For the past 4 years, you’ve been studying at the music school of your dreams. You’ve survived class piano, ear training, juries, a recital or two, and even a few breakdowns in the practice room. Now, you’re on the cusp of graduating and are about to enter into the next phase of your music career.
It’s an exciting time, but it can also be scary if you didn’t adequately prepare for life after your undergraduate (or graduate!) degree.
In this case, I’m not talking about what you learned in the classroom or from your professors in the studio. I’m talking about how you showcase what you learned and what you can do to get work in the field you love. Whether you want to teach, perform, take commissions, get into arts administration/management, or some combination of any of those, there are several steps you can take to ensure the work you want comes your way.
Step 1: Define Yourself Professionally
Please do this BEFORE building a professional website or social media presence!
What are your goals?
Firmly establish these while you’re still a student. Do you want to teach, perform in an ensemble, live the freelance life, or create your own unique path? Of course, you’re not locked into these goals, but it gives you a place to start from.
What is your niche?
Or, instead, what do you do and to whom can you offer it? What you do could be specializing in contemporary chamber music or the music of a particular jazz composer. To whom you can provide this is the audience you hope to engage with and where you can reach them best (contemporary music series, jazz festival, competitions, music education symposiums, and conferences, among many others). Your audience can also be found digitally.
Building Your Curriculum Vitae and Resume
What is a Curriculum Vitae (CV)?
Your CV is essentially a logically ordered document of all activities related to your music career thus far. It is a living document of unlimited length and should be regularly updated. It can include education, primary teachers, performance experience, organizations you belong to and leadership roles, conference presentations, and professional organizations you belong to.
What is a Resume?
Your resume is a much more focused document and is generally only a page in length. It highlights the most critical experience in your field, mostly focused on education, jobs, and skilled you’ve acquired. Think of it as a highlight reel.
Creating a Professional Biography
Crafting a great biography is one of the most challenging activities anyone needs to do. Not only should it highlight your persona but it also needs to be factual and professionally written.
Here are a few key things to keep in mind as you create yours:
1. It is not a rehashing of your resume! It should tell your personal story.
2. It should be an engaging narrative that displays your unique personality and perspective that also highlights who you are and what you do.
3. It should also be logically ordered: chronologically, by areas of interest/specialty, or some other characteristics that make sense to group together.
Step 2: Determine the Tools You Need to Tell Your Story
There are many tools available to us for showcasing who we are and what we do. Below is a list of some of the most valuable with the best reach. Future blogs will go into more depth on how to create and curate each one.
Website: Simple, easy to navigate, your digital “home base.”
Social Media: Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, YouTube, Pinterest, Tumblr, and many more. Ties into your website but does not replace it.
Email: Professional email for communicating on business-related items. It should be available wherever you put information.
LinkedIn: More of a professional and social networking site than a pure social media platform, it can help you connect to the broader artist community both in your region and beyond.
Business Card: Small, portable, essential information, it should tie into your website, email and social media.
Networking: Meet people in person! Go to concerts and events, introduce yourself to the event organizers and exchange contact information. If you’re really interested, reach out soon after to organize a one-on-one meeting.
Step 3: Establish “Best Practices”
Make sure you’re ready to start accepting freelance work and establish yourself as a consummate professional people will want to work with again and again. Below are some ideas to get you started.
Create a contract template for each type of work you want to engage in. Include contact information for yourself and the client, venue information with a day-of contact, pricing with deposit and overtime pay, when payment is due, and cancellation policy.
Answer all potential and current client messages within 24-48 hours.
Cash any checks within 7 business days.
If teaching, have a studio policy that includes expectations of the teacher, students, and parents; payment information; cancellation protocol; and how you’ll engage with them on social media.