I am a substitute bassist at Walt Disney World in Florida. I sub at the Grand Floridian Hotel, which houses a society orchestra that plays mostly old jazz from the 1920s to 1940s. On a regular basis, I have questions from people all the time about how one goes about getting hired as a Walt Disney World musician. On one hand, it’s quite simple: you audition and get hired, like any other musical organization. On the other hand, Disney’s talent employment process is quite unique. It takes quite a bit of explaining, and makes sense to have an article about it.

Before we get started, I must mention this: all of my knowledge for being a Disney cast member is from the Florida park, but I believe the process is very close, if not identical, to the processes at the other four parks around the world. The parks even advertise openings from the same website.

Types of musician jobs at Walt Disney World

There are two kinds of musicians that work at Walt Disney World: contracted groups, and in-house cast members. Cast members then get broken down into full-time and seasonal musicians. Subs, like me, are considered seasonal musicians. Usually, it’s for employees that work only during busier times of the year. This is where subs are classified, however. I guess it makes sense to classify subs here, as they only work when called on, anyway.

Cast Member Musicians

The in-house jobs, where musicians are considered actual employees of Walt Disney World, are the cast members. These jobs are the more ongoing ensembles at Disney, where an actual budget is set-aside for them in particular. The musicians have full benefits and pension, as per the collective bargaining agreement with the Local 389 musician’s union.

The jobs that are included would be bands like:

  • The Main Street Philharmonic - a kind of marching brass jazz band in the Magic Kingdom.
  • Oktoberfest Musikanten - a German polka band at Epcot’s Germany pavilion.
  • Mo’Rockin - a Moroccan fusion ensemble at the Moroccan pavilion in Epcot.
  • Mulch, Sweat, and Shears - which is a rock band at Disney’s Hollywood Studios.
  • Disney’s Grand Floridian Society Orchestra (my sub position) – which is a six piece jazz band, which plays early to mid 20th century period jazz at the Grand Floridian Hotel in the lobby. It’s kind of reminiscent of a cruise ship’s “big band” sets.
  • Disney’s Polynesian Hotel’s Spirit of Aloha Dinner Show Band - which, as the name implies, is the Hawaiian band that plays the music for the dinner show.

There is even a number of lounge pianists and harpists around the property as solo acts.

There are many more ensembles in the Florida park; these are just a few examples. As far as the cast member jobs, these are some of the older groups that have stood the test of time. Some of these bands work five days a week, and some work seven, using a second group of musicians that work two days a week. Some of these seven-day ensembles have a “two day band” and a “five day band,” and others have different schedules for each musician, so the band is pretty much the same all week, with a few differences in the personnel from day to day. The two-day musicians are usually the first call subs for the five-day guys.

It is the cast member jobs that I will be concentrating on, as they are what I’m most knowledgeable on, and what Disney is most interested in.

Contracted Jobs

Some jobs, like the ones around Downtown Disney, Pleasure Island, the annual Food and Wine Festival, or even a small handful of groups inside the parks, are brought in on a temporary contract. They are not Disney employees, and don’t have all of the same benefits. They are usually hired when Disney has a special need for a themed band, and they use the contracted musicians sparingly.

For contracted gigs, Disney contracts already established bands and acts that have put in the effort themselves for the rehearsals, costumes, equipment and anything else that goes into their show. In short, you are ready to play, and need minimal interaction with the venue; you’re pretty much pointed to the stage, shown where the electrical outlets are, and left to do what you do best.
Some examples of contracted jobs around Disney are:

  • The British Revolution – which is a 60s style rock band playing in the UK section of Epcot. I believe the name actually reflects the show, and not the band’s name, which may be something different. I have seen the same show with a different band in the last year, so I assume the bands are rotated in and out. This band is one of the few examples of the contractors performing inside of one of the theme parks.
  • Nova Era – which is a classical/fusion group that uses 18th century period costumes and electric string instruments. They perform in Downtown Disney.
  • Don Soledad Trio – which is a rumba flamenco group that occasionally performs at Pleasure Island or during Epcot’s Food and Wine Festival. Don’s group is an example of a contracted job that is hired on an as-needed basis. They do not work regularly, like the above two groups.

What instruments are needed?

Here’s a list of cast member bands from the top of my head. There may be more, and these may change as time goes on and park interests change. Take these as a guide to know where to start when looking into your instrument at Disney. Most of these groups can be searched on YouTube to see what their gig is all about:

Violin:
Mariachi Cobre
Mo’Rockin’ (electric violin)

Flute:
Spirit of America Fife and Drum Corps (fife spots, of course)

Saxophone:
Fantasy Woodwind Society (Sax quartet)
Grand Floridian Society Orchestra

Trumpet:
Grand Floridian Society Orchestra
Main Street Philharmonic
Oktoberfest Musikanten

Tombone:
Grand Floridian Society Orchestra
Main Street Philharmonic

Tuba:
Grand Floridian Society Orchestra (can replace bass)
Main Street Philharmonic
The Notorious Banjo Brothers and Bob
Oktoberfest Musikanten (tuba/bass double)

Bass:
Grand Floridian Society Orchestra
Off Kilter (Celtic Rock Band at Epcot)
Mariachi Cobre (Guitarron)
Mo’Rockin’
Mulch, Sweat, and Shears
Oktoberfest Musikanten (tuba/bass double)
Spirit of Aloha Dinner Show

Drums/Percussion:
Grand Floridian Society Orchestra
Off Kilter (Celtic rock band at Epcot)
Oktoberfest Musikanten
Main Street Philharmonic
Matsuriza (Japanese taiko drumming at Epcot)
Mo’Rockin’ (Zen Drum and hand percussion spots)
Mulch, Sweat, and Shears
Spirit of Aloha Dinner Show
Spirit of America Fife and Drum Corps

