La Conciergerie, Paris   /     L'opéra Garnier, Paris   /     Conservatoire National Supérieur de Musique de Lyon                                                               

La Conciergerie, Paris   /   L'opéra Garnier, Paris   /     Conservatoire National Supérieur de Musique de Lyon                                                               

"As a musician, I really enjoyed my time in France, particularly Paris.  On top of the many important connections I made with French teachers and colleagues, I also acquired valuable musical lessons simply by walking along the city's vibrant, historical streets, which provided me with colorful memories and ideas that help me conjure up various images and sensations through music.  Perhaps my most artistically inspiring experiences, however, came from my visits to Paris's centuries-old gothic churches.  Standing in these buildings, amidst their stone columns and high vaulted ceilings, evoked feelings of timelessness and the sublime that I continue to re-imagine and apply in my practice."

Alan - Harvard/New England Conservatory.


Schools , jobs, visas and networking tools for musicians in France are detailed below.  






For Undergraduate and Graduate Diplomas.

  • CNSMDP - Paris
  • CNSMDL - Lyon

Two Undergraduate degrees are possible: the DNSPM is for courses taken only at the conservatories, it is the equivalent of the Undergraduate Diploma. The Bachelor is called "Licence" in French and requires to take classes at the conservatory and the university. The Paris conservatory works with the Sorbonne, and the Lyon conservatory works with Université Lumière 2.  

For a Bachelor ("Licence") in Music Performance:

  • CRR Paris
  • CRR Boulogne

Both conservatories have a partnership with La Sorbonne and offer a Bachelor degree equivalent to that of the CNSMDP.  Therefore, some liberal arts credits will be required. 

more info at 

Historical Performance

Both degrees require a very good level of French, since they are both academic and performance based.  


  • EMAN - Nancy (more performance based)

  • CNSM Paris (more emphasis on intellectual processing)




There are different categories of orchestras in France. The members of the AFO (Association Francaise des Orchestre) are government sponsored. When winning an audition, a musician is hired for a two year trial, followed by ten year contracts. For more information pertaining to orchestras in France, please visit the link below; for auditions click "recrutements": 

Orchestra gigs


The two most famous orchestras where conservatory students play gigs are below. Don't hesitate to contact principal players to make yourself known even if no audition is scheduled online!!

Other cities

Regional Orchestras need subs quite often, don't hesitate to contact the principal players.  

Teaching positions

To teach in a conservatory, you must speak French fluently, as well as complete a VAE (Validation des Acquis de l'Expérience) .  Obtaining this certificate proves that your American (or foreign) degree and prior teaching experience is equivalent to that of the Certificat d'Aptitude that French musicians receive from the CNSM. 



Here is good news for you: permits tend to be cheaper in France than they are in the US. One bad news though is that there is no artist Visa. Therefore, the three ONLY options for Americans to legally be in France for longer than three months, while being able to work are: 

- to be a student. After you get into a French School, you will need to obtain a Visa. It is said to be quite simple and it is all explained on this official website.

- to be hired by an official institution. You will then need to be issued a work Visa, which will be no problem once you have won an audition or teaching contract. 

- to belong to the close family of someone who enters one of the two sections above. Your Visa will be processed with your husband/wife/other, and you will then need a work permit that fits to your needs.

Work Permits

- American citizens who are accepted in a French institution as students can work legally for as much as 964 hours per year. This will be very convenient if you want to sub in an orchestra. Nevertheless, and this is rare, but you should know it: if you are invited in a festival, some require you to send them bills in order to exempt them from paying certain taxes. If this is the case, you will then have to do the paperwork to obtain a change of status and become an auto-entrepreneur, as explained below. 

- If your Visa has been obtained through a family affiliation, you will be able to work as a musician as an Auto-Entrepreneur.  

 Auto-Entrepreneur regime

What it means is that you will basically be your own company, and you will charge your performance or your teaching to clients. In this sense, you cannot be an employee, but YOU will be the one EMITTING BILLS with whatever fee has been negotiated with the hirer.    It is very convenient for festival administrations, since they do not have to pay retirement benefits or any of these kinds of taxes which are extremely expensive. You should know that if you are an actual employee, and you are paid X euros, you cost to the company hiring you about twice as much!! As an Auto-Entrepreneur, the hirer only has to pay your bills. You will then have to pay taxes on what you make. It costs about 24% of your income if you go for the simpler option. Some cheaper options might apply to your case, so you can looks online or consult a tax specialist. In any case, make sure you SAVE MONEY FOR TAXES!!! In France, taxes are not taken off your income, you have to pay them at the end of the fiscal year. Be smart!!


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 Blogs, books, guidebooks

  • Eye Prefer Paris, an ex-New Yorker's insider's guide to Paris.
  • Lyon: Bite by Bite, an expat from the Big Apple transitions into life in France's gastro capital, one bite at a time.

Meet Americans in France! 

  • Help us help you build an American network for musicians in France and fill out this form!



AssoAssociation CordeUS, 190 rue Gallieni, 92100 Boulogne. email: portable: 07 50 92 49 30