about where the future of our profession is headed can often be a daunting and challenging task, but vital.

    If you haven’t seen it already, there is a great survey done at Indiana University by the Strategic National Arts Alumni Project. It is a large-scale national survey with a representative sample (65,837 respondents) and excellent qualitative data. Here is a link to those findings:

    It breaks down data by majors, skills needed, geographic locations, degrees earned, occupations, and debt vs. earnings. You can also download the pdf with a detailed/specific breakdown of all the data if you’re looking to exercise the data wonk bug : )

    1. Thanks for the comment, Chris. I am very intrigued by the SNAAP project–I briefly looked it over, and I will go back to this in the future.
      I am humbled that you discussed this post in your trumpet class. I wonder if you or your studio have some ideas on possible future directions of trumpet players that you would like to share?

      1. Chris Carrillo Avatar
        Chris Carrillo

        It is nice to read such important topics presented as intelligently and thoughtfully as you do so it really is my pleasure to direct our students to your blog.

        Some of the ideas we discussed really centered around entrepreneurship in the arts. There is a wonderful article in the Wall Street Journal from a few days ago that scratches the surface of this idea.

        Certainly not that entrepreneurship in music is any sort of new idea, rather it is something that we may serve well to remind our students.

        In our studio class we discussed people like Wiff Rudd and his accomplishments with the Dallas Brass and Rhythm and Brass as well as Jeff Conner and his work with the the Boston Brass. On a side note, we were fortunate enough to have the Boston Brass on our campus here last year and it was such a positive experience for the students to see the world-class, artistic product produced by their entrepreneurial venture (I digress easily when thinking about wonderful musicianship, I’ve heard).

        One point made in the article I found interesting was that students who played orchestral instruments anticipated symphonic careers, while composition majors and perhaps pianists were likely to list several activities like teaching, performing, film scoring, owning a coffee shop, etc… The latter seemed more comfortable with the idea of putting together multiple opportunities.

        1. Chris, loved reading the WSJ article you provided a link to. I really like the way Mannes is blazing a trail–emphasizing composition is a terrific idea.
          I’m wondering if musicians might need to start taking some light business coursed to help in that direction?

  9. Military trumpet jobs are vastly greater than the few premier band spots listed on TH. Having near on 10 years under my belt of performing with “regular bands”, between the Marine Corps, Army National Guard, and active duty Army, there is always a need for good trumpet players. My current unit is barely scraping by with 6 players, and we’re allotted 10. There is always a delay in filling open positions because of training cycles, but the jobs are all there.

    I will be the first to tell you that the regular bands in the military aren’t anything to write home about. There are some really great players…. and some people who shouldn’t even be allowed to touch the instrument. And any ensemble will always settle to the median average. So, they’re not absolutely embarrassing, but they’re not great by any stretch. So, what do they have to offer? A steady paycheck. Health benefits for you and your family. Education benefits like the GI Bill (unfortunately they took away student loan repayment in the Army for me). Basically what it breaks down to is you don’t get paid a great amount, but between the benefits, discounts, and endless opportunities and preferences you get… it more than makes up for it.

    And no, I’m not a recruiter. I’m just a regular, disgruntled, musically frustrated trumpet player, who’s actually going to be leaving the music field to do something else. But, I’ve been out there in the freelance world too. The quality of the gig is a crap shoot. The pay varies. And you can’t really rely on anything. So, the military bands are an option. They’ll give you some stability for a few years, a regular paycheck, and great benefits. All for playing your trumpet a few hours a day with a mediocre band. After work though, that’s your time. Go, freelance. Practice up for orchestral auditions, etc. It’s an option that’s out there, and it’s a hell of a lot better than most of the other options.

    1. Thomas, how many field or fleet trumpet players would you imagine there to be? In the Navy fleet program, I would guess there are about 25 to 35. This is just a guess. My guess is that the total non-premiere military band trumpet jobs is in the neighborhood of about 150. Which might generate 13 additional jobs. That’s a bit better than what I was projecting. Thanks.