Guitar:
Off Kilter (Celtic rock band at Epcot)
Oktoberfest Musikanten
Mariachi Cobre (also vihuela spots)
Mulch, Sweat, and Shears
The Notorious Banjo Brothers and Bob (banjo also, of course)
Spirit of Aloha Dinner Show

Accordion:
Oktoberfest Musikanten
The Ziti Sisters (female comedy troupe)

Piano/Keys:
Casey’s Corner Pianist (ragtime pianist at Magic Kingdom)
Grand Floridian Society Orchestra
Grand Floridian Lounge Pianist
Off Kilter (Celtic rock band at Epcot)
Mo’Rockin’
Mulch, Sweat, and Shears
Spirit of Aloha Dinner Show

Harp:
Dinner Music at Grand Floridian

Orchestral spots:
There is one seasonal gig worth mentioning: Disney’s Candlelight Processional. It’s a Christmas concert that happens during November-December at Epcot. A full orchestra is hired, and is compiled of seasonal musicians making up some of the best orchestral players in the Orlando area. If you didn’t see your instrument above, and are classically trained, you may find yourself suited for this annual gig.

What are the jobs like?

The job at Disney varies greatly depending on the ensemble. For instance, the Hawaiian band at the Polynesian Hotel plays two shows per night, five days per week, which is divided into three sets. The Grand Floridian Society Orchestra plays four sets daily during the late afternoon to evening. Most of the bands around the parks have multiple show times, which are usually 30-45 minute sets performed on regular intervals throughout the day. Costumes are usually made to go with the show; Hawaiian shirts, or tuxes, or minutemen uniforms, etc. Yes, the German band wears lederhosen.

The Main Street PhilharmonicThere are few indoor jobs, such as the Grand Floridian Orchestra and the German band, which are considered the “best” jobs for the simple fact that they are indoors. One of the reasons Walt Disney chose this area of the U.S. was because of the relatively mild weather year round. However, the summers in Florida aren’t much cooler than the rest of the eastern seaboard, with highs still being very close, if not over, 100 degrees, with very high humidity. This can easily take its toll if you didn’t grow up in this climate. It also can still experience highs below freezing during the winter seasons. This is why indoor jobs are considered more desirable, but the outdoor jobs are given consideration to this fact, which is why sets are shorter throughout the day.

The way the music is learned also varies. There’s one group, the Grand Floridian Society Orchestra, where the job is strictly reading on the gig, with no rehearsals. One or two ensembles have charts, but they must be memorized before performing. There are also many ensembles where the music is learned from recordings, and put together through rehearsal. These groups have no printed music. Some of these bands allow you to make your own charts and read them at the beginning, and some require memorization.

Even the times vary. Some groups start as early as the parks first open, and the hotel bands seem to play the latest, usually striking the stage at around 10pm. The contracted musicians that play in Downtown Disney, Pleasure Island, or on Disney Boardwalk, play even later than that.

As much as the physical aspects of the job vary, the musical aspect is very similar. Each musician is highly skilled. Some of the musicians have come from bands such as Gordon Goodwin’s Big Phat Band, Maynard Ferguson’s big band, and one was even the busiest New York bassist in the mid-20th century, recording with all the heavies then, and performing at the legendary Copa Cabana. It’s both humbling and exciting to play along with such high-class musicians.

Perks

Pay works slightly differently between the contracted and cast jobs. Contracted jobs are paid per job. There are three kinds of cast members: full time, part time, and seasonal.

Cast members are typically paid 8 hours per day at the parks, and also paying into pension and benefits. Rehearsals, when scheduled, are also paid. Orlando Local 389 has a collective bargaining agreement, which represents all musicians working at Disney, whether they are a part of the union or not (Florida is a right-to-work state, meaning you don’t have to be in a union to work a job). The local has a close relationship with Disney and they both work together and get along great. The starting pay at Disney is very competitive, which tends to bring in the best talent to desire these jobs.

Some of the other perks include:

  • Pension for all cast member musicians
  • Full health benefits for full-time musicians
  • 20% discounts to merchandise
  • Varying discounts with most sit-down restaurants on property (this is my favorite perk). After lots of experimenting, I’m starting to see the pattern. If you’re waited on, you probably get a discount. They range anywhere from 10% on up. There’s a nice little hidden southern-style buffet in Fort Wilderness that has great food, and with the discount, came to under $15 per person. It’s my favorite place for the combination of price and taste, even if it is out of the way of everything.
  • Discounts at participating surrounding businesses, including restaurants, hotels, retail stores, etc.
  • Free park admission. All cast members get this. In addition, each year, you can get in three people or less six times. This resets every January. You also get a couple of comp tickets each year. I believe this perk changes with your employment status with the company and the time you have been with them.

For any discount, it never hurts to ask. If you can’t get a discount at a certain place to eat (pattern I’ve noticed: if there’s a counter for you to order from, the answer is probably “no”), they already know most cast members are going to try, and they apologetically tell you it won’t work. I even sat down at a Pizza Hut just outside of the property, mentioned I was a cast member, and was given 10% off.

For the record, alcohol is full price for everyone.

How does one actually get hired at Disney?

First of all, keep checking the audition calendar. Vacancies and open call auditions are posted there.

There are 104 regular musical positions around Walt Disney World in Florida. The most common way one is hired for a Disney job is through auditions. Five times a year, there are “open call” auditions. The main purpose of these auditions is to find talent for the sub lists around the parks, and to hear local bands looking to be contracted. Each musician or group is scheduled through the union, and given 15 minutes to show the audition panel what he or she can do. The president of Local 389 is present at all auditions as an observer. According to Mike Avila, the Union President, “these auditions last about 15 minutes per individual and I call them ‘the friendliest auditions on the planet.’” If the musician is competent, and there is a need for his or her abilities, they will begin the hiring process.

