A couple of months ago I wrote a bit about how so many professional musicians’ bios tend to be boring and predictable. Apparently, I’m not alone as a number of readers sent private emails summing up people’s opinions on the topic.
So in a very informal fashion, I’d like to take a few of these observations and create a “list of sins”:
- ITINERARY. Reciting a grocery list where one has played is simply mind-numbing. Pull out an atlas. Yawn. Why is it significant? What does one play on their fourth visit to San Francisco? Singers are the worst. Few people stray from the senseless parade of venues.
- NAME DROPPING. Be real when you put names down. Did you REALLY just perform a concert with Itzhak Perlman or was the truth more like he was on the stage as you were sitting in the last seat of the second violins? Ask yourself, would the A-list star recognize you in an elevator?
- QUOTES. Quoting from a famous newspaper can be very dangerous. If you are mentioned favorably, be sure not to complain about the next review where you may be trashed or the original mention will be worthless then. Also, be honest; was that review about your solo performance, or your high school youth orchestra trip to Carnegie Hall?
- AGE. So what if you were 10 when you played with Seattle Symphony. Did you happen to mention in your bio that it was the youth orchestra competition junior division?! Did you happen to mention that you were not INVITED, or even PAID!?
- BIG TO SMALL. Okay, you boast about your first jobs performing with the Minnesota Orchestra and then the Boston Symphony; why is your current job with a small orchestra? Did you get fired? Or was the truth more like you were a substitute, or worse: a side by side youth concert?
While many of these opinions were just that, opinions; I did get several repeating themes of annoyances. Clearly, when constructing bios, performers need to not only make their bios interesting and approachable, they need to be honest with themselves.
I found it interesting that many of the observations I received in email messages were not from musicians, they were from listeners with a degree in “BS” who clearly could smell some desperate artist trying to look better than they actually were.
Nothing screams youth and inexperience like a bunch of exaggerations but at the same time, there’s nothing wrong with being young, we all had to start off somewhere. Instead of stretching the truth beyond recognition, focus more on narrative oriented writing. Let people get to know who you are and what you think.