With the influx of MANY MANY summer projects that loads of people are completing: creating websites, teaching studios and writing cover letters etc., I wanted to write a helpful little article with a couple of do's and don'ts to ensure your bio makes you look like the AMAZING, talented and incredible person that you are (and not the person who has never written about themselves ever).
We all hate writing about ourselves, but its something that as long as you are wanting to be a musician/artist or someone with a job, you will need to be able to convincingly tell people about yourself through text.
There are lots of things I could write about how to get started on your bio, why its important etc. (and maybe I will), but the biggest thing that drives me nuts with bios on websites is how some small, simple errors can really make artists look terrible.
So, I have made a list of a few of my pet peeves I see ALL THE TIME, (and how you can fix them and make my heart happy in the process).
1. You forgot to spell check (and so did your proof reader)
I know this is tedious and obvious, but seriously, with technology the way it is, there is no reason for typos in your bio. Sure, there are things that slip by your eyes as you immerse yourself in telling the world how awesome you are, and sometimes things will get by you, which is why asking a friend or colleague to check over it is a GREAT idea. Seriously, one of your best.
Please note: Preform is not the same as Perform. Form does not equal from. Spelling matters.
Moral of the story? People will judge your spelling errors (so check them)
2. Your sentences are misleading
Be careful of your grammar. Here are some classic, cringeworthy errors that make my head hurt.
Example I) ...received a Bachelors of Music in 2008
... earned a Bachelor of Music in 2008.
... earned a Bachelor of Music degree in 2008.
... completed a Bachelor of Music in 2008.
... earned a bachelor’s degree in 2008.
... holds a doctoral degree (or doctorate) from …
Example II) ...Is a member and founder of ensemble X, the Y project, Z band, and the alphabet quartet.
Be really careful that you aren't stating you were the founder of ensembles unless you actually are. You could be a founding member of ensemble x, and a member of the others (or any combination of these), but unless you founded all of these groups, this is misleading and looks like padding.
This is the same as listing that you have performed and premiered works by... *insert composers*. List the premieres separately so you are being clear with your audience. They're going to get suspicious if you are a saxophonist who has "performed and premiered works by *insert living composer* and J.S. Bach, etc."
3. You're obviously padding
If you're a young artist who is still building your bio and portfolio, be really careful not to pad your bio with extra words or accolades that aren't yours, or that are an exaggeration of things you've done in an attempt to boost your status. The people reading your bio can usually tell thats what's happening, and it diminishes all of the wonderful things you HAVE done.
Here are some classic examples (and solutions) for you!
When you've taken 1 - 2 additional lessons or performed in masterclasses with teachers outside of your applied lessons in your studio, it can be very tempting to list these as "also studied with...". However, rather than making you look more amazing, this can look like you're trying to pad your bio and claim that you have spent equal time with these teachers as you have with your own.
Instead, consider writing that you have "performed in masterclasses for..." or "have taken additional independent lessons with..."
This can actually come off as more impressive anyway, because you have gone above and beyond the minimum requirements of the degree program or studies you are currently involved in.
1st chair does NOT equal Principal (unless it does).
Be aware that not all ensembles assign "Principal" players or "section leaders". Playing the 1st part in an ensemble does not automatically grant you the title of Principal, and including this incorrectly will demonstrate a lack of understanding on your part.
If its not a Principal part, but you earned 1st chair, go ahead and list it as this. If you're one of a section and in a rotation, or were assigned the part without audition, you don't need to list which chair you were.
This goes for TA’s, GA’s, AI’s and other teaching or fellowship positions that are available at colleges. If you weren’t an official TA, don’t claim you were. If you held an assistantship for something outside of your applied lessons, make sure you list that. You never know who is going to be reading your bio and is it really worth upsetting people because you failed to list your accolades correctly or diminished someone else’s achievements?
4. Make sure the names and titles of schools, competitions, ensembles and organizations are correct
Whether it is a place you have studied, performed, attended or work for, you want to be sure the titles and names used in your bio match what is true and accurate. If someone was to search for the name of the University where you studied, combined with your professor's name, would they easily find the information you're providing or would they be misled? Some universities require capitalisation of "The" before the title, and others don't. It’s worth knowing what is correct as these details can mean a LOT to others, even though it might seem pedantic to you.
Is it Indiana University or The University of Indiana?
How about The University of Texas or Texas University?
5. BE CONFIDENT ABOUT THE AMAZING THINGS YOU'RE DOING! (and beware of the comparison monster)
You don't have to sell yourself in a sleazy way in order to have an effective bio. You should absolutely be proud of the things you've done, so go ahead and tell us all about them! What have you worked hard at? What have you achieved? What are your favourite things that you've done? What are you passionate about? What makes your journey and career unique? These are the things we want to read.
Most importantly, don't allow yourself to get hung up comparing yourself with others (or plagiarising). If your bio isn't as long as someone else's, don't worry about it! If you haven't won the massive international competition someone else has - it doesn't matter!
How can you share your individual professional journey with your audiences in a way that’s totally you?
That’s what we want to see. That’s how your bio will help you!
Do you want to know more about how to write your artist bio, or why it’s important to have one? Let me know in the comments!