You don't need to be a singer to have a career in classical music – part two

A tour manager, project lead, communications professional and music editor reveal what goes into their jobs and how to get your foot in the door

In part one of this feature I interviewed an artist manager, managing director and orchestral manager to show how many classical music careers there are that fall outside of being a musician or academic. In the second and final part of this careers series I speak to a tours and concerts manager, project manager, communications professional and music editor.

The tours and concerts manager

Helen Lewis, Monteverdi Choir and Orchestras
I’m responsible for leading worldwide tours and managing all concert logistics for three ensembles: the Monteverdi Choir, the English Baroque Soloists and the Orchestre Révolutionnaire et Romantique. I work in close collaboration with the organisation’s founder and music director, Sir John Eliot Gardiner.

My role involves liaising with concert venues, promoters and agents globally to ensure all logistical and technical arrangements are in place. It also involves managing groups of up to 100 people on tour. It’s diverse: one minute I’m planning how to transport our baroque timpani safely to Mexico, the next I’m consulting with the Musicians’ Union on a broadcast deal for our performers.

My first job was as an administrator for a small London-based opera company. I then moved into recorded music at Universal Music, where I coordinated recordings and product releases for a new classical label. The skills developed at both proved invaluable.

As a tours and concerts manager, it’s essential to be organised with excellent attention to detail. You also need to keep calm under pressure. Foreign languages are always useful and commitment to irregular (often long) working hours is important.

To aspiring undergraduates, I would recommend seeking out as much experience as possible in busy arts administration environments and getting involved in concert planning for university societies. Employers look for motivated, proactive candidates with plenty of energy.

The project manager

Suzanne Doyle, Askonas Holt
I’m effectively an agent for orchestras that perform abroad. I set up tours, work on securing the dates with festivals, concert halls and promoters, negotiate fees and ensure the finances work for the whole tour before travelling with the orchestra on the road many months later.

Although my job is typically office-based, I spend around three months of the year travelling the world.

I studied music at the University of Birmingham, where I took on a part-time job as an usher at the city’s Symphony Hall. After graduating I was offered a six-month internship with a classical music agency, Hazard Chase. Following that I moved to London and worked for The King’s Consort and then The Sixteen, followed by the agency, International Classical Artists.

As a project manager you need an abundance of different skills. The most important are to be patient, approachable and thick-skinned. Not every tour you work on will sell. You have to accept it’s a competitive market and need to be able to handle rejection.

What else? You have to be prepared to work long days and weeks, cope with jet lag and keep on top of all your other work, all while being on the road and dealing with the day-to-day events of 150 musicians touring from city to city.

For anyone considering a route along the same path, I have three words of advice: willingness, networking and passion. Get involved in as much admin as you possibly can as early as you can. Get yourself out there – being positive, personable and approachable shows initiative and you never know where that last conversation might lead.

The communications manager

Fabienne Morris, London Symphony Orchestra
I coordinate external and internal communications, working closely with our marketing and press teams. Together, our job is to let the world know what the organisation does and demonstrate its value to individuals, societies and communities.

I see myself as a storyteller, ambassador and reputation manager. Typical tasks include liaising with members of local and national government as well as business and arts leaders, usually with the aim of having them attend a concert or education event. Other tasks include observing LSO activities to write articles; keeping track of arts-related news and updating our stakeholders database accordingly; and writing monthly internal e-newsletters for staff and

Before this role I did work experience with BBC Classical Music TV while at university (studying music at Oxford). I then worked with the Philharmonia and Royal Philharmonic orchestras as an intern and assistant respectively. I came to the LSO in 2009 and have held three positions here: marketing coordinator, marketing manager – new audiences, and my current role, which includes fundraising and audience development as well as communications.

Being able to put yourself in others’ shoes is vital – you need be to good at relationship-building at all levels. A thorough knowledge of orchestral repertoire will help you be taken seriously by musicians and other artistic leads.

Also, go to concerts and care about the orchestral scene: which conductors are doing what and why, how cities around the world are shaking up classical music (or not) and what 21st century audiences want from their concert-going experience.

Fabienne is now head of communications and marketing at Intermusica

The music editor

Daniel Rollison, Music Sales Ltd
Music editors control how music is presented on the page, making sure it’s legible, intelligible and easy to play from. Pieces come in from a composer or arranger in a variety of formats (handwritten or computer-notated), are assessed for their specific requirements, then brought up to a sufficient standard of notation through several stages of proofreading and adjusting before they’re approved by the composer and editor.

The editor’s job is to refine what the composer has written into its clearest state. If the musician hasn’t noticed anything about the notation, we’ve been successful.

In my job I could be working on a number of pieces at the same time, prioritising projects according to their schedules and interacting with several different composers and freelancers, so the ability to keep abreast of everything even when time is short is helpful. One of the most satisfying aspects of the job is to see a piece from its arrival through to attending its premiere performance.

A detailed appreciation of music notation is essential, as is having experience of a wide range of repertoire and the characteristics of standard musical

Competition for jobs is strong, so prospective editors should try to gain freelance experience working with performers and composers, or enrol in a related postgraduate course, such as the one run by the Music Publishers Association.

Do you work in the classical music sector? Share your career tips below

Join our community of arts, culture and creative professionals by signing up free to the Guardian Culture Pros Network.

Harry White

The GuardianTramp

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