Tag Archives: finding music students

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.

DO I NEED A 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.

A SENSE OF DIRECTION

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.

WHERE TO BEGIN

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.

FIND EXTRA HELP

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.

GET READY TO BRAG

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.”

 

How to Find Gigs: Musical Networking

 

As with any other career, a musician’s key to successfully finding gigs often lies in simple networking. (Image by Sean MacEntee)

It takes a long time to establish your reputation as a musician and performer in a new town. After living in Utah for six years, I felt so well connected to a great number of musical organizations, schools, teachers, orchestras, recording studios, and the like. I enjoyed playing regular gigs, teaching a steady number of bass students, and growing strong relationships with musicians and performing groups throughout the state . . .

. . . and then I moved.

My husband’s work brought us to Oregon, which meant starting from scratch as a stranger hoping to freelance a new music community. So the first thing I did in the months leading up to and following my move to the Portland area was contact absolutely every musical organization I could find. I made phone calls, sent e-mails with my performance resume attached, and inquired about upcoming auditions. During the summer before the move, I took extra lessons, practiced 20 hours a week, and performed a recital in preparation for auditions I hoped to take once arriving in Oregon.

The day after we pulled our moving truck into town I abandoned our unpacking efforts to attend a masterclass sponsored by the Portland Youth Philharmonic featuring Erik Harris, principal bassist of the St. Louis Symphony. Sure, I was a college grad, so what was I doing hanging out with the youth symphony members? I was also looking for connections.  As with most professions, the fastest way to find work is through effective networking and personal referrals. So my goal? Get connected!

Let me tell you, it doesn’t take much but confidence. You know you’re a good player, so put yourself out there! And if you don’t feel like a good enough player to get those gigs, try The Art of Effective Practicing. It takes a lot of work to be a marketable performer, but you can do it!

 

Here are a few ways to get connected with your local music community:

  • Keep your chops up by performing regularly. Put on a house concert. Keep practicing. Find an open-mic night at a local venue to sing, fiddle, or do whatever you do. Play at your church or synagogue. Busk at the local farmers markets. There are endless opportunities to perform, and you can create those opportunities yourself.  Don’t wait for someone else to do what you can do on your own. You’d be surprised by how many restaurants, café’s, bookstores, and boutiques there are that would be so happy to have your live music in their space.
  • Don’t demand paying gigs right away or all the time. Be generous in sharing your talents with others! You can do this while still maintaining your stance as a professional. Playing for free allows you to enjoy the opportunity to meet other musicians without stressing about money and union talk. You’ll be surprised how many connections you’ll make that can lead to future gigs. And come on, we all know the economy is tight, and if all musicians refused to play without pay our artistic community and musical culture would suffer tremendously.
  • Participate in your local community orchestras! You don’t have to wait to win an audition with a semi-professional or professional orchestra to play the great orchestral works. Community orchestras are excellent for meeting teachers, performers, and conductors who can hook you up for future work—and they’re just plain fun. You can relax and play great music with a smile on your face. Sometimes when money is in the mix, musicians can become surly, bitter, or demanding individuals, losing sight of why they chose music as a career in the first place. Don’t let that happen to you. Don’t let the joy of playing be belittled by your pride or hunger for pay.
  • Connect with local schools. I decided to call and e-mail local orchestra teachers offering to conduct a free masterclass for their bass sections. It turned into a very fruitful experience. Give it a try! And who knows, maybe they’ll even ask you to come back. Regardless, reaching out to the youth in school and community music programs is a great way to make a name for yourself as a teacher. Be sure to get your name on the list of private teachers the orchestra directors provide for their students, and remember you can receive 10% off with your teacher discount through Kennedy Violins!
Photo by Belen Martini.
  • Don’t just teach lessons—take lessons. Even the most experienced professional musicians can benefit from taking lessons into their old age. Musicians can always benefit from the perspective of another performer with fresh ideas, techniques, and style.

It might be challenging to find the gig of your dreams. But don’t wait miserably for a Golden Ticket while throwing away the chance to enjoy that delicious Wonka Bar right in front of you. There is music to be played, players to meet, and stages on which to perform. So have at it! Make a connection! And keep us posted along the way.