Orchestra Resume Cover Letter

The Difference between a Résumé and a CV

A résumé concisely lists your education, experience, awards, skills, professional memberships, and community service in 1 or 2 pages. Performance resumes submitted in application for orchestra jobs should be one page in length.

A CV (Curriculum Vitae) provides more extensive documentation of a person’s experience in a format comparable to that of a résumé and may extend for many pages. CVs are commonly used by musicians applying for academic positions. See examples below of both resumes and CVs.

References are valuable. However, don’t include them on your résumé or CV; they belong on a separate document. Current and former employers make ideal references, as do colleagues with whom you work professionally. Your instructors are also valuable references but may be viewed as your advocates; if possible, avoid including too many instructors on any reference list. Here is an example of a Sample Reference List (Peabody Conservatory).

Possible things to include in résumé or CV (if applicable to your professional focus):

  • teaching experience
  • masterclasses, performances, recitals
  • research experience, presentations, conferences,  published research, written thesis
  • professional involvement in organizations, professional affiliations or memberships
  • fellowships, awards, scholarships, grants
  • skills (ie. proficient in Sibelius)
  • for vocalists-language skills: proficiency, reading knowledge

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When you read or hear about an opening in an orchestra, before you even know which audition system the orchestra will be using, you need to make an inquiry concerning the requirements for the audition. Sometimes the advertisement will specify information about the audition - dates, location, and whether or not tapes/CDs will be required. In any case you need to do two things - write a letter and write a resume.

Letters to personnel managers (the person in the management of the orchestra who is responsible for organizing audition committees, reserving dates and times for auditions, insuring that all players are where they belong for each rehearsal and concert and a million other duties) should be easy to write. But after looking at hundreds of letters sent in response to openings, I realize how many people have no idea how to compose a simple letter. Here, then, is the basic form:

Dear Mr. Porcker,

In response to your advertisement in the September 1955 International Musician, I would like to be considered for the position of principal mute carrier of the Melonville Symphony Orchestra. Please forward information regarding the date, time, location and repertoire for the audition. My resume is enclosed for your information.

Thank you.

That's it. It is simple enough, and a letter similar to the one above would bring smiles to the face of any personnel manager (or more importantly, his assistant or secretary). The letter simply asks for information. It doesn't ask for favors, doesn't boast, doesn't ramble and says clearly, "I am a literate human being."

The resume is, simply stated, the main event. It is the single most important document you will ever create. More than a dry recitation of your musical accomplishments, it is a reflection of you as a person. That a resume should be prepared with thought and care is, again, an understatement. But in my experience, I have seen only a handful of resumes that made a good impression on me. What most people don't understand is that resumes really do matter.

You may be invited to an audition even if your resume is a mess (after all, if you have the right qualifications, the committee wants to hear you play the trombone - they're not going to give you a spelling quiz). BUT, your resume will be looked at after you are invited. If you get to the final round, chances are that your resume and those of the other finalists will be pulled out and passed around to the committee members, including the music director.

Keep in mind that a committee is looking for ways to eliminate people. With all things being equal between two players, which one would you hire - the player with a neat, professional looking resume or the one who misspelled a dozen words and wrote it in long hand with a green ballpoint pen? The choice is obvious. Yourresume says, "Hello, this is me. This piece of paper tells you that I am a confident, conscientious professional who will be an asset to your orchestra. Give me a chance and I will show you what I can do."

Here are a few suggestions for writing that most important document.

    1. Your resume should CONTAIN THE TRUTH.
    2. Your resume should contain only RELEVANT INFORMATION.
    3. Your resume should be ONE PAGE LONG.
    4. Your resume should be impeccably NEAT.
    5. Your resume should be COMPUTER GENERATED OR TYPED.
    6. Your resume should be on WHITE NON-ERASABLE PAPER.

That a resume should be truthful and relevant would seem obvious, but it is painfully evident that players, especially ones who are young and inexperienced, stretch the truth and pad their resumes a great deal - to their own embarrassment. A resume must contain only information that is vital for an audition committee to assess your playing experience, training and ability, to wit:

  • NAME
  • ADDRESS
  • TELEPHONE NUMBER with area code
  • PRESENT POSITION(S) WITH DATES
  • PAST POSITION(S) WITH DATES
  • EDUCATION - Schools from which you received degrees and the date of graduation; other post-secondary schools attended and dates
  • PRINCIPAL TEACHERS with their positions
  • ONE OR TWO REFERENCES with their positions and telephone numbers

Unless the orchestra specifically asks for it, NO OTHER INFORMATION IS CONSIDERED RELEVANT! As to what constitutes a present or past position, common sense and honesty much prevail. Non-musical positions should not be listed, nor should any high school all-state band or orchestra memberships. Among other things that should stay off a resume: Membership in the International Trombone Association, Phi Mu Alpha or MENC, the fact that you are in the top orchestra in school, the dates of your solo recitals, who your teacher studied with, a listing of summer camps you attended (unless it is a highly prestigious and nationally competitive festival such as the Tanglewood Music Center). A committee wants to know what significant musical experience you have. If you have no experience, your resume should show it. A padded resume fools no one and looks bad. How you list experience is also important. For example, if you played extra or substitute with a professional orchestra, list it like this:

    - Boston Symphony Orchestra (substitute) 1976-77

    - Grant Park Symphony (extra player) 1982

To leave out the words "extra" or "substitute" is misleading and again fools no one. Dates are important. If you are still in college, list your projected date of graduation. Your resume will no doubt be slim, but your honesty will be appreciated.

In listing references, phone numbers are important. Do not send written references from teachers and conductors with your resume; they are meaningless. Almost anyone can get a written reference from a teacher; conductors are only slightly more difficult to pin down. Every teacher will write a reference saying that his student is great and should be invited, likewise with conductors (although if you play so well in his orchestra, why is he writing a reference for you so you can get another job?).

Written references will most likely be discarded. Very rarely will a reference be contacted by an audition committee - if you have no experience and your teacher thinks you're the greatest student he has ever had, the committee will probably still want you to send a tape. You must fight your own battles and let your resume speak for itself. But, if you are a borderline case and you list a credible reference whose opinion a committee member respects, it may help, should additional information be requested of you. NEVER HAVE A TEACHER OR OTHER REFERENCE CALL COMMITTEE MEMBERS ON YOUR BEHALF. It rarely if ever influences a decision and most often hurts an applicant by putting a committee member in an awkward position.

If all this information cannot fit on one page, then you need to trim the fat. List only the most important, significant things you have done. You will find that as you do more and more performing, you resume will get smaller and smaller.

Finally, remember that a resume reflects how you feel about yourself. Use good, clean, white bond paper. Most people will use a computer to layout and print a resume; this is a good idea since you can easily update your resume as your job situation changes. Print it with a laser printer - never use an ink jet printer because if your letter ends up caught in the rain, or a committee member drools on it, it will be a mess. Make the resume attractive. Use good size margins and the tab key to create an aesthetically pleasing document of which you can be proud. Don't mix eight different fonts and silly graphics (please, don't use a paste-in of a trombone!). Keep it simple, neat and clean. When you are done, look at it carefully and re-read it a hundred times. Take care that it accurately represents you in every way.

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