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Your resume:

How should it look, what information should you put in it, What information is admissible, and format

Pick a beautiful paper, a beautiful font, nothing too fussy or wacky. Keep It Simple, Stupid (KISS) is always the best motto. Don’t get a gimmicky paper, or a strange colored paper (white or cream is great, maybe a very light gray or blue is admissable) And don’t get the bright idea to do anything fancy with your name at the top. Please. They can remember your name is Joe Smith without the flashing lights, thank you. Only thing they’ll remember, otherwise, will be showing it around the office saying, «Take a look at this!» and laughing.

Your resume should always fit on one page. The one I have included as an example actually has ALL my information on there, so it would not fit on one page. If I were to send it out to an agent, it wouldn’t have all the «agent» information on the bottom, and I might prune some smaller roles from my lists. If it were for an Opera Company, I would not have included the concert repertoire. If it were for a Concert Venue, I would prune my Operatic Roles down to four or five biggies I’ve done in great houses and put it AFTER my Concert Repertoire on the page. Tailor your resume to your «audience.» i.e. If you are auditioning for a bel canto role, put all your bel canto stuff at the top of the page. For this, a computer and printer at home or at least a floppy with different versions of your resume are handy — you can run to Kinko’s and print one on great paper before your audition.

I have a friend on Broadway, and he says that they print their resumes on the back of their 8×10 pictures. Sounds like a great idea, and I’m surprised that more classical agents don’t adopt this also. NO more lost pictures. (This is done at the photo shop; don’t try to print it onto your pictures at home with your computer’s printer, since it will only smear, and disappear with time.) And be careful if you decide to glue your resumé onto the back of the picture, as most glues will disintigrate the paper and compromise the photo paper. Another problem with having resumés printed on the back of pictures is that a resumé is always changing, and thus, you shouldn’t have too many pictures printed at a time, for fear of ending up with a zillion out-dated resumé’s on back.

Nothing worse than a «corrected» in ink resumé. Always print a new resume. Don’t just pencil in that one accented «i». It’s worth it. I promise.

The format should be some variation on the following:

  1. YOUR NAME
  2. your voice type
  3. Your address (either here or at bottom of page)
  4. Your vital statistics (if applicable)
  5. Your operatic repertoire
  6. Your concert repertoire
  7. Your education/preparation/competitions
  8. any other skills, interesting stuff
  9. Small date of issue