When there is a vacancy for a specific position, such as a musician leaving, or Disney creating a new musical act, the auditions are much like the open call, with a few differences. If the vacancy is with an existing group, you actually play with the band for which you’re auditioning. These auditions are the most fun. I’ve done a few of them. I auditioned for lead trombone with the Main Street Philharmonic, and the audition was mostly reading down two charts, and performing them with this band. Talk about high energy. With the Hawaiian band, the guitarist explained the tune as fast as he could, then the drummer counted us off.

Usually, when there’s a vacancy, Disney auditions for that spot as full-time, and also auditions every other spot for sub players. For instance, the Hawaiian audition I was at was actually for a new steel guitar player, but I came to audition bass, and there were ukulele players, guitarists, and drummers at the audition, as well.

When invited to these auditions, you are encouraged to watch the group for which you are auditioning and come prepared to show the company why you are the right person for the job.

As for fairness, the president of the union told me this:

“In my 12 years as President of the Local, I have observed Disney auditions to be very fair. Contrary to popular belief, the company does not go into auditions already knowing who will get the job. I have heard so many people say this over the years, however, as one of the individuals who sits on the panel (as an observer for the union only), I can say that it is just not true. Disney has an impeccable record for hiring the person who ‘won the audition’.”

Okay, they liked you. Now what?

Before this is explained, I need to mention this: I’m not sure how other Disney parks around the world are, but Walt Disney World is in a very large, vast, out-of-the way piece of land. Don’t make any other plans the days you mean to go out to Walt Disney World. Everything there takes plenty of time, especially traveling. And the most important thing is to give yourself plenty of time when going there. Make sure your punctuality is fine. I tend to show up as early as I possibly can when I need to do something at Disney. I live only about 20 miles from the exit I need to get off for my job, but give myself well over an hour driving time. And depending on what job you have, you may have a lot of walking, a lot of connecting bus rides after parking, costume changes, or anything else that can take plenty of time.

Once you’re hired to be a Disney cast member musician, you must first go through the process that each employee on property goes through. First, you have a full security background check, fingerprinting, the works. This can take a few hours. Once you’ve passed, you’re given a date to a training day at Disney University. It’s basically just an eight-hour class about some of the rules, how certain things work, and little games that help you learn. It’s not a bad day, and you’re getting paid your musician wage to do this day, which is not bad at all. This is why Disney doesn’t hire a lot of people as subs, because they have to pay each just to be able to sub. So it costs them money to have subs not working all the time.

Once you’re finished there, you’re given your nametag, your ID card, and sent on your way to your gig. You then speak with your bandleader about the job.

How did I get my job?

My situation came about a little differently. I couldn’t make an open call audition, and didn’t want to wait two months for the next one to come around. So, I had a special audition set up with the talent director. I played all four of my instruments for her, and at the end of my audition, she told me where she thought I would fit best as a sub: The Grand Floridian Society Orchestra. Not only that, but the great thing here was, since it was not in any of the theme parks, I could swing by and talk to the bandleader personally without having to pay an admission. So I did just that. I visited about once a month for about six months, and they finally made the call to have me statused as a bass sub with this band. Persistence does pay off! I’m even renting the bandleader’s guesthouse now, too, so it even worked out better!

Now that I have a company ID, I can go into the parks and discuss subbing with other bands. Some are interested, some aren’t sure I will be useful with their already full sub list. But we’ll see.

There you have it. Much of this information is very hard to come by unless you have a good friend in the company. I had to learn this as I went along at Disney. So, if you’re interested, keep an eye on auditions, do your homework, and good luck!

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85 Responses to How to Get a Musician Job at Walt Disney World

  1. GREAT article, Nick. This is an unprecedented resource for anyone interested in the gig. What a gift this is for the musician community – thanks man.

  2. Dale Baker says:

    Great article. I’m going to post the link on my various sites…
    Well written, and very informative! I agree with David’s comment – this is a great resource and a gift for those looking for a gig at WDW… Cheers!

  3. Nick Rosaci says:

    Thanks guys. This information took me a long time to figure out. Most of the full time guys don’t really know as much; they tend to get their spot and just stay there and mind their own business. So I had to do a lot of investigating over the last year.

    Disney is a good company, and this information might be used to help someone get in with them.

  4. Kevin J. says:

    Very nice article. Thanks.

  5. Kevin Cardwell says:

    I enjoyed the article and thanks. One question, Is Off Kilter a contract band?

    • Nick Rosaci says:

      Nope, as far as I know. It’s a Scottish rock band that plays five days a week on the stage in Canada. That band occasionally plays live around Orlando, but they probably go by a different name.

  6. Eric Hopkins says:

    Thanks for the info, Nick. I’m a classical percussionist in NYC thinking about investing $500 to fly to CA (this audition is in Hollywood) to audition for an opening that I think I am well suited for. Do people normally fly in like this for auditions, or is it usually locals?

    Any tips for the audition? Its for a new, drumming-chefs show. No music, just bring sticks.

    • Nick Rosaci says:

      One piece of information with a Disney audition:

      Be yourself.

      When you work for the Disney company, your personality is as important as your ability. They want to know you’re friendly and charismatic. You will be interacting with guests. You will most likely be acting comedic or goofy skits (not always the case). But they will want to know that you’re generally easy to work with. Smile, introduce yourself, keep it lighthearted. Treating it like an orchestral audition may actually count against you.

      And one piece of advice someone once told me: go to an audition as long as it’s less than $500 in travel expenses. If it’s more, you should have inside knowledge that you are pretty much guaranteed the job.

      And good luck!

  7. James says:

    Off Kilter is a Canadian Band originally from Simon Fraser University in BC. Not sure that they are actually scottish, but they ARE canadaian ;) they play canadian infused celtic music. great band, knew a member once. the best band at WDW (no offense to the great GF orchestra).

    great article.

