When one is searching for jobs, very often the first points of contact with potential employers are cover letters and resumes.  I figured I’d share some insight into how to build a resume that is solid, an approach based on my experience with successful resume building.  A good resume can lead to the next step in getting jobs, which for musicians is usually an interview by phone, then an in-person interview, and then maybe a trial of services (such as a trial lesson, conducting sample, or sample of work).

What to put in a music resume:

  • Professional contact information
  • Education
  • Experience
  • Recognition
  • Skills
  • Additional interests (optional–to humanize yourself)
  • References

I’m of the philosophy that an Objective section is unnecessary; I feel a good cover letter can completely outperform an Objective, and the Objective oftentimes says too little and takes up valuable space.

Professional Contact Information:

Name, Address, Phone number, Email address, Fax (all as applicable, and on separate lines)

Education:

Most recent education first; put GPA if not graduated and if it’ll boost your chances, but put GPA awards (eg. cum laude) instead of the GPA after you have graduated.

Name teachers with whom you’ve studied

Other educational programs in which you’ve participated (eg. programs outside of school)

Experience:

Artistic experience (eg. ensemble experience, solo performances, compositional projects, collaborations, etc.)

Work experience (jobs held as an artist (eg. teacher, freelancer) and day jobs)

Experience with other activities (eg. blogging about the arts, presentations of work, papers written, articles published, writing grants, etc.)

Significant events (eg. masterclass participation (name the master artist/ensemble), certain performances)

You can list how long you have been pursuing certain veins of art (eg. number of years playing an instrument, number of years composing, etc.)

Skills:

Artistic skills (eg. teaching, playing, composing)

Specialties (eg. new music, performance practice, pedagogy)

Technological skills (eg. MS Office, Adobe Suite, social media marketing)

Personal traits (eg. communication skills, diligence, creativity, problem solving, unique characteristics)

Recognition:

Awards for artistic merit (eg. competitions, scholarships received, grants received)

Awards for other merit (eg. community involvement, recognition at a day job)

Additional Interests (optional):

Hobbies, other activities that humanize you and make you a more complete person than the material heretofore presented (eg. exercise, family involvement, reading, working in another craft/discipline)

References:

Name, Title (eg. private lesson teacher, composition professor), Contact information (in the order that you’d ideally prefer they be contacted–put those who can speak best for you and know you the most first, and those who know you the least last)

Some tips:

  • Use a professional looking font.  No Times New Roman, nothing cursive, no Courier, etc.
  • No email addresses that look frivolous or like screen names in your contact information (I don’t use one of my Yahoo accounts on my resume because the username is clearly unprofessional).
  • Try to keep it to two pages in length maximum, with only references on a third page if you need to go over.
  • Make sure your references know that you’re giving out their contact information (ask before putting on the resume).
  • Highlight different areas depending on the job for which you’re applying–tailor it (it’s okay to have multiple versions of the same content).  For example, for office jobs I list my current office job and related experience first, and then my composing and artistic experience second.  For artistic jobs, I do the reverse.  The same goes for my Skills section.
  • Keep the layout clean, neat, simple, and clear.  In other words, make it easy to read by keeping the layout simple and logical.