The Musician’s Resume: A Guide to Best Practices

If you’ve jumped off the job-search train and happily landed a stable job, your resume will collect virtual dust and cobwebs over time. It's a reality.

However, you should strive to prioritize your resume upkeep, as sometimes situations may come up that prompt you to dust off your CV and show off your qualifications and skills. You could be nominated for a promotion, be invited to a conference, or may need to pick up some side work.

As creatives, you can find yourself in a tough position when it comes to proving yourselves to employers. Each and every artistic field is competitive, and keeping your portfolio and work experience optimized and polished can really help you stand out.

Every industry calls for a different style of resume, and it’s no different for musicians. If you’re applying for a position as a creative you'll need a unique strategy for attracting interest from employers. Here are five tips and practices to follow when updating your musician’s resume.


1) Integrate Critical Keywords

Unfortunately, not every single resume is going to make it into a physical recruiter’s hands. Job postings receive hundreds of applications, so all resumes are sorted through an applicant tracking system (ATS) which narrows down the selection before they land on an actual desk. If you don’t use the right keywords, your resume will be overlooked by the tracking system - even if you’re the best candidate for the job.

To know which keywords to emphasize in your resume, make sure to read the job posting carefully. Research the hiring company's website and social media channels. Watch for the wording used in the descriptions, conversations, and branding. Focus on the most-used terms and sprinkle those throughout your resume.


2) Include a "Performance" Section


Where most resumes showcase work history, a creative's will include performance experience. For musicians, this section should take up the majority of the page and be written in reverse chronological order.

Unlike standard resumes, yours doesn’t need to include detailed descriptions. Instead, do include the years you played, which instrument you played, the organization for which you performed, your section and role (first or second chair), and whether you were a regular player or a subbed player.

For example:

2015-2017 | Boston Symphony Orchestra. Boston, Massachusetts

First Chair, Violin


3) Don’t List Everything You’ve Done - Just the Important Parts

If your resume has any hope of making it past the applicant tracking system, an important tip to remember is to specifically cater to the job description. The keywords you’ve included help make you stand out, but long-winded resumes will work against all that well-researched phrasing!

There is no need to include absolutely every performance you’ve ever done or every skill you’ve mastered, but it’s definitely important to include the ones that are most relevant to the position. Try and keep your resume to a front-and-back printed page. If it's longer than that, it's time to do some editing.


4) Write a Passionate Musician’s Objective


If you’re just beginning to get on stage and don’t have many performances to list on your resume, make sure your objective shows passion. You need to overcome inexperience with an overwhelming sense of drive and purpose!

Zety’s blog provides a perfect example of the right and wrong ways to do this.

Wrong: “Talented musician with experience in orchestras and playing concertos in large venues. Highly skilled as second violin in the orchestra pit, plus chamber music, musical theater, and opera.”

Right: “Accomplished violinist seeking a position with the Golden Gate Symphony Orchestra. Studied under Joseph Maile and Ian Swensen at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music. Recipient of the John McCarthy Music Scholarship and took first place in the school concerto competition.”

The latter example is poignant, specific, and straight to the point on the applicant's biggest accomplishments.


5) Highlight Your Awards and Keep Them Updated


Have you written or directed any original compositions? Worked under renowned musicians? Graduated from a prominent music school with honors? Include this in your resume!

You can also include any scholarships or honors awarded. Including these accolades can certainly give you an edge, boosting your application's importance to your potential employer.




Most Importantly: Join a Supportive Creative Community for Advice and Encouragement

As you update and optimize your resume, submit applications for jobs as a musician, and build out your portfolio of work, make sure to surround yourself with other creatives for support and collaboration. Get yourself started by creating an account on dreamOway, a social crowdfunding app that connects you with fellow musicians and donors who can provide support and funding to realize and grow your music career.

Download the app on iOS or the Google Play Store now to get your music career off the ground!



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