The Musician’s Résumé – Part 1: Getting Started

Photo by Nguyen Hung Vu
Photo by Nguyen Hung Vu

In a previous post on our Kennedy Violins blog, “How to Find Gigs: Musical Networking,” I talked about ways to make connections within a music community when searching for performance opportunities. Diving further into the networking process, I want to zone in today on a specific and powerful networking tool: the musician’s résumé.


Anyone and everyone looking for work needs a résumé, including musicians and performers. When you’re a student, you rely heavily on your transcript as a reflection of your accomplishments, but once you’ve graduated from high school or college, your work experience becomes the substance of your marketability.


Where do you start when drafting your résumé? The first step is not to focus on where to begin, but where you want to end up. Think about your direction, motives, and professional goals. What kind of work are you looking for?

If you’re primarily a performer looking for gigs, your résumé will highlight your performing experience. Or perhaps you are primarily a music educator looking for private students or a position as a professor, conductor, or school orchestra teacher. You may be interested in an administrative position with a music-related organization. There are so many different opportunities, so your résumé will target the type of employment you’re looking for.


If you’ve come down with a case of writers block before you’ve even started, here are a few ideas:

  1. Make a list of your career goals and the types of jobs/gigs you’re looking for.
  2. Make a second list of specific employers or companies you’re targeting. For example, if you want to play in a professional symphony, look up open positions first so you know your options. The music union (the American Federation of Musicians) is also a helpful resource for finding work opportunities.
  3. Make a third list of major experiences and jobs you’ve had in one column and your skills in a second column. Don’t think too hard, just free flow stream-of-consciousness-style, jotting down anything and everything of import in your life.
  4. Weed out the unnecessary. Underline or highlight the most significant information to include in your résumé. Make decisions about what information is important to keep by asking yourself whether or not your future employer would find it relevant.
  5. Work on your layout first, then fill it in. Sometimes its easier to fill in the blanks (perhaps in a template) rather than stuff your content into a layout later.
  6. Look for examples. Ask to read résumés by people you know or Google résumé examples, templates, and tips online.


Gleaning knowledge from other people can be extremely helpful as they offer you some extra perspective.

  1. Sit down with someone who knows you well to evaluate and point out the marketable skills you have that are apparent to them but not always to yourself.
  2. Meet with a professional adviser who can help you put together your résumé, review your current résumé, and offer editing suggestions.
  3. Meet with a professional who does what you want to be doing. Discuss your goals with someone who has achieved them. Someone experienced in your field is sure to have advice and direction to share.


Creating a résumé is a chance to highlight your best. This is the magical opportunity to put your best foot forward, make a memorable first impression (without even being present!), and highlight your greatest achievements. Don’t be humble! Any relevant experience counts–even that one time you subbed with a specific orchestra or played in that masterclass you completely forgot about. Adding up all these details–even one-time experiences–will create a full and impressive résumé.

For information about specific items to include in your musician’s résumé, stay tuned for “The Musician’s Résumé – Part 2: Writing & Distributing.”


Music Theory Basics Part 4: Scale Degrees

This is the last installment of Music Theory Basics.  Why?  Well, beyond this you are getting into more intermediate and advanced concepts of music theory.  Even this entry is pushing the limits on what is “basic,” which is why I strongly recommend taking sometime to review the previous three entries before reading this one.

In Part 3 of Music Theory Basics, we discuss how our modern day musical scales developed from the musical modes used by the ancient Greeks.  For today’s purposes, here is a “textbook” definition.

  • Scale: a series of notes arranged, ascending or descending, by pitch.

Most scales are arranged in 8 notes (octave) and there are 7 different pitches within the modern musical scale of the Western world.  Each pitch serves a specific function and a name describing that function. Take a look and the scale degrees of a C major scale.Scale Degrees

  • Tonic: As the first scale degree, the tonic is the strongest tone within the scale and is the pitch that the melody and harmony center around.  Musical phrases usually end on the tonic.
  • Supertonic: The second scale degree which is on step above the tonic. This note is usually used as a passing tone to resolve to the tonic.
  • Mediant:  The third scale degree.  The mediant is halfway between the tonic and the dominant and is often used to harmonize either tone.
  • Subdominant: The fourth scale degree derives its name from being just below the fifth note (dominant) and being a fifth below the tonic.  It’s placement makes it a fairly strong note often leading to the dominant or tonic and sometimes it finishes a musical phrase on its own.
  • Dominant: The fifth note in the scale is the second strongest to the tonic.  In many cases, other notes will resolve to the dominant rather than the tonic and the end of a musical phrase.
  • Submediant: The sixth note of the scale is known as the submediant because it is halfway between the subdominant and tonic.  It’s function is similar to the mediant.
  • Leading Tone:  The last note on the way up to the tonic the leading tone creates the most dissonance and just begs to resolve to tonic.  A great way to torture musicians is to end a musical phrase with the leading tone.

