The Symphonic Audition Resume—A Brief Guide

by Michael Manley, Contract Administrator , AFM Symphonic Services

You know the excerpts. You’ve spent the last four years of your life in the practice room. You are ready to conquer the music world. But first, you’ll need a resume.

I just want to play the audition—why do I need a resume?

Yes, an audition is about performance. So what does a resume have to do with the process? A symphonic audition resume simply gives an indication of who you are and what your experience level is. Most orchestras have a fairly generous policy regarding applicants. They may give you the dreaded “thank you, next” after a mere two minutes on stage, but they will give everyone an opportunity. Not all orchestras have this policy, however. In some cases, the experience listed on the resume is used to discern which candidates are the most qualified and likely to succeed.

A note of caution: don’t try to ‘pad’ the resume with stretched truths or untruths—the music world is too small. It’s the playing, not the resume that will be paramount. Don’t risk embarrassment by making unsubstantiated claims.

Your resume must include the following information:


Name, address, phone and email. Include your instrument in the header. For example, ‘Suzy Snowflake, Violist.’


Where did you study? List institutions and degrees earned. If you did not receive a music degree, do not leave out this category—list the degree. If you minored in music, mention that.


Are you currently playing in one or more professional symphony, opera, or ballet orchestras? Be specific about the job—“Second horn, XYZ Symphony,” or “Regular substitute, ABC Philharmonic.” This is the most important information in your resume. Put the most recent and most impressive work at the top. Be sure your resume is as truthfully competitive as possible.

Major Teachers

Who did you study with? List your college or conservatory teachers. If you studied even briefly with the Isaac Stern of your instrument, mention that too.

Optional Information:

Chamber/Solo Experience

Especially useful for musicians applying for principal chairs. List repertoire which has been performed in public.


If you are a seasoned player with substantial experience, this may not be necessary.  If you are a student with little experience, by all means list scholarships, concerto competitions, etc.


An especially good category for students without much experience. May be included in Awards/Honors if content or space is an issue.

Audition History

If you are taking an audition for the Philadelphia Orchestra, and you were a runner-up for a similar position in the Cleveland Orchestra, by all means this should be in your resume.  Use discretion—only include if the audition was for a high-profile ensemble.


Professional coaches, teachers, or conductors who know your playing.  Obtain the consent of your references before listing them.

The Cover Letter

Though it may seem obvious, many applicants forget this important step. An envelope containing a resume with no cover letter suggests a lack of interest or simply laziness.  Keep it brief and to the point, but do not forget the cover letter.  Like the resume itself, the cover letter should contain a header—your name, address, telephone and email. See the sample that follows for more details.

General Guidelines

Use a standard font, such as Times Roman, in a standard size (10 or 12 characters per inch).  Fancy or strange fonts and odd colored paper are distracting and hard to read.

Use standard margins.  The default margins of most word processing programs will work fine.  Microsoft Word’s default margins are 1.25 inches on left and right, with 1-inch margins at the top and bottom.

Do not use a tiny font to squeeze more information on your resume, and don’t sacrifice good spacing to include more content.  Your resume should be brief and legible, and contain only the most important and impressive achievements.

Proofread and spell-check your resume. Strive for a clean, clear, easy-to-read document.

Target the resume to the job you are applying for.  Is this an opera, ballet or symphony audition? When possible, include experience that supports the ensemble’s core repertoire. 

Always keep your resume to one page in length.  In the case of a principal position, a longer resume is acceptable if the musician’s experience level warrants it.

Now that your resume is complete, you can get back to the practice room where the real work is done!

Sample Resume:


Street Address / City, State Zip

Telephone #

Email Address

EDUCATION  Degree received Institution, year graduated [list from most recent received]
MAJOR TEACHERS  Use your college/conservatory teachers. If you studied even briefly with the Isaac Stern of your instrument, mention that too.
ORCHESTRAL  EXPERIENCE  Symphony Orchestra, position, time frame [list from most recent. Include only the most impressive work]
CHAMBER/SOLO EXPERIENCE   Especially useful for musicians applying for principal chairs.  In that case, list major concertos in your repertoire, especially those performed in public
AWARDS/HONORS Did you win a concerto contest?  Did you receive a Scholarship to your conservatory/music school?
FESTIVALS  Especially good category for students without much professional experience.  If space is an issue, this can be lumped into Awards/Honors.
AUDITION HISTORY  Use this heading only if you were a semifinalist or (especially) a finalist in a professional orchestra audition.  If you were runner-up for a major job, it’s definitely appropriate to say so.  If you were a semi-finalist for a seven-week summer opera orchestra, leave that information out.
REFERENCES  Teachers, coaches and conductors are standard references.  Obtain the consent of your references before listing them.