    • Nick Rosaci says:

      I didn’t know that! I only met the bassist, who’s American.

      In all honesty, there is not a BAD band at Disney. Every one of them are great. And all are great guys, too. No offense taken. If I had my way, I’d be on their sub list too, but you have to be able to sing. It’s a skill I’m going to learn very soon.

      • Shane Ffrench says:

        Sorry to correct you, but the bass player is Irish. I know because I play with his brother (another bass player here in cork)

  8. SteelTom says:

    Nice and very thorough article. Many years ago I was considering moving to FLA to work at Disney but heard the weather was pretty humid and uncomfortable in the summer.

    • Nick Rosaci says:

      It can be, if you didn’t grow up here. Disney is even a little warmer than where I’m from, since I grew up on the Atlantic coast of Florida. We always had a decent breeze that could get us up to ten degrees cooler at some times. But, like I mentioned, the heat is a factor into why the outside gigs are much shorter.

  9. jerry says:

    i’d be interested in doing solo fingerstlye stuff in the likes of tommy emmanuel, lawrence juber, andy mcgee etc…pop and classical pop arranged for solo guitar.

    are there any places for a gigs like this? like maybe a restaurant in or around disney where tourists would eat, hang out? i spent a few years putting together a pretty solid and guitaristically challenging rep in the hopes of offering a unique show… as opposed to the typical strum and hum folkie guitar player or piano. not that there’s anything wrong with this but i think folks might appreciate something different for a change.

    my niche would be something different and i’m hoping to bank in on it.

    • Nick Rosaci says:

      Hi Jerry,

      Stuff like this is usually contracted out on an as-needed basis. Disney’s entertainment ideas go through a long process before they’re even given consideration, and usually they have the idea and hire the musicians, not the the other way around. That isn’t always the case, though. Either way, the music entertainment here is more of an in-your-face style of entertainment, and not really background music.

      HOWEVER, I bet you this stuff would be well received in the Kissimmee area just outside of Disney. Hotels go for stuff like this, I hear. The Orlando scene is a very difficult one to research, but if you think there’s a shot of you doing this, then I would say start researching!

    • I love that Andy McGee style.

  10. Hey Nick, I haven’t chimed in on this one yet, but to echo everyone else’s sentiments, this is an outstanding resource for what has always impressed me as a pretty sweet gig. My sister-in-law used to work at Disney World and I went to the parks a few times as an adult. I was always impressed with the bands and often wondered how they got booked. Now I know.

    Thanks for sharing!

    • Nick Rosaci says:

      Thanks man. All this knowledge took me about two years of driving out to the parks and meeting as many musicians as I could, and asking questions. Now I think I know more than any single full-time performer at the parks.

  11. Emma says:

    Hi Nick,

    Awesome article – I love this site! I am Australian and would love to get a job like this. It would however cost more than $500 in travel to come over an audition. Do they audition overseas or is there a way you can submit an audition?

    Thanks

    Emma

    • Nick Rosaci says:

      They don’t, at least in the Florida park. There’s enough talent in the local musicians to not need to search around the world. They may have created overseas auditions when they started some of the specialty acts, like the taiko drumming or Hawaiian band, but I haven’t heard of this practice any time lately.

  12. Great article! I’m just disappointed to find there isn’t a clarinet position in the Oktoberfest band.

  13. John says:

    Well, in my experience with auditioning for mulch sweat and shears, everyone was quite friendly and supportive but I must say that there will always be a bad apple. You see, the guy that plays the role of Morris mulch not only strikes me as an anal person in YouTube, he also acted that way with me at the audition. Although the judges and the union praised me for having fun creating my own lyrical twist to the songs I sang and put me on their top choice list, the lead singer asked mr in an annoyed manner if I always change the lyrics to a song. My reply was going to be ‘pss, diva!’ but I just killed him with kindness to show that I’m the better man.

    • Nick Rosaci says:

      John,

      I truly don’t mean for you to take offense to what I’m about to tell you, but that’s a great learning experience. The union isn’t the people you need to impress; they are meant to observe and make sure there isn’t any unfair advantages given. The entertainment and casting director is an important guy, and he’s definitely a very nice and pleasant man. But he’s still a backburner to who you need to impress. He will pretty much be there to make sure not only are you a good fit for the job itself, but also a good fit for Disney.

      The people that you need to get to like you are the guys you will be working with–i.e., the band. These are the guys you will be working with on a daily basis, and they need to know that you will mesh well with everyone else. In this aspect, getting in a new ensemble is almost exactly like getting into a new relationship.

      I don’t know the guys in Mulch very well, but I would assume the guy you talked with is the bandleader. When there’s an open call audition like that, there will be many other players. He, obviously, didn’t like the fact that you changed the lyrics, and probably chose someone who didn’t change the lyrics.

      This is a great learning lesson for you, because as it happens, Mulch has a new audition coming up this Monday. Take what you learned from the last audition and go in there with the new experience. If you take your auditions personally, you’ll always feel stressed and pessimistic when going in, and then sour if you don’t make it. It’s not a healthy lifestyle for a pro musician. If you instead take what happened at your last audition as a learning experience, you get a big advantage to people who will be walking in there for the first time.

      Good luck!

  14. Griffin says:

    Thank you for taking time out to write this article and respond to comments Nick. I just auditioned for Mulch, Sweat & Shears today. It went well and was a great experience. Reading this article ahead of time helped me to know what to expect at the audition. Hope to join you as a fellow Disney musician. Cheers!

    • Nick Rosaci says:

      You’re very welcome, and thank you (along with everyone else) for the kind words.

