How Much Does a Professional Cellist Make?

Cellists could be considered as universal musicians in the industry of music – from jazz to classical, film scores to show music and even folk music, they have the ability to make the various compositions sound better.

Aside from the capability to play different genres of music, cellists are considered to be independent and adaptive as well. They can play as a soloist or in ensembles, may it be large or small without having to worry so much if they’d blend in just right. A cellist doesn’t only hustle as a performer, but also as an instructor, giving them the chance to see and experience the culture of countries around the globe.

Audition Requirements as a Cellist

Unlike the typical corporate job where an applicant needs to acquire certain educational degree(s), a cellist should only be able to play efficiently. However, if you’re someone who aspires to become a cello instructor or teacher, you’ll need to acquire a bachelor’s or master’s degree in cello performance before you can teach in an institution. On the other hand, if you’re keen to play in an orchestra, applications are usually done through blind auditions so as to guarantee that basis of accepting a cellist should only be for the sole reason that the musician is capable and fit for the requirements and not for subjective reasons (i.e. gender, race, or age). Having the right kind of instrument is also a critical factor in auditioning as a cellist. There are various brands of cellos available but don’t just choose a famous brand, make sure that it is made of quality materials so that you can use it for a long time. 

Moreover, different skills are required for the kind of career path you’d like to take on as a cellist. For example, a cellist in an orchestra should have superb intonation and flawless technique. Cellist’s into jazz music should have the skills when it comes to improvisation, and studio cellists on the other hand should be efficient sight readers since the records of new compositions are made only after one (1) to two (2) read-throughs.

How much does a professional cellist make?

Well, it depends on what kind of cellist you are:

  • Jazz Cellists – Working in small groups (e.g. quartets and quintets), you can usually see jazz cellists in bars and clubs than in concert halls. They particularly play at night and into the early hours of the morning. When asked, most jazz cellists play for the passion they have for both cello and jazz rather than the compensation of playing it in public. Typically, an average salary of a jazz cellist is around 15,000 USD annually.
  • Orchestral Cellists – Cellists for this field are rated according in tiers. Those in top tier can earn at least 200,000 USD a year. While a principal cellist could possibly earn higher than those in top tier annually. For those in the mid-tier, these cellists may earn from 50,000 USD to 60,000 USD a year. However, if the orchestral cellists get to perform on festivals, they’d get to earn more annually.
  • Soloist – As cellist can also perform by themselves to earn more, they can be invited to perform in various events. If a cellist is needed in a high school musical, compensation may cost around 100 USD to 200 USD for the first three (3) hours. For cellists playing in a festival, they can probably earn 225 USD a day and 100 USD for those who play at parties.
  • Cellist in Recording scene – If you’re keen to be part of making television and film scores, you may earn at least 62.66 USD per hour with a three (3) hour minimum. For cellists who record music for sale (e.g. through CDs), they are paid on a per-hour basis plus percentage depending on the pressings done for the recording.