Writing a Program Biography: A Few Tips
by Alice Gallagher
Auditions Committee, Musical Merit Foundation of Greater San Diego
The purpose of this little article is to help someone write their first artistic biography.
The best writing is always engaging regardless of its purpose. An artistic biography should reflect you as a person and not be just a list of teachers you have had or rewards you have won. The artistic biography is part of the program, and ultimately, the program is part of the concert. Usually, audiences read through the program as they wait for the concert to begin, and it should be an “appetizer,” an amuse-bouche, for the concert. With that said, there are certain conventions that should be followed unless you are planning a comedy act. So your biography should be not too long, highlight the very best of your hereunto career, and perhaps end with future plans and intentions, especially as a student.
Start writing your biography by assembling your raw material. On a separate piece of paper (or word processing document), list all of your musical accomplishments and experiences. You might not use all of them in the biography, but it is good to keep a Curriculum Vitae, or CV, throughout your carer.
Include your high school band experience if you are in high school, and if you are in college, include your school ensembles. Make sure to keep this document updated on a monthly basis. Include non-competitive experiences as well, and even non-music accomplishments such as scholarships.
1.Education and private teachers
3. Awards, music-related/High-status experiences, music related (festivals, camps, honor bands)
4. Information about yourself (where you are from, an interesting hobby, future dreams)
Once you have that information, it’s time to make that list into a one or two paragraph biography.
-Biographies are written in the third person. Don’t write “I. . .” Write your biography as if someone else is talking about you. Alternate using your full name with using just your last name with “Miss” or “Mr.” if you are eighteen or under; if you are a female, once you turn age 18, you may use “Ms.” if you prefer. Don’t begin every section the same way. Examples can be seen in the sample biography.
- For college age musicians: Don’t include every single educational experience, masterclass, or long lists of teachers- who you have studied with is not what you have accomplished; at the same time, it is very nice to include, as a tribute your most important teachers; as a rule, include anyone you studied with for at least four months, but try to keep the list to five teachers. If you took one lesson with a famous teacher, good for you, but they really are not part of your biography.
-Include second- or third-place awards of high-profile competitions if you don’t have a lot of experience.
-The more you do, the more you are able to put in your biography. Include your teacher’s studio recitals as experience even though they were not competitive.
-Don’t include adjectives such as “prestigious” and never call yourself accomplished, even if you clearly are. Let your accomplishments simply speak for themselves without adding pretense or unneeded words.
-Do include adjectives (only one or two) that describe who you really are. You can describe yourself as ambitious rather than accomplished- it is a more humble way of saying “I’m a serious young musician” without pretension.
- Never “pad” your biography. If your high school band played at Carnegie Hall, it doesn’t mean you earned anything special, and you shouldn’t include it in your biography. However, if you played a big solo, such as a concerto movement in that concert at Carnegie Hall, you may include that.
Submit your biography to your English teacher as well as an experienced musician for editing. Use all available resources to make your biography readable and best reflect who you are and your accomplishments. A well-written biography can add professionalism to how you present yourself and help you establish a positive and realistic self-perception as you develop as a musician.