      Even if you don’t make it, the auditions with Disney are definitely the most fun to do. Good luck! And if you get any dates with Mulch, let me know, and I’ll go check it out.

  15. john says:

    my name is john amanager of the band called southbound we play at bars and partys and all kinds of shows down near were bike week is held.i am trying to see if i can get them something big even if for one week end .they are better then good i can send you a dvd and a tape if you like all i ask is one time and if you like us that would make us feel good there are 5 and all in the 30′s to 40′s we have beed together for 9 years now .so please try us out you can me 3522384916 any time thank you

    • Nick Rosaci says:

      Hi John,

      If you really do want to try to get them a gig with Disney, all of the pertinent information as to how to do it is in the article right above. I’m just a sub at Disney, I don’t handle any of the management. Nor does anyone at this site.

  16. Maddi says:

    Thank you so much for this article, Nick! It was a great read and very insightful. I’m a female trombone player from Chicago and have been thinking very seriously about setting up an audition with Disney. Do you by any chance know how often they look for full-time musicians, and, more particularly, trombonists? I’ve done plenty of auditions up here and feel like I could be a great fit down there. Again, thanks for the great article and invaluable information!
    -Maddi

  17. Nick Rosaci says:

    Hi Maddy,

    Thanks for the compliments. As for how often they look, I would guess that Disney World is pretty happy with the groups they have right now. That being the case, they would only look for musicians to replace any that might be leaving. There is only a few full-time positions on the property (one in the Floridian band, and two or three in the Main Street Philharmonic), so the frequency as to when they look for more trombone players is fairly rare. I’m not trying to steer you away from the job, but a piece of advice a fellow bass player I met on a gig a few years ago was this: Don’t go out for an audition that costs you more than $500 in travel expenses, unless you’re pretty much guaranteed the job.

    It may sound a little dark, but it keeps you from getting sour if you travel from audition to audition and blow all your money. And pro auditions can sometimes run a long time until you win that job that you want.

    Still, keep an eye on the auditions calendar, if you’re really into doing it. Something might come up!

  18. Ali says:

    Hi Nick,

    Thanks for the article. Do you know if it is possible for musicians from the UK to get hired for a contracted job? I’m in and out of Florida alot so attending auditions is not a problem, but maybe you need a work visa? Thanks!

  19. Nick Rosaci says:

    Hi Ali,

    I don’t know too much about contracted jobs at Disney, though Disney employs a very large number of international employees. Just last week, I was on the cast member bus at EPCOT, and with the exception of two of us, everyone else was not American. About 30-35 were French waiters, and a few Caribbean cooks were also there.

    As for a visa, I believe you need one to work at Disney. You might contact them or the AFM Local 389 (Orlando musicians union) for more questions.

  20. Jose Antonio says:

    Hey, this article is great! thanks so much for all that info!!

    I was wondering if could be possible to achieve a position at Disney orchestra ir I m not a Us citizen, As I have an italian passport…

    Could be possible? Hope so :)

    Regards and looking forward to hearing from you

    Toni

    • Nick Rosaci says:

      Hey Toni,

      As a matter of fact, Disney hires from all over the world. You really wouldn’t want to come all the way to Florida for an audition though; that really wouldn’t be cost effective. I myself contacted Disneyland to inquire about an audition that happened last month, and the guy in charge over there told me the same thing.

      Typically, when they hire ethnic groups, they tend to hire musicians native to those countries. From what I gather, the auditions would be held in the native countries, but I’m not sure about that. Eventually, after a new group starts, local musicians start out as subs and end up working their way in as full time. At least, that’s how it looks to me, but I could be wrong.

      There is an Italian group–but it’s an all-female trio called the Ziti Sisters. I know very little about them, but I’m sure it’s not what you’re looking for.

      Oh, I see you mentioned Orchestra. Disney hasn’t had a full-time orchestra in decades(I’m assuming you mean classical orchestra, as opposed to the jazz orchestra I play in). The only orchestra on property is the Candlelight orchestra, which only works for about six weeks out of the year.

      I know absolutely nothing about Disneyland Paris, but the people inquiring from Europe may have a much better chance at becoming a Disney musician by starting there.

  21. Smumdax says:

    Although I don’t personnaly need the info in your great article, I forwarded it to one of the boys in a great band I know named “Marco et Les Torvis”. They are a local band from Quebec Province in here Canada, and they’re playing really good folk, rockabilly, festive kinda music. I can really imagine them playing at the Canadian Pavilion in Epcot, a very different style from what Off Kilters play, and would surely be a great addition to the shows. I hope they’ll read your article seriously and try to make the auditions someday :D

  22. Kevin Glover says:

    Hey Nick do I need or does it help to have a college musicical degree for these guys in Disney. Thanks

    • Nick Rosaci says:

      Hi Kevin,

      No, it’s not required. However, depending on the group, you will be expected to have the knowledge of that genre of music. In jazz or classical based groups, for instance, a college education is typically the norm. While it’s possible to get the knowledge outside of school here, college is still the easiest place to gain all of that information.

      Rock and folk groups are rehearsed in the old school tradition of the music–aurally. So you better know your stuff here, too.

      When it comes down to it, though, the degree doesn’t really hurt or help in the hiring process. I’m extremely gracious for my degree, as I know I wouldn’t have the knowledge I have without it. But what Disney looks for is great musicianship, good attitude, and good grooming.

  23. Harmoinca Dan says:

    Do Disney employ any Harmonica players? I’m OK on piano (not good enough to gig), can sing the blues reasonably well, but I can really make the Harmonica sing. I live an hour drive from Anaheim, so I could go to auditions for the cost of a couple of gallons of gas.

    Thank you so much for all of this information. The hiring process at the Magic Kingdom seemed like such a black box before reading this. I may even go for any staff member position available. Is this advisable? I figure if Disney knows me to be a reliable, punctual employee who can interact with guests well, that it would only help. However, I don’t want to be selling Churros for $8/hr for three years before I get a shot.

