Performers occupy many sectors of society – commercial, religious, nonprofit and academia, to name a few. The types of performances are similarly numerous, encompassing drama, music, comedy and dance. Venues range from sanctuaries and small auditoriums to cinemas and arenas that can hold tens of thousands of music fans. The job description of a performer explains the talents and preparation needed to bring about the finished product of the performance.

What Does a Performer Do?

Performers entertain, inspire and educate. They can sing, dance, tell jokes, play fictional and non-fiction characters, sometimes all in the same performance. Their works can recreate historical events, tell stories, send messages and evoke emotions that run the gambit from happiness to anger. To deliver these experiences, performers must devote significant time to preparation and publicity of their performances and companies.

Performer Job Description for Resume – Responsibilities

  • Sing, dance, play instruments or act before live or studio audiences based on content of program
  • Read and memorize lyrics, musical notes and scripts
  • Rehearse songs, other musical pieces, scenes and acts
  • Practice reading cue cards or teleprompters
  • Research voice and other physical traits and background of characters, including non-fictional characters
  • Promote concert, shows or other performances through interviews on radio, television, internet and social media outlets
  • Train in performance of stunts or specific tasks of character, such as horseback or race car driving, combat or playing sports

In local theater companies or symphonies, performers may hold workshops for students to teach how to act or play particular instruments. Performers may appear for free at events as part of community outreach. Celebrity performers may lend their time and name for fundraisers or benefits to help charities or respond to disasters, natural and otherwise.

Performer Essential Skills

Creativity. Talents in creativity include interpreting and conveying the meaning of particular musical pieces, movies or theatrical works. Musicians use creative skills to find new sounds, harmonies and rhythms from instruments.

Listening. Actors must listen to director’s instructions and to other actors to know their cues to speak, move or otherwise accomplish something in the script or plan. Listening skills help musicians or singers stay in tune and on pace with other instrument players or singers.

Memorization. The ability to remember and recall lines and other content of the script is critical for actors. For musical performers, memory comes into play at concerts in which musicians may not have the words or notes before them. This may especially be the case with popular music concerts in large auditoriums or arenas in which the performs move constantly around the stage or dance.

Persistence. Rejection constitutes a major facet of the performer’s job description. Landing parts in plays, television shows, movies, choruses, bands and symphonies requires auditions and involves considerable competition with other candidates.

Physical. Performers spend several hours moving or standing in rehearsals and in the performances. Actors in particular may wear weighty costumes and some musicians carry heavy instruments. In dancing, flexibility, coordination and stamina are necessary physical talents. Stunt performers must be able to jump, dive, run and simulate fights.

Reading. Reading skills allow actors and musicians to understand the scripts and lyrics. Musicians must be able to read sheets to understand the notes and tempo of melodies and harmonies.

Becoming a Performer

Formal education and training develop the skills necessary to play music or characters or dance. The experience for many performers can start at very young ages in a variety of settings. Some children catch the eye of talent or casting agencies and producers seeking to cast roles of young characters.
Colleges and specialty acting and music schools afford education for many trainers.

Education and Training

Opera performers or symphony musicians should have a college degree in music history, theory or performance. Foreign language classes, both in high school and college, take importance for prospective opera performers because many operas are performed in non-English languages.

Aspiring musicians, dancers and actors may attend, even prior to college, schools focusing on the performing arts. High school classes include chorus, band and theater. Post-secondary education occurs in film schools, dance schools and music schools, many of which are independent of colleges and universities. Traditional liberal arts universities award and run theatre, art and music degrees and programs.

Music camps, individual and group lessons and fellowships afford opportunities for musicians to train and perform.

Work Experience

Performers can accumulate experience at early ages. For the majority of future performers, this consists of school or community theater plays and church or school choirs and bands.

Some young performers, especially in popular entertainment, may be noticed at some performance by entertainment companies. With the assistance or consent of parents or guardians, these young music groups and actors may earn recording contracts or roles in shows or movies.

For most performers, experience at the outset often comes from minor roles or performing before smaller crowds. This experience comes via community theaters, choirs, dance troupes, campus drama groups and smaller music or comedy clubs.

Work Schedules

Typical performers do not have regular or typical schedules. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, nearly a third of actors worked part-time in 2014. Performers may have lengthy intervals between work and performances.

Performers spend several hours during the day in rehearsal and other preparation sessions, with the work intensifying as the time of performance arrives.

Most live performances take place on evenings and weekends. This is to optimize the number of audience members, many of whom hold jobs on weekdays and daytimes and are not available at those times to attend performances. Some actors or musicians may hold shows during weekday or daytime hours, especially for elementary, middle school or high school students.

Studio recordings or performances take place during weekdays. Actors on television shows may have daytime or evening taping sessions for episodes.

Many actors, especially in movies and television shows, have irregular hours and must rehearse or have scenes recorded in various types of weather conditions.

Travel is a common part of a performer’s job description. Actors and their film crews shoot scenes often in remote, international locations. Musicians and comedians tour throughout various cities, spending several days or weeks at a time away from home.

Career Prospects

For commercial entertainment, such as in movies, television and popular music, qualified or talented performers should see opportunities to display and earn from their talents. Digital platforms have expanded the availability and portability of music and videos. This means more listeners, viewers and purchasers of content – and tickets for movies or concerts.

Employment of performers may prove diminished or not as vibrant in symphonies and theater or dance companies. These organizations depend significantly on donations or other public funding, which can wane during economic downturns or where would-be donors or patrons do not prioritize the performing arts.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, nearly one-fifth of actors were self-employed in 2014. Among musicians and performers, that percentage stood at nearly 40 percent in 2014.


As entertainment and the arts hold prominent places in modern society, the public will demand performers to deliver laughs, emotions and other enlightening experiences.

The performing arts industry is diverse, as it encompasses film, stage and studios. Performers bring athletic and graceful dance moves, powerful music and portrayals of characters and events, both real and fictitious. Preparation, the ability to remember lines and words, follow instructions and project authenticity and confidence in public run as common threads through performers in general.