Being Assistant Music Director/Music Director on a Cruise Ship

This post will outline what the roles responsibilities include, how to become one and why you should or shouldn’t consider becoming one yourself.

As of February 25th I have been working as the Assistant Music Director on board Royal Caribbean’s “The Adventure of The Seas”. The role basically consists of shadowing the Music Director who trains you to eventually become your own Music Director. This means a lot of time watching/taking notes and just generally following your Music Director around the ship and digesting what his schedule is like. You will also be involved in a bunch of new management trainings to help you prepare for your new role.

If all is successful and you get an offer as a Music Director, you will then officially be responsible for the whole music dept (roughly 20-25 musicians – depending on what ship you’re on). This will include getting your very own deck phone to enjoy (which is often resented). Basically it means you are on call 24/7. Anyone can call you at anytime cause the phone must always be on you, and always be on. You can understand why the managers loose patience sometimes after being on call 24/7 for 6-7 months.

Anyway here are some key points for why you should consider becoming an Assistant Music Director.

  • You are getting paid to learn how to manage a team in a professional corporate company.
  • You are learning skills that will be valuable to any future gig/profession. Eg: Leadership, Communication, Time Management, How to get the most out of your team!
  • You will get a pay rise (not much, but it’s a point).
  • You are showing yourself and your employer/future employers that you are interested in learning and taking responsibility which is always valued in any team/band/company.

Below I have outlined what I have observed to be three main duties as the MD.

Managing team/dept

  • This includes all the paper work for sign on/offs, safety observations, emergency card paperwork, scheduling every night and pretty much any paper work that includes anyone in your team.
  • Making sure everyone puts in their hours correctly each day (if not you get a call at 8 am to sort your forgetful musician out asap (even if you worked till 3am).
  • Having an open door policy, so anyone from your team can come to you at anytime to discuss any issues.

Band Leader/Conductor

  • Pretty self explanatory. When headliners come on board you will be responsible for keeping the bands entrances and endings tight (even if the music is wrong).
  • Same goes for any decisions for the bands setlist, set up etc. You are responsible for the band looking and sounding tight.

Extra duties as a manager

  • Senior staff meetings
  • Observations around the ship/more paperwork
  • Port manning (having to stay on ship when everyone else can get off).
  • Basically just a lot more opportunities for you to do less music and more management stuff.

How do you become an assistant music director?

Firstly you need to be in the orchestra/showband. Even if you’re qualified, if you happen to be in the jazz quartet or the schooner bar pianist for eg: you can’t be the MD.

Secondly your current Music Director has to want an assistant. If he doesn’t want one then it’s going to be difficult convincing him to train you. And thirdly, be great in your current position and show an interest in taking the next step.

Hope this helps and if you got any questions just hit me up.

2 Replies to “Being Assistant Music Director/Music Director on a Cruise Ship”

  1. Hey Isaac, this is a great post! Thank you for sharing it.
    I have a question regarding it: Do the companies value you more when you take the challenge and aim to become a music director?

    1. Hey Luiz thanks for reading. In regards to your question I can only speak from personal experience and I’m sure there is some level of respect for the interest/ambition to grow and learn, but aiming for MD is not required to be considered valuable.

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