    • Nick Rosaci says:

      I don’t know about Disneyland, but there isn’t a spot over here in Florida for that.

      Going through a different department likely wouldn’t help at all. In every company, the entertainment department is like a foreign country. They have their own hierarchy, social circles, and professionalism. If you got that job selling churros, the talent director would still be asking “Dan who?” If there’s a harmonica audition, it would still be the best that gets first crack at the job. It’s better to just show off your pleasant and polite disposition when you meet the important people. This is true in every company that has an entertainment department. We’re a different breed.

  24. Shea says:

    Hi Nick,
    thanks for the article about Disney as this contained a great deal of useful information. If you don’t mind me asking what is the approximate salary (or hourly wage) of a full-time musician working for Disney?

    • Nick Rosaci says:

      I’m not sure Disney would appreciate me answering that kind of question on this blog. If you’re really curious, you can call the local 389 and talk to the president. He’s actually a very nice guy.

      I will say that the wage as a full-time Disney musician is very competitive and desirable.

  25. Daniel Pepin says:

    Nick this thread is just fantastic. I do, however, have a question. Can you work at Disney as a musician if you have long hair? I know you cannot hold a park position with long hair due to their standards of grooming. For better or worse I have exceptionally long hair. :-X Any thoughts?

    • Nick Rosaci says:

      Hi Daniel,

      No, you cannot work as a full time musician at Disney with long hair. They just recently relaxed their facial hair rules a little bit, though. There are some contracted musicians that do have long hair, if I recall correctly. But as an entertainment company, Disney takes visual appearance very seriously.

  26. Chris says:

    Hi Nick,
    Great article. If I were to get hired as a musician, I would have to leave my current steady job. Do you know what the job security is for full time musicians? With all the auditions, it seems like the turn around is high and are replacing musicians a lot. Do many musicians get hired for full time thinking it will be an almost permanent job, but then out of nowhere it becomes temporary and they get let go and are out of a job? I will also have to check with the local to see if the salary would be equivalent to what I currently make.

    • Nick Rosaci says:

      Hi Chris,

      Now, this question is actually challenging!

      Yes, full time music jobs would make it difficult to work other jobs. Some musicians, depending on the schedule, are able to sometimes leave the park and hit a night gig, as well.

      There really isn’t as much of a turnaround as you think; the auditions you’re seeing this year (in the Orlando park, at least) are for subs, since they come and go as their availability changes. At least, that’s what I’ve seen.

      Now, when it comes to actual full-time groups that are Disney groups (as opposed to contracted jobs), I believe they have a preset run-time that they allow for it. If it’s popular, they’ll keep renewing for as long as it looks like the audience is enjoying it. This is only a guess, though.

      If you’re asking whether a group is steady or not, that’s a hard thing to say, as Disney is an entertainment company, and they are going to stick with things that the audience likes. It’s not easy to predict what will and won’t be successful. But many of the musicians I’ve talked to have been with the company through other acts that don’t work out, and the company was able to place them elsewhere. So, if you’re playing with a group, and Disney wants to instead do another act, they will take you into consideration on that instrument. Usually, if you are a quality player, and have a great attitude and work ethic, you will have a good shot at the new opening.

      There are some groups that have been around since day one, like the Polynesian band and the Mariachi band (around 40 years). The Grand Floridian band has been there since the hotel opened 25 years ago. There are other examples, and you can be sure that they aren’t going anywhere any time soon.

  27. McCall says:

    Great article. I know you said the Orchestra that plays for the Candlelight Processional only plays 6 weeks a year, but do they ever post open auditions for that group on their site? Or do you have to have an inside track? Thank you so much!!

    • Nick Rosaci says:

      Hi Amelia,

      To be honest, I’m not sure how that works. I know the vast majority of those musicians are either now or have been musicians in Orlando Philharmonic, and they stay around a while. Many of the musicians that are statused as musicians elsewhere, usually the subs, are also on the roster. I believe it works more like a contractor situation; as in, the person in charge fins the musicians and books them.

    • Nick Rosaci says:

      Oops, Sorry McCall, I got a little mixed up on the names. By the way, if you’re in Orlando already, probably the best thing to do would be to call the local union and ask what you should do if you want that gig.

  28. Amelia R says:

    How would one go about auditioning for being in an orchestra for a movie? Would that be listed in the audition calender?

    • Nick Rosaci says:

      Hi Amelia,

      That doesn’t go through Walt Disney World. Most of that is through the Hollywood scene, which is incredibly different than anything out here.

      For the most part, that’s not an audition thing. That’s a contractor thing, as in the composer hires a contractor, who seeks out the musicians.

      • Alison C says:

        Nick,

        I am auditioning for the Candlelight Procession as a musician from NY. Would you know if they use the same musicians every night or is it a rotation of musicians? I’m not sure and trying to find out

  29. So is all of what you said, including the audition process, the same for singers as well? I did a season with them on their cruise ship a Long time ago and have been wanting to get back into the scene again.

    • Nick Rosaci says:

      Hi Brandon,

      I honestly have no clue. This is what I can tell you about singers at Disney:

      While musicians work through the AFM, singers work through Equity.

      The auditions are announced on the same site, disneyauditions.com.

      That’s about as far as the extent of my knowledge goes with that. Good luck!

  30. Franklin Arrarte says:

    Hi Nick, fantastic article! I am looking into soon auditioning for an open saxophone position at Disney World. I have some questions about the audition process such as the format(as in, would the panel ask me to perform anything in particular? or is anything fair game?)

    I want to really leave an impression so any advice would be welcome. Thanks again.

