Main menu

Performance Resumes


A resume is a formal overview of your past and current professional and educational experience. It should directly and concisely list any experiences related to the position you are seeking. A resume is usually the first bit of information a potential employer will receive about you. As your initial marketing tool, it should be designed to include the work experience that the employer may find valuable. One of the biggest mistakes people make when creating a resume is to include everything they have done. People are often reluctant to pare down their resumes because they feel everything they have done is important. When creating a resume, you must try to put yourself in the employer's place and determine what they think is important.

Resume Categories

The following is a list of possible categories (in no particular order) that you may wish to include in your resume. Look over these categories carefully and decide which ones would best present your professional and educational experience. Most importantly, do not feel compelled to follow a given formula, rather, design and organize your resume so that it best highlights your experience.

  • Name
  • Instrument or Voice Type
  • Contact Information
    • Home and/or Work address
    • Current/Permanent/After "x" date
    • Phone numbers
    • Email
  • Education/Training
  • Degree(s) earned (include dates and institutions)
  • Grade Point Average
  • High School Study (if at a major arts institution)
  • Major/Principal Teachers
  • Master Classes
  • Coaches
  • Summer Festivals
  • Professional Certification, Licensure, Accreditation
  • Performance Experience
    • Solo Experience
    • Solo with Orchestral Engagements
    • Recitals
    • Chamber Music
    • Orchestras/Wind Ensembles
    • Jazz/Rock Clubs, Jazz Festivals
    • Freelance
    • Voice-Opera, Roles Studied, Musical Theater
    • Full Roles, Partial Roles
    • Choral Experience
    • Conducting / Guest Conducting Positions
  • Compositions/ Arrangements
    • Selected Compositions / Performances
    • Premiers
    • Current Projects
    • Commissioned works
  • Recordings and Broadcasts
  • Tours
  • Competitions
  • Affiliations/Memberships
  • Honors/Awards
    • Scholarships
    • Fellowships
    • Scholastic Awards
    • Prizes and Grants
  • Other Experience
  • Language Proficiency
  • Community Service
  • Volunteer Work
  • Collegiate Extracurricular Activities

Remember that this list is by no means all-inclusive! Some of the categories may not suit your purposes or needs and you probably won't have something that fits into every category. Don't worry! Many people make the common mistake of selling themselves short. They prejudge their past experience and its inadequacies, often eliminating good, relevant experience before it ever has a chance to get down on paper. First, get everything down on paper, and then decide what to keep and what to omit. In your first draft, write down everything under the appropriate category titles. Do not eliminate anything in the process. Save the editing of this information until you have a better sense of how you want to lay out your resume. For now, just keep an open mind!


Once you have thoroughly brainstormed your past and current experiences, it is time to decide on a format for your resume. Resumes come in a variety of basic formats. Chronological, Order of Importance, Functional, and Targeted resumes are most commonly used. Choose a format that suits your experience and the employer's needs. Employers tend to prefer chronological over functional resumes, which can be great if you're switching career paths, but otherwise make it difficult to determine when you worked where and can hide employment gaps.


Starts with the present or most recent job and progresses back in time. This format enables the reader to track your work history easily, check for gaps of unemployment and visualize your professional growth. The entire resume need not be in reverse chronological order. Most people who use this format will have sub-categories; much like those listed in the resume category section, and will arrange information in reverse chronological order only within each category.

Order of Importance

With this format, experiences are listed in the order of importance to the reader, enabling him/her to see your most relevant and impressive information first. This form is almost always used for performance resumes.


Highlights previous work experience that has given you background experience for the job you are seeking. Information is separated into categories determined by function (Organizational, Managerial, Communication, etc). This format is not commonly used for performance positions.


A targeted resume is not as much of a format as it is a style. It is often eclectic, using characteristics of each of the first three formats, and is used most often to produce a highly focused resume for a very specific job. Most performance resumes are targeted resumes; that is, they eliminate all peripheral information and discuss the only two things that readers/auditioners are interested in: training and performance experience. A targeted resume does not have to be limited to performance jobs. Any resume that you are writing solely for a specific job would be a targeted resume.


The order of your resume categories should reflect the position you are applying for and your level of experience. For a person with years of performance experience, that is the first category an employer would want to read. However, for a performer who has just graduated and does not have much experience, education is the first category an employer would want to read. As you gain experience, you will rearrange your categories and add new listings and delete the older ones.



The top of your resume should include your name, address, and contact information, including telephone number and email address. Try to create a "letterhead" that will help your resume stand out from others. You don't need anything too flashy, but the use of something that is pleasing to the eye and reflects your overall style can also be used on your other submitted materials to give a professional, uniformed look.

Some examples of letterheads

Jane Smith, violin
111 East Avenue, #C11 | Rochester NY 14604
(585) 555-1212 |

Jane Smith,
111 East Avenue, #C11 Rochester NY 14604 (585) 555-1212

~ Jane Smith ~
111 East Avenue, #C11
Rochester NY 14604
(585) 555-1212

What a final resume might look like... (PDF)

The Finished Product

Creating an effective resume requires time and careful revision. Once you have completed your resume, take some time away from it to achieve distance. Then come back to it with a critical eye to see if it conveys a good candidate for the kind of position you want. Ask your teachers and colleagues to read your resume and give you their impressions. Different opinions on the finished product can help you shape it further. However, remember, like musical tastes, there can be a range of opinions on what produces the most successful document. Don’t be afraid to make it your own with your own unique style. 

Overall Look 

Make sure that the fonts you use are easy to read. You don’t want to make your reader squint to read too-small print. You also want to avoid too-large print, which looks elementary and seems to be striving to fill space. Similarly, choose a font style that looks professional. Don’t play around with creative fonts as they distract and often annoy readers. Some good examples of font styles are Arial, Times New Roman, and Verdana. Whatever font style and size you choose, remember to be consistent. The overall goal for readers is to find information easily. They should be able to quickly skip down the page to any category. 


You should invest in high-quality bond paper – it need not be too expensive, but should be better than regular photocopy paper. Choose an attractive color, one that is easy on the eye (e.g. off-white, ivory, pale grey). 

Emailing your Resume 

Many employers now accept resumes and cover letters electronically by email or by uploading it to their website. When emailing or uploading your resume to a potential employer, send the document as a PDF. When emailing Word documents, the different versions of Word can change your formatting, font size and style to something other than what you intended. Be cautious of this and use PDF’s whenever possible. 

Letters of Recommendation 

Choose referents you are confident will write stellar letters for you, and who will take the time to “go to bat” for you. The referents should know your work well. When asking these people for letters of reference, ask them if they would feel comfortable writing a good letter of reference on your behalf. Depending on their response, you can choose whether or not to have that letter sent out. By choosing your referents carefully, you retain a large degree of control over the quality of your letters. Confidential letters are highly recommended. They generally carry much more weight in a committee’s mind. If you choose to have confidential references placed in your file, the only thing that you can be told about your file is whether or not the letter has arrived. Confidential references allow your writers to speak openly and candidly about your skills. So choose carefully!!! References that date back more than five years are not considered current, but can still be used. However, you should bear in mind that old references do not represent your current level of work and achievement. 

*Information pulled from the Institute for Music Leadership at The Eastman School of Music

Back to top