The Performer’s CV

stock image of people looking at a resume

I’ve written previously about the Composer’s CV, so it’s high time that I have an entry for performers as well. This post is specifically about the North American-style curriculum vitae, which is a comprehensive document of one’s career. It can be any length. I contrast this with the 1-2 page resume. 

Do I need a CV?

Any performer looking to be involved in academia should have a CV. This is much more standard for faculty positions than a resume. It’s also a way to “translate” what you do as a performer into terms that non-musicians will grasp more readily (more on that below)

But there are personal reasons why you may want to maintain a CV. Think of it as a fleshed-out version of your resume. I recommend having it as a running document for yourself as well. We all forget where and when we performed 6 years ago, so entering it on one document will help you keep track of where you’ve been, and what you might want to do next.

What performers need to translate into a CV

When you apply for a full-time faculty position, a “search committee” consisting of current faculty is generally reviewing materials and making recommendations of the top candidates. Depending on the size of the school, your search committee may have (or may exclusively have) non-musicians on the committee. So it’s important to “translate” common musician activities into terms that other academics will easily grasp.

Recordings = Publications. This one is directly applicable and I have heard a number of musicians mention that releasing a CD on a recognized label was a big part of their tenure portfolio.

Performances = Presentations. Especially if you are performing on some kind of peer-reviewed conference (e.g., you had to apply to appear), this is directly applicable to presenting a paper at a conference. 

Masterclasses = Invited lectures. These are not peer reviewed, but demonstrate that you are respected enough to be invited to speak or teach outside of your institution.

Reviews and press = Citations. In the STEM world, the number of citations demonstrates the respect, rigor, and originality of a researcher’s work. Reviews and press quotes, I would argue, are analogous because they show how your work is being received. 

Sections in a CV

A CV for a performer should include the following sections. They can be shuffled around in an order that makes most sense for you. But I would suggest:

  • Contact info
  • Education: degrees, primary mentors, and any other training programs like summer festivals, masterclasses with well-regarded musicians
  • Employment/Experience: academic teaching positions, full-time orchestral positions
  • Teaching: courses taught, masterclasses given at other institutions, student successes such as winning contests, placement in graduate programs, etc.
  • Performance experience: engagements as a soloist, chamber groups you founded, ensembles you subbed for, high-profile one-off gigs
  • Publications: recordings, articles
  • Service: academic committees, officer in a national organization, hosted a conference, reviewed CDs, etc.
  • Awards and prizes
  • Reviews and press

Other things to think about

Given that a search committee will only be looking at your CV for a couple of minutes at best, put yourself in their shoes. What is going to help them see what you have accomplished and what you’re about?

Think about “impact” and numbers. How many students have you recruited to your studio? How many went on to other successes (grad school, jobs)? How many listens, streams, downloads of your recordings? 

Where do you position yourself in the music world? Are you primarily an orchestral performer? Are you a concert soloist? Are you a chamber musician primarily? What kind of repertoire do you focus on? Do you enjoy commissioning and premiering works? Are you dedicated to promoting underrepresented composers? By making your headings clear, and playing with the order, you can guide the reader to what’s most important about you.

I revise CVs, cover letters, bios, and other materials for musicians at very reasonable rates. If you need help, let’s talk.

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