    -Franklin

    • Nick Rosaci says:

      Hey Franklin,

      Sorry I got back to you so late. You likely know how that audition went this time. I would not have been able to give too much information on this one, as it seems the winning candidate simply had to have some great doubling skills.

  31. Cesar Ibarra says:

    Hello, I’m a very young musician that is very interested and passionate. I read that we did not need to have any sort of college degree. I studied with my teacher that has taught me many different styles of jazz. What i want to know is, how do you get a date or audition with Disney?

    • Nick Rosaci says:

      Hi Cesar,

      This information is all included in the article above. I do believe, however, that you need to be 18 or older for employment at Disney, but I could be wrong.

  32. Al Conti says:

    My mother works with someone who said his son, a few years back was in an internship program with Disney and so he went on to play trombone for the Magic Kingdom for 5 years. Before he started working there though, they paid for his schooling as a musician. I’m assuming that would go for any college, unless there is a Disney Musician College. I play trumpet. Currently I am in the Sun Devil’s drum and Bugle corps of Florida, (it’s DCA), however if I were able to get this set up soon after it’s over, that would be amazing. Which would be around August. Do you know of any information on this? I graduated in 2011, and such as was said in the song by Reel Big Fish’s “Sell Out”, “I can’t work in fast food all my life”.

    • Al Conti says:

      I believe I found the website that they were talking about, but I can’t find anything about music, except the All-American Band in Texas, which has nothing to do with what I’m trying to get in to. http://cp.disneycareers.com/en/default/

      • Nick Rosaci says:

        Hi Al,

        I have heard through hearsay that the college program at Disney World has been discontinued, but I’m not sure. You might want to send an email to that link and see what they say. If they don’t answer, you might try to ask the Local 389, but they don’t represent the college musicians, so I don’t know how much they can help.

  33. Jim chevalier says:

    I play acoustic guitar with vocals and can also play r&r rhythm and lead. I have been playing guitar for 47 years and have a great knowledge of pop music. Thank you…..jim

  34. Brian says:

    Hi Nick,

    Great write up and thank you! I produce corporate events and play in a corporate band on the side. One of my clients has an event at a Disney hotel they’d like us to play. But the hotel told us since it’s in a public area, the entertainment has to be provided by Disney Entertainment.

    Do you know how to contact them and how to set up an audition? I understand the concern of making sure we comply with all rules and regs to avoid families complaining. But it seems like they are not going to even give us a chance to prove we’re in line with their values.

    Any help you can offer is appreciated!
    Brian

    • Dave says:

      Nick’s the expert here, but I think it sounds unlikely that you’ll get a chance to play the gig. I think the Orlando AFM would be the people to talk to, but I think I know what they’ll say (Disney venues are for Disney musicians).

  35. David says:

    Hey Nick! As everyone has said thus far, incredible information. Really appreciate everything.
    I was curious if you had any tips for the resume?! I’m heading in Monday and have a general résumé with my list of instruments, musical accomplishments (performances, tours & awards) & education. Is there anything they’d love to see that would stand out?

    • Nick Rosaci says:

      Hey David,

      I really don’t have any more tips than you could find on a pro website. From my own personal experience here in Orlando, I’ll say that I doubt the resume is really looked over for more than a glance. Disney is more interested in whether or not you are entertaining. The most important tips I can give are pretty much play well, smile, and lay it down. The resume is important, but I think it’s more about the immediate package you’ll be showing on your performance.

      For myself, I tailor my resumes for whatever type of audition they’re having. In your case, I would make sure to add some western and some country backgrounds on my resume.

      Good luck, man!

  36. Don says:

    Hello Nick,

    I just wanted to let you know that I enjoyed this article, and appreciate the
    information you’ve provided. Getting paid to play music in Disney World, would definitely
    be a dream job for me. I’ve played various instruments over the years. I’m wondering
    if you’ve found one musical instrument to be more in demand in WDW for fill-in gigs?

    Thanks,
    Don

    • Nick Rosaci says:

      Hi Don,

      I am just guessing, but I would imagine pianists would be a better sub. Since writing this article, I’ve learned there are a few more piano gigs at Disney, like the UK pavilion in the Rose and Crown Pub (The Hat Lady), and some accompanist jobs for rehearsals. But to get each of these jobs, I would imagine you would have to be an incredible pianist, understanding numerous styles and memorizing hundreds of tunes to be able to work in 5-10 different positions at Disney.

      Not to say it’s not possible, and a few of us are on the sub lists at different places, but I would imagine it’s a ton of work.

  37. Peter Di Berardino says:

    I Nick, very well written and informative article. I’m a professional arranger, composer and pianist/keyboards. I have a lot of experience in the recording industry specifically in records, jingles, TV and writing for acts. I now live in South Florida, but lived and worked in New York. My question to you is, would they hire a person like me as as a arranger, composer or pianist?
    By the way I play pop, jazz and ragtime
    Thanks

    • Nick Rosaci says:

      Hi Peter,

      That’s in a different department at the Disney Music library. I’ve met those guys, but haven’t a clue about how to work there. Sorry I can’t be of much more help.

  38. Adam Kiefer says:

    Hello Nick. First of all, this article was an incredible read. I have found it very resourceful when I’ve auditioned at Disney previously. A couple of weeks ago, I auditioned for one of their sub positions as a percussionist. However, I understand that Disney likes to take their time (and for a sub position I’m sure it would take a while). Do you recall how long it took them to contact you after your audition? Thanks again for the article!

  39. Nick Rosaci says:

    Hi Adam,

    I think it depends on the situation. In the ones I’ve auditioned at, we knew the general outcome by the end of the day. A friend auditioned a few months back for a job, and we were sitting at dinner a few days after, and he still hadn’t heard back. About a week later, he was offered the full-time position.

    What you can do, is send a friendly email out to the union, and they might be able to find out for you, or give you the info to the person who can.