By knowing the names and the roles each scale degree plays in the scale, we can better understand the relationship of melodies and harmonies which can aid in composition, improvisation, and analysis.  You no longer have to say, “I like that song, it sounds pretty.”  Instead, you can say, “It sounded like the composer was going to resolve to the subdominant, but instead he moved to the dominant and then resolved to the tonic.  That move created a little bit of tension, but not too much. I liked that.”  Impressive.

Kennedy Violins Opens Its First Retail Location

Founder Joel Kennedy in front of our the new Kennedy Violins store in Vancouver, Washington.
Founder Joel Kennedy in front of our the new Kennedy Violins store in Vancouver, Washington.

For over a decade, Kennedy Violins has been one of the nation’s premiere sources of affordable string instruments through, an online store for instruments, accessories, sheet music, and more. Kennedy Violins is now opening its first retail store serving the Portland-Vancouver area. Located at 508 SE 117th Avenue in Vancouver, Washington, this new location is easily accessed from the Mill Plain Exit off of I-205, just across from Cinetopia.

In addition to string instruments for purchase and rental, Kennedy Violins offers lessons in its private studio and instrument repair by a staff of professional luthiers in a full-service violin shop. The large showroom of Kennedy Violins’ extensive line of instruments also serves as an acoustically vibrant performance venue for recitals and concerts by local performers.

Grand Opening Concerts
A grand opening concert featuring 2011 National Oldtime Fiddlers Contest winner Aarun Carter will be held on Saturday, March 2 at 1:00pm and 2:00pm. Admission is free with a reception to follow. A second grand opening concert featuring violinist Emily Wu will be held on Friday, March 15 at 7:00pm, also with free admission and a reception following.


Fiddle champion Aarun Carter performs at Kennedy Violins’ first grand opening concert on Saturday, March 2.

How It All Began
Joel Kennedy, founder and president of Kennedy Violins, is an Oregon native and professional violist. After completing his education at the Eastman School of Music in New York, he began his career as a music educator and professional violist. Joel currently plays with the Portland Opera and privately instructs up-and-coming youth performers.

The seed for Kennedy Violins was planted years ago when Joel became frustrated by the overpriced and poor-quality string instruments his students were purchasing. These mass-produced violins made with poor materials and improper setup were hardly playable—especially for beginners. He quickly became determined to find instruments for his students that not only cost less, but were of higher quality.

Joel discovered that the only way to provide genuinely superior instruments was to work directly with the makers, ensuring that each individual instrument be built according to his specifications and standards. By forging relationships with instrument makers around the world, Joel established a way to provide students with superior violins and violas at a lower cost.

A Unique Approach
This unique approach to purchasing directly from the maker led to the formation of Kennedy Violins, which since 2000, has brought an impressive collection of high-quality, low-cost string instruments to musicians throughout the U.S. and Canada. These instruments are not only satisfying to play, but also beautifully handcrafted.

The ability to find unique solutions to common problems is a skill Joel learned in his childhood. While a young and rapidly advancing music student, Joel needed a high-quality viola. At the time, however, advanced student violas cost between $8,000 and $12,000—far out of the range of affordability for his family. Tom Kennedy, Joel’s father, happened to be a skilled woodworker who knew how to solve the problem. Although he had never built a musical instrument, he learned the luthier trade to craft a viola for his son.

Since then, Joel has played exclusively on violas that built by his father. Tom Kennedy’s handcrafted violas are now being played in professional symphony orchestras around the world.

When Joel began Kennedy Violins thirteen years ago, he has had the pleasure of extending his father’s determination by providing instruments to students around the country. Now Joel’s youngest six-year-old daughter plays on a Kennedy Violins instrument. The love of music and determination to make it accessible to everyone has now reached a third generation.

More Than Just a Music Store
Over the years, Kennedy Violins has become more than just a music store; it represents the entire music community. In addition to selling and renting instruments, Kennedy Violins has been a long-time supporter of school and community music programs across the country through the donation of instruments, cases, and bows to students in need. Beyond these and other charitable contributions, the organization is a resource for music education and performance opportunities.

In a world where the arts are being pushed from center stage, organizations like Kennedy Violins bring promise to the music community both in the Northwest and throughout the country. More than ever, the affordability of musical instruments matters to budgeting families hoping to provide a musical education for their children. And thanks to visionaries like founder Joel Kennedy, these hopes are being brought to fruition—one violin at a time.