Written by Richard Adams Updated/revised by James Gandre, '81

a few observations

Résumés shed light on who you are, offer the reader a clear indication of your current development, past experiences and, most important, point out your potential for future growth professionally and artistically. In brief, a successfully prepared résumé is a road map to an individual’s past, present and future with the clear purpose of opening doors to the future.

In a profession where it often looks and feels like others have control over our destinies, please remember YOU have control over your résumé, its contents, its construction, its point of view, its graphic design, etc. Be absolutely certain that it clearly represents you, your accomplishments and your goals.

In addition to being an information/fact sheet, the carefully and responsibly prepared résumé is a piece of advertising, an advertisement for yourself.

résumé construction

  • Paper – Excellent quality; standard size (8 ½ x 11); white, off-white, tan, gray.
  • Fonts – Choose clean, clear fonts (do not use Old English, Script or some other “flowery” font).
  • Length – Use only one page for performance résumés. If you absolutely need to use more than one page, make sure to put your name and the page number at the top of each page following the first page.
  • Outline form – A résumé is an outline of your past experience and achievements – NOT an autobiography. Once you have started to use a particular style, remain consistent in its use.
  • Text – Never use personal pronouns (i.e., “I played in…”) and “little” adjectives. Use action verbs, descriptive adjectives and adverbs. Use positive, assertive and powerful vocabulary.
  • Style – There is no one set format. Again, it is most important to be consistent with the format you choose. Also, the résumé should be graphically attractive. Creative use of fonts, “white space”, margins, capital letters, underscoring and bold print is very important.
  • Proof reading – A résumé should NEVER be sent to a prospective employer with spelling errors.


  • Organize information in terms of your strengths and their relationship to the position for which you are applying.
  • Include only important information. Justify to yourself your purpose for including any given material. Put yourself in the seat of the person who will be reading your résumé.
  • Remember that your résumé can be versatile without being general and that it can be concise without being meaningless.
  • Do NOT lie or inflate the copy. Get the most mileage out of your experience as it exists. Including false/untrue information, particularly in the field as small as the music business/industry, is asking for your credibility to be questioned.

basic elements

You may, and probably should, have more than one résumé. The construction of a résumé for one job could be inappropriate for another. The strengths that pertain directly to the position for which you are applying should be listed first, and so on. Below are listed some suggested category orders for various positions. These are simply guidelines.


Type of résumé Possible order of subject headings
University/Academic Teaching Experience
Performance Engagements
Principal Teachers
Orchestral Performance Engagements or Orchestral Experience
(Chamber or Solo experience)
Principal Teachers
Solo Performance
Solo Engagements
Chamber Music Engagements
Orchestral Experience (optional)
Principal Teachers
Solo Performance
(Vocal - Opera)
Opera Engagements
Orchestral Engagements
Musical Theatre (if applicable)
Principal Teachers
Education Awards/Honors
Solo Performance
(Vocal - Concert/Orchestral)
(Same as above - switch first two categories)
Recitals if applicable
Elementary/Secondary Teaching Experience
Performance Experience
Principal Teachers
Non-Music Positions Held or Employment Experience or Employment History
Community Activities (optional)
  • Personal Data - Name, address, telephone number (include area code) should be included. All other personal information is non-essential. SINGERS: You should include height, weight, eyes and hair color.
  • Educational Data - The thrust of your résumé and your experience will determine the position of educational data on your résumé. Always begin with your most advanced degree or the degree program in which you are currently enrolled. If you have been in college for several years, do not include your high school work.
  • Principal Teachers - Listing of teachers is optional and should only be included on your résumé if it gives it strength. Do not list teachers with whom you have only had a few lessons. If you have master class teachers whom you feel are important to list, make sure to make this distinction so as not to give the impression that you have studied with these people for extended periods of time.
  • Performance Engagements - List those ensembles/experience that best portray your experience to date. Weed out those that do not compare with other work.
  • Advanced Professional Training, Summer Study, Study Abroad - Information of this kind can be added to the Education or be contained in a section of its own if the quality and quantity is extensive. Begin, again, with the most recent study.
  • Honors/Awards/Competitions - Include only important competitions and/or substantial honors in college or graduate school. DO NOT include high school honors.
  • Certification - Include state and area of certification. Anticipated certification may be included with date to be granted.
  • Publications/Papers - This information can be included if accepted for publication in a scholarly or high quality magazine or trade journal.
  • Memberships - Include professional memberships ONLY. In the case of an academic résumé, one might include membership in the College Music Society, Music Educators National Conferences, etc. In the case of a performance, one might include union affiliation, if applicable
  • Employment Experience - Begin with the most recent employment. This section usually contains a brief description of duties performed. This gives the prospective employer some idea of the skills you have and the kinds of work you have done.
  • References - For performance résumés this section is usually not needed. It is more appropriate for college/ university or elementary/secondary positions.
  • Related Experience - This can be added to a résumé to show secondary strengths. Special skills, languages (if fluent), proficiency on secondary instruments or in other music areas (theory, ear training, Suzuki, etc.) should all be here if these skills add to your overall image for the particular position in question.


The résumé examples in this guide are provided to give guidance. There are many ways a résumé can be constructed. Look over the formats used, the font used, the smaller parts of each section and how they are constructed, the category order, etc. These must all be considered when you are designing your own résumé.
James Gandre



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