Quick advice for composers: bios, CVs, websites

Welcome back to the blog! This is my second post, and I’ve started planning out a lot more. In doing so, I think I’ve figured out what this blog will be “about.” While I’ll post about my creative work from time-to-time, a lot of my posts are going to be tips and thoughts about careers in composition and higher ed.

Recently, I was invited to talk on two (virtual) panels at the Charlotte New Music Festival (I used to be the Program Director of the composers workshop). One panel was more informal and we were able to get into the weeds about my career’s twists and turns. The second was more formal—a moderated panel with other performers and composers.

Quick advice for composers

Collectively, we were able to give some solid advice, like:

  • Think of performers when designing your website—what do they want to see?
  • Performers want to listen to your music, but also see—and possibly buy—your scores 
  • Basic sections of any good composer website—bio (w/headshot), listening, scores, calendar
  • Relationships & cold-calling: do your research, and see what you can do to help the people you contact. Think give. 
  • Income streams for composers—teaching, commissions, sheet music sales, stage management and technology, non-music skills (writing is a big one!)

Composer bios and CVs

I also offered to look over participants’ bios and CVs. There is an entire art to CVs which I will probably need to write about in a future post. Some major takeaways from our discussions and my observations (through the years and with these participants):

  • People are getting tired of the dry “list of accomplishments” bios
  • People want to read what makes you unique, and what drives you to create.
  • The rule of thumb length for bios is 250 words. Have a 100-word option available. Otherwise someone else will edit for you!
  • You probably need a separate “academic CV,” “artist resume” and “work resume” for different audiences and opportunities
  • Some things need explanation and some don’t — your job needs description but sitting on a committee may not (unless something major was accomplished like a huge grant, new curriculum, etc.)

More advice to come…

I consider myself somewhat of a student of the Composer CV, so look for more info in an upcoming post. For now, I’d like to point you toward Mark Applebaum’s amazing 57-page CV. He’s been my CV model for many years now. Not only for categorizing what I’ve done, but as an inspiration for things to try. 

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