Great Career Materials for Musicians: How to Get Started


ResumeSummer is here and for busy musicians, it often means having a little bit of down time in between festivals and tours.  For proactive music entrepreneurs, here is suggestion for using that extra time to move your career forward: create and/or spruce up your career materials!

Your career materials are often the first contact that you will have with prospective employers, presenters and audiences so you will want present yourself in the most positive light possible and make an excellent first impression. In fact, your career materials are a way for you to distinguish yourself from other candidates for the particular job and enable you to develop and share your personal brand: the message that communicates how you are unique and memorable. A brand is an opportunity to present yourself in a consistent, honest and authentic way. As such, you will want to make your materials personal, professional and accurate.

Types of Materials

There are a number of documents that you will need in order to apply for jobs and/ or secure performance opportunities. These include:

Bio: a brief narrative of your major accomplishments tailored to the particular job, commission, festival, performance opportunity or any other career-related event;

Résumé: a one-page summary of your relevant qualifications, skills and experience for a particular job or other career opportunity;

Curriculum Vitae or CV: a detailed presentation of your qualifications, skills and experience for a particular job or career opportunity, most often used for university teaching applications and grant applications;

Cover letter: a one-page summary of your relevant experience for a particular career opportunity.

Your basic promotional kit should also include a high-quality photo and sample recordings of your work.

Start preparing your materials well in advance of deadlines. If you have your letterhead, your bio, your resume, a photo and a template of a cover letter on file, you can apply for an opportunity in a matter of an hour or two and present yourself confidently and accurately.

Where should you begin?

How to Get Started Creating Your Materials

Do you have all of your information collected in one central document?

That is the start of creating a great set of career materials.

To begin, create a master document on your computer and update it regularly with new performances and other career events. In this way, you will have the information at your fingertips and you can use it to craft the appropriate document.

Organize your information in the following categories:

  • Performances (organized into the relevant categories of solo, orchestra, chamber music or other ensemble)
  • Awards and Prizes
  • Commissions
  • Repertoire
  • Projects
  • Teaching experience
  • Workshops and presentations
  • Research
  • Education
  • Teachers
  • Coaches
  • Reviews

You also want to have recent photos and quality recordings. These are very important promotional materials for musicians and the sooner you create high-quality photos and recordings, the easier your job search will be.

With these tips in mind, you are now ready to create the necessary documents for your job search!

Creating Great Materials

You can easily create your own materials without having to hire a professional designer, using the following guidelines:

Personalize Your Materials

Professionalize Your Materials

Perfect Your Materials

By following these suggestions, you are in a better position to stand out from the crowd and solidify your brand.

Personalize Your Materials

All of your materials should have a personal touch to them both through the content as well as in the format and presentation.

Create a Letterhead

The first step is to create a letterhead that you will use for all of your written career materials. Your letterhead should provide your name, a description of what you do and your contact information.

Name and Description
Mailing Address
Telephone Number
Email Address and Your Website

Name and Description

How do you describe yourself? That is one way to distinguish you from your competitors.

You can start with your area of musical expertise:

Vicky Roe, Violist
John Smith, Composer
Lily Yang, Lyric Soprano

You may also wish to add something else that aptly summarizes something else that you do and add that to your description. For example:

Vicky Roe, Cellist/Teaching Artist

You can include the name and description on the same line or put the description on the line below. Keep in mind that with one-page materials, this gives you one less line for your information.

Fonts and Layout

Use a large font size for your name (18-22, depending on the font). The description can be one font smaller and the contact information the next font size down.

After you have decided on your description, choose a font that conveys something original about you. Look through the Microsoft Office package for sample fonts and try out a few different fonts before selecting one that best represents you.

Be creative with the layout of your letterhead. Consider changing the position of your heading from the center to either the left or right.

Professionalize Your Materials

Once you have created your letterhead, use it as the template for all of your materials. Being consistent is the start of creating your brand!

Your letterhead can be in one font type and the body of your document in another. However, limit yourself to two fonts and make sure that the fonts compliment each other so that the document is easy to read. This is another important element of creating a professional document.

Perfect Your Materials 

Before submitting your materials, double check the accuracy of your entries, particularly the organization name, title of the job to which you are applying, and the names and personal details of the person to whom you are submitting the materials. If you are not sure about something, call the organization itself and check the details with someone there.  

In addition, do not rely on your memory when listing your career entries, including performance details and the names of festivals, prizes, awards and commissions. Either call the organization or conduct a Google search to make sure that you have accurately spelled and presented these details.

Moreover, have several people proofread them before you submit them to a prospective employer. One review is not enough. Ask a friend as well as a colleague or a teacher to review your materials so that you can receive feedback from different perspectives.

Lastly, do not rely on spellcheck. It does not pick up grammatical errors and often misses obvious typos.

If you are submitting materials online, email them as PDFs. These files transfer with fewer formatting issues and will allow the recipient to view them without formatting marks.

By following these guidelines, you are on your way to creating your professional image!

Photo Credit: Flickr/Flazingo_Photos