I was fortunate enough to be taught how to read music at a young age and it has been monumental in my career as a choreographer.
As a choreographer, your job is to set movement to music. Oftentimes, that music already exists and you have to fit the movement into that pre-existing piece of the puzzle.
If you’re a commercial choreographer, you’ll likely be choreographing to music that already has a ton of recordings – you’re good to go!
But when choreographing for theatre or choirs, I have found it extremely helpful to be able to read music. Sometimes I don’t have a recording to choreograph to (Sure, there are lots of recordings out there, but which one matches my production’s score? Yeah, they’re all slightly different!), or I’m rehearsing with a pianist instead of a recording and need to be able to tell them where in the song they need to play, or I need to figure out if there are 4 or 6 different parts that might need different pieces of choreography.
I’ve had to be able to look at the music and figure out how long the dance break is. I’ve had to be able to ask the conductor how long they plan to repeat the vamp (That’s a measure of music that just keeps getting played over and over again.)
My rehearsal pianist doesn’t always know the song by heart, so I’ve had to tell them “we’re starting at measure 33” instead of saying we’re starting at the chorus.
I’ve looked at the systems in the score to figure out who’s singing what part and whether or not they have the breath support to do certain dance moves while they’re singing.
But wait! On top of all of that, being able to read music as a choreographer means you’ll be able to speak the same language as your conductor and musicians. The conductor says “measure 102” and you know what part of the song they’re talking about. You get told that the orchestra is going to hold the “fermata” much longer than in the recording and you know what the heck that means. The conductor asks, “How’s that tempo?” and you know what answer you need to give.
While it is possible to have a perfectly successful career as a choreographer without being able to read music, I’ve just found that having that skill has been a huge advantage to me.
Enjoy the journey!