How To Write a Compelling Bio

story alive

Welcome back author Brittney Saline.  Brittney is a musician with a serious knack for pen and paper, the ability to see other people’s strengths and a desire to help them pull it all together.  She’s a researcher, consultant and the best assistant I could ever hope for at the Road of Creativity.   Read on as she shares tips on how to write an engaging bio that goes beyond a list of accomplishments.

By Brittney Saline

I’d like to introduce you to a couple of people. Read on:

John Smith

John Smith has been hailed by critics and audiences alike for his diverse repertoire and his enigmatic style. A three-time first place winner of the  International Violin Competition and founding member of award-winning chamber ensemble Off Beats, he has established himself as both a virtuosic soloist and respected bulwark of the chamber music world.  

Smith has enjoyed a multifarious performance career and has toured across over 14 different countries. He appears regularly with many prominent symphony orchestras and is frequently in residence at premiere summer music festivals across the US as a featured clinician and artist faculty member.  

Mr. Smith can be heard on a diverse span of recording labels and currently maintains serves on the faculties of several prominent universities across the nation.

John Smith, 2

I play the violin because there I never understand the world or my place in it more clearly than when I have a bow in my hand. Growing up as a young violinist, I was captivated by listening to my local symphony orchestra perform, and resolved that one day I would be able to create that same experience for an audience. Many years of arduous practice and devoted listening brought me to the doors of the conservatory where I not only earned my degrees, but forged meaningful relationships with other musicians who had the same passion as I.

Shortly after earning my DMA, I began to nurture a new passion for contemporary concert music. While on tour, I met three other individuals with the same passion. Eager to share the music that got us so fired up, we founded the Off Beats Quartet and devoted the next three years to performances of new music by contemporary composers, including three world premieres.

It gives me great joy to not only do the good work of sharing music with audiences, but with preparing tomorrow’s musicians to share it to the best of their abilities, too. I am honored to serve on the faculties of music schools and festivals – some of the most profound musical experiences of my life have been seeing the light bulbs flash on in the eyes of my students during a coaching or a performance they’ve poured their hearts and souls into.

I believe that engaging with others in music is one of the most profound was to connect with another human being – and nothing gives me greater satisfaction and fulfillment.

Let’s say you’re on a search committee, reviewing applications for a violin artist-faculty position at a major university.  You’ve narrowed it down to two competitive and respectable candidates – and in their files are the bios above. Which of these people do you feel more connected to?  I know which one I’d prefer to meet in person.

There are few things more cookie-cutter than the bio of a classical musician. No matter the concert, website,  job or graduate school application, take out the artist’s name and you’re basically reading the same document over and over. How can you expect to stand out, to make an impression  – to communicate to anyone what your deepest passion is – when your bio says nothing about you?

Don’t underestimate the power of storytelling. That’s not to say that it’s not important to have accomplishments and to illustrate your success – but people want to relate to people. Your message will have a lot more value and power if you tell your readers what you’re passionate about, why you love it and the story of how you do it.

Many musicians are intimidated by the task of writing a bio or a cover letter because they feel the pressure to fit into that prescribed cookie-cutter image. I need a list of impressive accomplishments! I need to show that I’m in demand! I need to look competitive and important! The result is often dull and contrived.  If that sounds familiar to you, focus on these concepts when you sit down to write:

* What is your passion – what are you all about?

* Why do you love it?

* How are you pursuing your passion – what have you done and what are you doing to pursue it?

* What’s the greater human element behind what you do – what are your goals and why have you chosen them?

* Dare to write in the first person.  It’s more conversational, more powerful and will better prepare you to represent yourself well in face-to-face encounters.

A well-crafted “Story of You” can illustrate the things you’ve accomplished while also putting them in the context of what makes you unique, actually connecting you to your readers instead of losing them in a list of boring facts that – guess what – looks exactly the same as everyone else’s.

Brittney Saline  will be in residence all week at the June 2012 Road of Creativity Music Entrepreneurship Retreat to share her experience and insight through workshops on “Writing for Professional Success.”  She will also offer individual consulting sessions with participants eager to learn how to express themselves more authentically in their bios, cover letters, grants, and personal statements.

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