  40. MAVIS KUO says:

    I am a student who learned about conductor,i learn it because i want to get a job in Disney orchestra,i am in Taiwan now,maybe i will go to USA to study conduct in two years later,is there some way can let me with Disney orchestra more closer?thank you

  41. Bogaert Francois says:

    Hello , I’m a french trombonist in the national academy of music in Lyon (France) and I’m a big fan of the disney world and I would to find a little job of musician to Disney Orchestra in Disneyland Paris, but the staff is complete !! where can I do for send my candidature ?
    I’m really interesting too for a student’s training !!
    thank you for your article ! it’s like my perfect dream !!
    François
    fbogaert@hotmail.fr

  42. Stan says:

    Thanks for your great words of wisdom!
    I am a Drummer that will be moving to the Orlando area soon. Can you tell me what type of things a drummer will do in an audition? Do you audition on the drum set for a group, snare drum or bass drum for the parade band? Any info will be greatly appreciated.
    Thank you so much!
    Stan

    • Nick Rosaci says:

      Hi Stan,

      If you go for an open audition, it’s completely up to you. Pretty much, you want to show them your strengths.

      If it’s for a specific group (for example, the Polynesian Spirit of Aloha is having sub auditions coming up very soon), then you simply want to do whatever it takes to get yourself familiar with as much of their playlist as possible and get comfortable with it. The great thing is that YouTube has a plethora of amateur videos on just about every group in the Orlando park–it’s not ideal recordings, but many times there is no other way to learn the music.

      As a drummer, I’d say some simple set work playing time would be the most interesting to them, but this is just my own guess. I myself like to learn a band’s book from the park one at a time until I get on the sub list. It’s a good system.

  43. Irene says:

    Thanks mate! This is an awesome article! But I have some questions, do they hire violists for the orchestra? Cause I’m studying classical performance at the Elder Conservatorium (in Australia) as a violist and I’d love to work for Disney after I graduate. I play the violin too but I personally enjoy playing the viola more. Also, does the orchestra you’re in take part in the recordings of the new Disney movies? If not, which orchestra does? Thanks!

    • Nick Rosaci says:

      Hi Irene,

      Being an orchestral musician is incredibly seasonal; the orchestra won’t be playing again for another ten months this year. It’s only a Christmas thing. Also, I wouldn’t move here just for that job, since it’s probably one of the hardest gigs in Orlando to land. It’s not impossible, but my guess is that the contractors look at the local orchestras for their musicians. So, if you really want to take part in Disney’s Candlelight Processional Orchestra, your best start would probably be to get on the personnel list with the Orlando Philharmonic. I’m not a part of this orchestra, so I know very little about it, really.

      As for movie soundtracks, that’s completely a Hollywood thing, as far as I know. Gotta head to L.A. for that.

  44. Chelsea says:

    I’m headed to Florida for an audition soon, and this article has been great for helping me to prepare.

    I do, however, have one question that may have a no-brainer answer:

    What do you wear to an audition at Disney?

    I typically wear a suit for a professional audition, but it seems like this could be counter-intuitive for an audition based on overall entertainment and personality.
    Do you have any advice?

    Thank you.

    • Nick Rosaci says:

      Hi Chelsea,

      To me, it depends on the audition. I showed up to the Grand Floridian audition in a suit (or jacket and odd trousers), but auditioned with the Polynesian band in shorts and flip-flops, and jeans and t-shirt to the Mulch audition. If it’s a general open audition, I’d go with dressier than not.

      Showing up in a suit doesn’t necessarily mean you lack personality or the ability to entertain; in my opinion, quite the opposite. A suit can do more than make you just look “dressy” if done properly (like look thinner or taller, etc.). But I think it’s better to go with a dress in the position you hope they place you. They’re sometimes trying to imagine how you would look with a group, and it would be harder to imagine how you would look in a tuxedo if you’re in shorts, or vice versa.

  45. Robert says:

    Hey Nick, wonderful article. Thank you for all the bits of useful information. I have a couple questions. I play piano and I’m classicaly trained. Which groups need piano players with great sight reading skills? Are there any musical theatre like positions at Disney? I don’t really play by ear or improvise that well on the spot but I could go work on it and have it later. Will that be any hinderance to me having a position at Disney? Finally, I’m wondering what to prepare for an audition. I’m not sure what kind of music to play. Thank You!

    • Nick Rosaci says:

      Hi Robert,

      There are a number of piano spots I haven’t mentioned in this article. These may be a tough fit for a classical pianist, but here you go:

      Casey’s Corner Pianist – An early century-style upright piano act that plays at Casey’s Corner in the Magic Kingdom, a hot dog stand.

      Rose & Crown Pub Musician – A piano spot in the pub in the UK pavilion at Epcot, which is a mixture of show music, jazz, and mostly pub jigs. This can be a reading job, and I believe it requires a singing double, but don’t quote me on that.

      The Grand Floridian band is a sight reading band that plays early jazz. It’s the only band I know where sight reading skills are absolutely a must–but it’s a major bonus for most of the bands, too. But yes; it is an improv job.

      The lounge pianist at the same venue is one that plays standards and Disney songs in a lounge style. I don’t know about the rules on reading, though.

      As for musical theatre playing–there is really none, HOWEVER, I’ve heard that there are some coaching sessions for the vocalists that sometimes hire pianists. I don’t know the whole deal of this behind-the-scenes job, but you might call the local and ask.

      There might be others I’m forgetting, but since I’m not a pianist, I haven’t looked too much into this.

      As for what to prepare, I’d research the above jobs and pick one thing from each group that you would like to sub in and play that. People would say playing “in the style” of said bands would be fine, but taking it a step farther would definitely be to research performances on YouTube and trying to recreate those. After all, the performers on each gig are the best people for each job.

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