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John Beasley: What Does a Music Director Do?

A music-industry vet defines the gig and offers advice

John Beasley
John Beasley

Miles Davis alum John Beasley has stepped into the role of music director for a diverse slate of projects—from tours with Steely Dan and Queen Latifah to the Thelonious Monk Institute gala, International Jazz Day and American Idol—and though the job varies project to project, there are some constants. “We help pick material, show order, musicians, sometimes sound [engineers], and rehearse the band,” Beasley says.

The job is part arranger/conductor, part logistics, and all stress. “You’re trying to help management, the artist, the tour manager, the record company,” he explains. “Everybody’s got their say about what should happen and why, so you’re getting a lot of different information from people and you have to make it work.”

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Originally Published

Aidan Levy

In addition to JazzTimes, Aidan Levy’s work has appeared in The New York Times, the Village Voice, and the Nation. He is a PhD candidate in the Department of English and Comparative Literature at Columbia University, where he specializes in jazz studies. He has played baritone saxophone with the Stan Rubin Orchestra, Cotton Club All-Stars, and various other groups. He is at work on a biography of Sonny Rollins for Da Capo Press.