If you are serious about attracting and retaining a new audience for classical music, then you need to write about yourself and your work in a way that’s interesting to that new audience.
That means stepping away from the dull bios that most classical musicians write, and crafting a story that tells the reader the WHY and HOW of your artistic voice. Most bios are stuffed full of the WHAT, and written in this formulaic structure:
[YOU] are studying [INSTRUMENT AND DEGREE] at [MUSIC SCHOOL]
[YOU] have studied with [INSERT DOZENS OF TEACHERS NAMES] and taken masterclasses with [INSERT EVEN MORE NAMES]
Is the age you started playing your instrument a fact that would intrigue an audience and entice them to come and hear you? Is the degree you are studying the most interesting fact about you and your music?
What interesting and distinctive information about the performer and their performances is contained in that bio?
Not much. Half the bio is usually the names of teachers and masterclass clinicians, and if that information is deleted, what’s left?
Usually not much, and that’s the problem.
This is confronting and scary for musicians. They are then forced to dig much deeper, come out from behind the laundry list of facts, and tell their story.
Few musicians have had support to find their story and create a bio that tells this in a compelling way. But now you know the formula, you won’t be able to unthink or unknow how boring most bios are. It’s quite a revelation.
CREATING YOUR STRUCTURE
There is a way to create a structure that gives maximum usage, where the bio can quickly and easily be tailored. Whether you need 25 words or 250 words, you will have a modular, distinctive and interesting bio.
Here is a three-part format:
OPENING PARAGRAPH Maximum two sentences that tell the reader WHO you are and WHY you are distinctive.
MIDDLE PARAGRAPH Paragraph that establishes your credibility, WHAT do you do, HOW is it interesting and personal.
CLOSING PARAGRAPH What is NEXT in your world?
Here’s an example written in this format for conductor and clinician Ingrid Martin.
Ingrid Martin’s work as a conductor, clinician and curator is united by her vision to move people and transform lives through the emotive power of music.
She creates inspiring musical experiences for performers and audiences by empowering musicians to find their unique artistic voice. Ingrid is in demand internationally as a clinician, guest conductor and lecturer. She is renowned for her ability to lead college, school and community ensembles to create deeper, more meaningful musical performances. As artistic director of the Victorian Youth Symphony Orchestra and Crosswinds Ensemble, she leads innovative performances that fuse music with other art forms in unexpected venues – from an orchestra playing Ravel in a pub, to chamber winds performing Kurt Weill amongst renegade paintings at the Heide Museum of Modern Art.
This year sees Ingrid curating the University of Melbourne Faculty of Fine Arts and Music’s Female Creative Founders program, working with students in the Melbourne Recital Centre’s Accelerando program, lecturing for IgniteLAB at the Melbourne Conservatorium of Music, and guest conducting the Melbourne Conservatorium of Music Brass Ensemble and South Australian State Music Camp.
HALP. I CAN'T EVEN
If the idea of crafting a sentence about yourself that tells a story seems overwhelming and you don’t know where to start, there are two hooks to get started:
Think about WHAT you do that is unique.
Do you have a particular repertoire speciality (eg. 19th Century Italian arias), or an unusual voice type, or specialise in the music of a composer (eg. Percy Grainger specialist), or play unusual repertoire for your instrument (eg. jazz bassoon), or is there a story behind your instrument or commission new repertoire?
Or HOW do you work in a unique way?
Do you perform in unusual spaces, or curate multi-disciplinary gigs (eg. perform with visual artists), are you a dynamic physical presence, are you a singing cellist, or are you of service through music (eg. performs in aged care)?
No names of teachers. Be your own artist. Dream and build your own creative success. It is appropriate to use the names of teachers in applications for fellowships or further study, but not in a bio.
No use of the word ‘student’. Instead, be more present and use ‘studying’ or ‘studies’, and place that information in the middle paragraph. You are not defined but your course or your teacher, and while those facts can give credibility, it’s a small part of your story. Not the whole story.
IS IT YOUR STORY?
Delete your name from the bio and give it to someone who knows you. If they can guess that it’s you, then it’s your unique story.
You are distinctive. Give yourself permission to believe and share your story with confidence.
30 minutes Draft two opening sentences and read them aloud. If you can read them aloud comfortably, then you have captured your voice.
1 hour Grab a friend who also needs to have a better bio, and make a date. Start by writing dot-points of information for each paragraph. Share these with each other for editing and feedback, then create your bio.