  10. After 3 years of this situation (starting from scratch), the numbers look like this:

    Year 1: 49 of 369 get jobs
    Year 2: 49 of 689 get jobs (320 from last year + 369 this year = 689)
    Year 3: 49 of 1009 get jobs (640 from last year + 369 from this year = 1009)
    Year 10: 49 of 3249 get jobs (2880 from last year + 369 from this year = 3249

    It compounds very quickly. Many of these graduates end up teaching or piecing together a life, or switching to something else completely, because the odds get stacked so far against them. It’s very tough and the trumpet players who want a job must put their head down and do the grunt work, because if they don’t, someone else will take the time to do it and get the job.

    This isn’t to say it’s not possible. I have faith in hard work and have many trumpet friends who have gone on to become great, securing positions in major orchestras and premier bands. If getting a position in an orchestra or band is your goal, then stick with it, always be a student – looking to learn always – and utilize your knowledge, and stay positive. Often times, these guys winning jobs have done tons of career development activites like music festivals, grad school, fellowship programs (New World Symphony Orchestra), freelance work in major cities, sub with minor orchestras, teach, and so on. They have put their time in and typically don’t land a large job before they are 28 years old. Keep that in mind before getting discouraged by the few that win jobs their senior year of college or just after they graduate. Put in the work, and see the results.

    Good luck to all.


    1. Will–your explanation of the compounding of trumpet unemployment was spot-on. As is the long and winding road to a job a bit later in life than graduation.
      Thanks so much!!

  11. Bill Siegfried Avatar
    Bill Siegfried

    Good article. The vast majority of working trumpet players have something else going for themselves in addition to just blowing our horns. We have to. Gotta do the math. Unless someone has the ability to earn double or triple scale a very busy 200 gigs a year at $100-150 a shot still doesn’t add up to a real full time living. It’s a great part time job though. The competition for those few full time orchestra and military band positions, that provide a full time living, seems to keep getting stiffer each year. Students pursuing that dream deserve accurate information so it’s great to see articles like this that lay out the facts. My opinion is that students who want to go for it should. They are also wise to not be so one dimensional about it and develop other skills in or out of music that will allow them to lead a reasonable adult life.

    1. Good comment, Bill. Your thoughts about being more than one-dimensional are nicely articulated in the article that Chris Carillo linked to in his comment above (from Wall Street Journal).

  12. Redirecting trumpet students might seem like a morally good thing to do, but the conservatories never do it because it’s to their advantage to have maximum enrollment (more money), and since almost anyone can get subsidized with low interest government loans, there is also no incentive for the students to reconsider. Also, since student debt can no longer be discharged at bankruptcy (thanks to Clinton), the conservatories know for a fact that they can’t loose the money outright, which enters into their enrollment calculus.

    1. Stanley Avatar

      Thanks, Bob. What about some solutions? Here are some brainstorms that I thought of just this morning: could there be some informational tool that is readily available–outside the purview of the conservatory–that could better inform a student (and his or her family, if applicable) of the overall job placement of music schools in that instrument and the specific job placement of that studio? Or, perhaps some sort of national rating system (like a kind of competition) that could give trumpeters a realistic look at how they compare to their competition before going into a music school?

  13. Stan – Thanks for your analysis! Would you ever be interested in probing the field for other instruments/disciplines and potential openings? Conservatories are churning out vocalists at higher rates than brass players, and our market appears to be just as dire and saturated.

    As a classical singer, the market is completely different. Singers aren’t usually vying for available slots in permanent positions; instead, we compete for roles in operas, concerts, etc. that engage us as freelancers for a limited period of time. My own career has been a piecemeal construction and it has forced me to “think outside the box” as your commenter Joe Auty mentioned.

    1. Stanley Avatar

      Chris, thanks for your note–I think I could get a handle on graduating voice majors. I could also guess at the number of working vocalist, but, because of the nature of so many vocal careers, this figure would be less reliable. I think what you’re looking for is the “full time equivalent” of jobs for vocalists.
      In general, ALL musicians have been led down this road of absurdly too few jobs. Vocalists, when they do get work, seem to divide along a line of very little money and a whole lot of money–this is based only on my observations in the DC area with the many choirs we have here. The “ringers” for the choirs piece their careers together rather humbly. But the SOLOISTS–and usually you have to come from ANOTHER city and be an international traveler—they do make good money. Of course, opera stars are tremendous money earners. Military band singers have great positions. There are also cover band singers–I have little idea what these singers might earn. Probably not so much in general.

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