Sing it! “There’s a niche for every editor.” Those with a background in music may find music editing rewarding. Rather than the tunes or the lyrics, editors in the music niche are working with everything else that has to do with music. We spoke to several music specialist editors to get the scoop on this niche. Join us over the next several weeks to hear what they have to say.
Anything written about music is what editors edit: “Concert programme notes, student/academic work, promotional/marketing materials, CD booklets, etc.” says Pam Smith, an editor specializing in music, the arts and humanities, management, and corporate work in Belfast, Northern Ireland. “Outside my ‘day job’ of running a concert society, I’ve worked for an independent CD producer, who hired me to proofread/fact check his CD booklets. They were highly specialised: organ music (including technical details of organ registrations) and Baroque cello music. Others might get work from publishers of books on music, music (score) publishers, journals and magazines (all the ones I have contacted in the UK had in-house editorial staff), music academics/students, instrument manufacturers, educational publishers, concert societies, artists’ agencies and concert venues.”
“An ear training and sight-singing textbook for first- and second-year university students” is what classical-musician-turned-editor-Michele Satanove first edited. “It was writing related to music that I was editing, but there were numerous musical excerpts that required my being able to read musical scores and, to some extent, required some editing (but the author had done a really good job on them).”
Satanove also edits a music therapy journal “although that’s more along the lines of anything else in the social sciences,” she says. “It’s more about the therapy than about the music itself. Occasionally I do encounter musical excerpts, too, plus frequent references to musical works.”
“I do work on some sheet music,” says Kate Unrau, a professional violinist and editor freelancing in Toronto, ON. “But I find that most music publishers are happy to use noneditors (like composers or music theorists) to edit/proofread sheet music. Where I find employment is in mixed texts where they require someone with text-editing abilities in addition to music-editing skills.”
Katherine Noftz Nagel edits theses and grad student papers about music history, music appreciation, and historical performance practice. “It’s not the major thrust of my business, but I do a few papers a year, and a thesis every 2–3 years. I also occasionally proofread the text of choral compositions for friends.” Nagel is a freelance technical writer, editor, web designer, personal tech coach, and mezzo-soprano.