I’m having a blast teaching the Musician’s CV Master Course — working with a terrific group of accomplished musicians, and I wanted to bring you a few of the questions we’ve been sorting through in class. Namely, how to distinguish yourself from the 200 other applicants and how to detail your teaching experience. As part of our Musicians Getting Hired series, let’s unpack the Art of the CV Bullet and why you need to detail HOW you teach. Plus a few of the secrets on how to do it well!
Use the ‘So What?’ Test
This is a helpful tool I like to use for evaluating the effectiveness of any promotional piece (bio, CV / résumé, teaching philosophy statement, grant proposal—any promo piece). The “So What?” test is similar to the Who Cares? test. It should get you to consider whether or not what you are communicating actually matters to your intended reader. Put yourself in the employer’s shoes and crank up the empathy.
Think about it. If the employer has a stack of 200 CVs and cover letters to comb through, she’s desperately trying to weed out the uninteresting majority to find the handful of candidates who seem the best potential matches for the job. In order to do this she needs to understand what distinguishes one candidate from the next.
So if your CV and cover letter are full of clichés and generic-sounding experience — then you come across as indistinguishable from the 199 other applicants — and you don’t stand a chance of making it to the short list.
What to avoid: many musicians simply list the duties or responsibilities of their teaching positions (as in the example below). Don’t simply tell us your assigned role and job tasks.
State University, Graduate Assistant, 2015-17
• Private lesson instructor and chamber music coach
• Assistant Coordinator of Chamber Music
In this example, the candidate is simply stating what he was required to do on the job. Not what he or his students achieved. Not what his teaching is like or why we should care. So as a reader, I have no idea whether or not to be impressed with this. Teaching assistantships really run the gamut in terms of level and scope of the work, so without specifics, I have no reason to be interested.
The other trap I see many musicians fall into is resorting to clichés or generic advertising language in their bullets.
Private studio, New York NY, 2011-present
• Teach all ages and levels
• Lessons include basic musicianship, good tone production, solid technique, interpretation
• Approach tailored to individual students’ needs and interests
Don’t use bullets that are vague, generic, or that could describe 92% of the candidates. “All ages and levels” reads like advertising. Who cares if you’re open to teaching everybody? What the employer wants to know is the age range of the actual students you’ve taught. As for the 2nd and 3rd bullets, they only tell the employer is that the candidate is a “generic teacher” because every teacher does these basic things.
The real challenge is to convey what’s distinctive about you and your teaching.
Details to help you get at HOW you teach
RECOMMENDED In your bullets consider detailing:
the age range / levels of your students
the breadth of repertoire you teach (list 5 diverse composers: not the ‘usual suspects’)
value added: what lessons/classes include or emphasize — above and beyond the expected
Compelling specifics of the course content you’ve taught: what was noteworthy?
results: students’ achievements (competitions, acceptance to schools, festivals, special projects)
examples of creative teaching strategies, assignments, curricula you developed
quantify where appropriate: if it’s relevant and impressive, give us numbers. How many classes, students, performances, tours, and the recruiting percentage increase in the size of your teaching studio can all be good to include.
Examples of good use of bullets
These are detailed and give the reader a real sense of what each musician’s teaching is like “on the ground.”
Private Studio, CITY, STATE, YEAR-PRESENT
• Teach students ages 14-65: aspiring professionals and avid hobbyists
• Many have joined and formed active bands outside of private lessons
• Specialties in jazz, rock, blues, funk, music theory, improvisation and songwriting
• Teach students in Europe and Asia via real time distance learning and online video exchange lessons
• Lessons focus on theory, improvisation, technique, practice habits and self-analysis
• Repertoire includes Charlie Parker, Miles Davis, Jimi Hendrix, Pat Metheny and Wes Montgomery
And from another musician . . .
Faculty, INSTITUTION, CITY, STATE, YEAR-present
· Teach undergraduate theory sequence, 1-2 courses per semester
· Cover such topics as form and analysis of 18th and 19th century Western art music, 16th century counterpoint, fundamentals of music theory
· Focus on compositional processes, musical styles, aural skills, part-writing, form and analysis
· Lead students through a process of exploration, reflection, skill building and compositional exercises for each topic learned
· Engage students by singing, playing, and improvising
· Teach individual advanced theory lessons to graduate students
And here’s one more . . .
INSTITUTION, Staff pianist/vocal coach, CITY, STATE, YEAR-Present
• Coach both voice major and voice minor students, undergraduate and graduate
• Work on foreign language diction and phonetics in Italian, German, and French
• Emphasize musicianship fundamentals, effective learning/practice strategies, help students fully interpret texts to find the meaning behind what’s on the page
• Play for entrance auditions for Voice, approximately 30 per year
• Play for private voice lessons of [Name faculty], working with 12 vocalists each week preparing lessons, auditions, performances
Hope this gives you ideas and inspiration to detail your experience so you can put your best foot forward when applying for teaching jobs!
I’ll be back on FB Live tomorrow Tues. June 19 at 7 pm ET / 4 pm PT to answer a terrific question that came in from Andrew Dodson—thanks, Andrew! We’re going to look at how to network for work when you’re new in town or newly on the market. We’d love to have you join the conversation and please—ask questions!
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As always, I appreciate your feedback, and if you’re interested in receiving coaching from me, let’s talk! I’m at Angela@BeyondTalentConsulting.com.
Dream Big, Plan Smart, Live Well