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Ethnomusicologist Job Description, Career as a Ethnomusicologist, Salary, Employment

Definition and Nature of the Work, Education and Training Requirements, Getting the Job

Education and Training Bachelor’s degree

Average Salary $40,000 per year

Job Outlook Very good

Basic Job Description

Ethnomusicology is the study of cultural and social aspects of music and how it is created, interpreted and enjoyed in different cultures. An ethnomusicologist will often spend years adapting to a lifestyle in Japan, China, or Africa to live amongst the native tribes and observe how music was originated and how it is interpreted and incorporated into their daily life. Ethnomusicologists perform these studies by becoming part of the culture, interviewing natives and documenting their findings in order to provide historic information for institutions such as libraries, museums or college courses.

Education and Training Requirements

Those who wish to study within the field of ethnomusicology often go to school for a Bachelor’s or Master’s degree in sociology, anthropology, psychology or other cultural studies with a concentration or minor in music. With the growing popularity of the study, some schools are beginning to offer ethnomusicology courses to focus more specifically on the field.

Before getting involved in a study or case, many ethnomusicologists will spend time going through library archives and museums to educate themselves on a specific culture or style of music that is related to a study they intend to do.

To succeed in the field of ethnomusicology, the ideal candidate will have passion for traveling and communicating with other cultures around the world. Many musicologists will take language and/or linguistic courses to easily be able to communicate and adapt with cultures or tribes to research how they interact and incorporate music into their way of life.

Getting the Job

Almost all work in the ethnomusical industry is hands-on and location dependent. To perform research and maintain a job, the ideal candidate will be willing to frequently travel all over the world, sometimes staying in one location for years at a time. Some musicologists will stay in one location long enough to adapt to the culture and fully report on how their daily life is conducted and how it affects the music in the culture. Once a musicologist has spent time in one location, they may have to immediately travel to another place to do similar reporting or comparisons between one culture and another.

The ideal candidate for performing ethnomusical studies will be able to easily adapt to new cultures and communicate with the members for reporting purposes. They will have patience and understanding toward the people they are working with, and most importantly, have passion for what they are doing. Ethnomusical research studies will not be successful if the person does not have a love for music, culture and traveling.

Aside from adapting to cultures and societies, an ethnomusicologist will need skills similar to a reporter or journalist. They will often interview and speak with natives to gain understanding about the music and culture, as well as keep records of every piece of information they obtain. They will have to objectively interview and observe cultural practices, take detailed notes, listen well, and be able to easily document every detail of what they have learned. An ethnomusicologist must understand that different cultures and societies will have practices or social norms that are completely different, and sometimes taboo, in comparison to where they lived or how they have been raised.

Job Prospects, Employment Outlook and Career Development

Finding a job in ethnomusicology is becoming easier due to growing interest in the field. Many ethnomusicologists will work along with other people in the field until they are comfortable with everything it entails, and eventually embark on their own journey to contribute to a study or spend time observing music within a culture. Studies are often performed by ethnomusicologists for museums, record labels, music schools, research institutions, or even a large music establishment such as the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

After working in the field for a number of years and performing various studies, many ethnomusicologists will work as a professor to music students, anthropology students, or for courses that specialize in ethnomusicology. The best professor for a field like this is someone who has done studies and seen the world to understand how it works.

Working Conditions and Environment

Working conditions for an ethnomusicologist are almost entirely in the field. They will work with various cultures and travel to a variety of countries in order to complete a study. It is important for an ethnomusicologist to be comfortable working with people who come from a completely different culture than what they are accustomed to, as well as understanding that it may be difficult to obtain information from natives who do not understand the meaning behind the study being performed.

Ethnomusicologists will often work in places that are completely different than what they’re used to. If the musicologist is observing a tribe, they may have to live in a small village or participate in traditions in order to gather information and be accepted by the people. This can be intimidating or potentially dangerous if the musicologist does not go about their studies the right way or is not willing to accept the way of life they will have to adapt in order to live with the people.

Salary and Benefits

Due to the wide variety of opportunities available, an ethnomusicologist can make anywhere from $31,000 a year as an arts and music director for a museum, or upward of $91,000 a year as a museum director or college professor.

Health and medical benefits usually come according to who is employing the ethnomusicologist, as well as according to studies they will perform. An establishment who will send the musicologist out into the field to adapt to a culture and perform studies will often insure them to give peace of mind while working in a foreign land.

Aside from financial benefits, an ethnomusicologist often gets the most benefits through traveling the world, becoming a part of new cultures, and sharing their studies and opportunities with others. They will enjoy the years they spend working around the world, and enjoy the years after by teaching students or museum goers about the culture of music and their past experiences. Many find the wide variety of opportunities and the chance to see the world from many different angles the biggest benefit of all.

Where to Go for More Information

British Forum for Ethnomusicology
The University of Manchester
Copeland Street, Manchester M13 9PL
+44 (0) 161 275 3346

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