  1. your name — what you want to be known as for the rest of your life as your stage name. Don’t get any grandiose ideas to change your name, unless your name is such a mouthful that no one will ever be able to pronounce it as is. Maria Ekaterina Josefa Jesus Calligula Kalligalalopalopalopalos… Sometimes just shortening it does the trick. (Maria Callas… OK, I made up the first one, but her name was really long and Greek.) But what is a little difficult at first may actually be unforgettable once someone wraps his/her tongue around it! Delora Zdajick, Vesselina Kasarova, Fredericka von Stade. Very ethnic names reveal a history about you that will add another fascinating layer to your persona. Don’t make up a new ethnicity for yourself. It’s fake. Most of all please, please don’t think that having an Italian new name will give you more clout in this business, and don’t take on one unless you speak PERFECT Italian already and have an Italian mama. Another valid reason to change your name would be if there is already an established singer very close to your name (Dennis O’Neil, Dennis MacNeill, Stuart O’Neill….) — check out Opera News and go through the back part to see who’s performing where — D.O’Neill, D. MacNeill, S. O’Neill, etc…. to check out if your given name will easily be continually confused with someone else already in the business. You don’t want someone to have to always say, «No, he’s JOHN MacNeill, the baritone from New Jersey, not Dennis O’Neill, the tenor..) Only other reason to use a different name is if your name is SO UTTERLY HORRIBLY plain and nondescript that no one will ever remember it as is. You’ll know if this is true, because people will have forgotten your name your whole life. (Of course, that could be connected to your personality….) After all that, it’d be better to stick with your name. You can always use the longer or shorter version of your name for good use. Jennifer Larmore is «Jennie» to close friends, but «Jennifer» sounds more serious and mezzo-ish. Jennie might have worked if she were a coloratura… And you can always use a middle name if it rings better. i.e. Derek Lee Ragin. You just don’t want to confuse people down the road by changing names if you’re already known in musical circles by one name!
  2. Voice type — I’d say, don’t get too specific unless you’re doing German house auditions, and then you really need to stick to ONE fach and not stray, repertoire-wise with what you offer. For non-German house auditions, unless you really exactly fit into one niche and no other, I’d be very vague and let them figure it out by your repertoire. Many people have such conflicting ideas about what each fach is, and who should sing what. You might turn someone off by calling yourself a dramatic mezzo, and then having some Rossini on your aria list! People are weird. «Lyric coloratura soprano» could put it immediately in their minds that I have a small, high voice or could make them imagine more emphasis on the lyric part like Sutherland. Better to put «Laura Claycomb, soprano» and let them figure out what type from my repertoire and my audition. Soprano, mezzo-soprano, contralto (if you REALLY REALLY are a naturally dark, dark voice with low notes for days and some higher notes so we don’t think you’re just a soprano with no upper range who’s darkening her voice), counter-tenor, sopranist, tenor, baritone, bass-baritone, bass are all good types. There is no such thing as a baritenor or a tenor-counter-tenor. (There was such a guy who called himself this who came in and sang half mezzo arias and half tenor arias in an audition…. and badly.) Choose one voice type and make sure your repertoire reflects that. I would stay away from offering arias that traditionally go to a different voice, but that nowadays are being cast in a different way (Cherubino sung by a soprano, Zerlina and Despina by a mezzo, et al.) Although they work in the operas, most people casting things these days are NOT that well-informed, sorry to say, not that open-minded, and will just be confused by you offering different fach stuff. If you’ve changed fach lately, offer only ONE fach’s repertoire for your auditions, even if that means offering only two or three arias. No reason to sing something no longer suitable just to have something on your list.
  3. address- sounds stupid, but some people forget to include how someone can contact you! Your address should be the address where you will be easily reached or that messages can get easily forwarded to you. Before you have an agent, it is especially important to have an easily reachable phone number, fax, etc… If this means sending all mail through your Dad’s office or your parents’ house, then so be it.
  4. vital statistics — some people who are interested in Broadway, etc… like to put their height and weight, color of hair/eyes (it’s a black and white picture you’re including) on their resumes. I don’t think it’s that appropriate on professional classical singers’ resumes to include this information, but I thought you should be aware of the option.
  5. Your operatic repertoire — you can have two parts to this: «roles performed» and then a list of «roles prepared.» I found this useful when I had hardly done any main roles. That way, although I had only done «Giannetta» in «Elisir d’amore,» and «Papagena» in «Die Zauberflöte,» they could find out that I was prepared to do «Adina» and «Pamina.» It shows a seriousness and good work ethic to your auditioner, and can give them ideas in casting, plus make them think of you as a front-runner, not just a comprimario, even if that’s all you’ve done so far.You should put the following information in a easy to read table under roles: the role, the opera, (the composer, if you like, or if you have some highly non-standard repertoire) (if you learned a lot in English translation, go ahead and put what language everything was in, so as not to mislead someone), what opera company or school, which year — this is strongly recommended but not absolutely necessary, and conductor or director if you esteem them a big enough deal to mention. Once you get to a certain point when you want people to quit thinking of you as a student, I’d relegate roles done at university to the «roles prepared» pile. In the «roles prepared» pile, make a list of roles and the opera they come from. Don’t include partially learned roles or now-inappropriate roles just to pad things. Even if you did something, why include it unless it reflects well what you’d like to do? Only put what you do NOW unless there isn’t anything on your resume because you’ve just changed voice types. If that’s the case and you desperately want to show you’ve been working already — just in another voice type — I think it might be good to put dates on roles you did as a mezzo, now that you’re a soprano… with then «roles prepared» or all your NEW rep at the top so people can understand that you had a life before being a soprano. This is just an idea.

    I no longer put the date on some engagements on my resumé (as I can’t remember, frankly, and it was over 10 years ago and was perhaps not prestigious venue that anyone would know, anyhow.) But then again, I haven’t used a resumé over ten years… 

  6. Your concert repertoire — you can include all repertoire; and include venues where you’ve actually performed some, including conductor, in what festival, etc..
  7. Your education/preparation/competitions: Schools and degrees achieved — include degrees even if they’re not music — this shows your multifaceted interests and knowledge -(High School doesn’t count), teacher if you like, coaches if you think the auditioner might really know and esteem said person (don’t, if you just think they’ll be impressed with an empty name — they know those charlatans that used to be famous singers, run around «coaching» and can’t teach themselves out of a bag. Not impressive.) Include other ways you learned your craft — i.e. studied acting at Actor’s Studio in New York; fencing with famous instructor XXX XXXX; Alexander technique with Alexander himself; private voice lessons with Maria Callas; ballet with the Joffrey; modern dance with Merce Cunningham; summer apprentice programs (Merola, Santa Fe, etc…) Don’t include that you did Master Classes with someone. That’s not a long-term learning pattern for you and nobody cares.
  8. any other skills, interesting stuff, languages !- If there’s something that you think might provide interesting (not just a hobby of yours, please, or that you’ve been «saved» by Jehova…) insight to your special talents, such as you’re a licensed doctor, dog trainer, rollerskating champion (these could be put under «special skills») etc, then include them. You never know, they might be looking for someone who can skate… Be tasteful.
  9. Date of issue — My agent adds a small «Updated October 04, 2001 — please destroy any previous copies» to the bottom of the page of biographies and resumes. Although it may sound a little James Bond-ish, it does strongly convey that you would like to keep an UPDATED biography, resume, etc, in their files. This also helps you to quickly and succinctly find out if a company has your most recent biography or resume in their files. This gives you a great excuse to send them a NEW one with all your most recent triumphs and remind them that that you’re alive and that they should book you! (Otherwise, you get the stock reply of «we have your updated biography» when they actually don’t. No one can argue with a date.) No more old resume’s going in the performance program. I also include this magical phrase to my on-line resume and biography, so people can know they are reading something up-to-date.

my resume