Dos and Donts for a Young Artist Program Resume

With limited time to grab and hold the attention of a Young Artist Program screening panel, you cannot spend too much time adjusting and tailoring your résumé. It’s just a sheet of paper, yet there are so many pertinent details that it can be overwhelming to sort through them all. Kathleen Farrar Buccleugh shares feedback and advice from actual Young Artist Program administrators. This piece was published in the October issue of Classical Singer magazine and these tips should help you get a great start.
At a certain point in your career, you no longer need to be told to avoid hot pink paper or Papyrus font. However, there are still several considerations when it comes to the design of your résumé, and you must choose carefully.
Mark Morash, director of musical studies with San Francisco Opera’s Merola program (which now uses YAP Tracker applications instead of accepting résumés), says that “it makes an impact if you have quality paper” and that with paler-colored paper, the reader will be able to focus more on your credits.
The same goes for fonts: choose a common or simple font such as Times New Roman or Calibri so that the reader does not get distracted from the content of the résumé. “[Applicants] have to remember that sometimes someone may only spend 30 seconds in the first go around to get an assessment of someone. [Young artists] have to be able to draw the eye” to the important information, so bolding heading titles and minimizing variations in fonts and colors is essential, Morash says.
Jay Lesenger, general/artistic director of Chautauqua Opera, emphasizes the importance of a clear, concise résumé. “We need to assimilate a lot of information about [applicants] very quickly,” he says, and a résumé of longer than one page would be unnecessary for young artists.
Lesenger’s experience with reading résumés has led him to plan to provide Chautauqua Opera applicants with a sample résumé for guidance. He hopes to have it ready in plenty of time for fall auditions.
The first section on your résumé should outline performing experience. Separate full roles from partial roles (or scenes), and denote language and whether a role was a cover. When including such information, do your best to keep it from looking cluttered.
Morash advises young artists to include roles that might even be viewed as inappropriate for a certain age or voice type, such as a 19-year-old soprano singing Lucia. He says audition panels will understand that at a young age, singers may not know where their voice is headed—but “If you’ve done a role, you should put it down,” he says.
Indicating where the role was performed, Morash says, would provide good context. “I would always put down where you sang something. If we see that it’s some small college in a small place . . . what I might take away from that is that this school was invested in this singer.”
When to begin removing high school credits is sometimes a point of contention—but the general rule is to keep them there until you’ve got enough other experience that those simply don’t fit on your one page anymore. The same goes for pay-to-sing summer programs.
Other Performances
Musical theatre and operetta roles, Lesenger says, can be listed together in a category separate from opera experience. Lesenger and Morash agree that you should not leave those performances—including play experience—off just because you are applying for an opera program. Stage experience is stage experience.
“What we’re looking at is the range of experience. Singers place a lot of emphasis on the number of roles they’ve done as if that’s the most important thing,” Lesenger says. “I’m going to base it on how they sing for me.”
“In the beginning for people just starting out, oratorio experience is completely relevant,” Morash says.
Teachers, Coaches, and More
Lesenger advises singers to list teachers and coaches, but cautions against naming anyone who would not remember you. Just as with any non-performance résumé, you would not want it to seem like you have falsified information. If you sang for a famous maestro for 20 minutes five years ago, chances are you should leave that off. The same goes for conductors and directors.
And whether it’s your voice teacher of three years or your coach of six months, do let that person know you have referenced him or her on your résumé.
Awards, Recognition
Scholarships, music honor society membership, and other recognition that shows your academic or performance achievement could show an audition panel your perseverance and professionalism. Do not leave them off just because the award was not given by the world’s largest opera house.
But as with high school credits, you will find that eventually the “smaller” awards will be replaced by more roles and special skills.
Education is a touchy category for some singers. Rumors that a company will not hear a singer with an advanced academic degree (PhDs, DMAs) abound. Regardless of whether that is true, the fact remains that your résumé for a Young Artist Program application should focus on your performance experience and not as much on higher education accomplishments.
Put your education section toward the bottom, but do not leave off anything that shows you have experience in performing, acting, and languages.
Special Skills
Do not automatically assume your 15 years of oil painting would be of no interest to the screening panel. “Special skills can pique someone’s interest,” Morash says, and even serious study of cooking, crafts, or writing—and noting any recognition for that work—could be the final nudge in being granted an audition. “It just shows a creative bend,” he says. Also, listing long-term participation in sports and other physical activity shows “investment of body control.”
So you can write with your toes? There is no way to know whether every audition panel would be averse to that skill, but if in doubt, leave it off. Morash says that though there are certainly exceptions, special skills that require education or training could be of significance.
A Few Final Tips
Singers who have experienced a Fach shift—minor or major—might wonder how to explain that change on their résumé, but many auditioners will likely understand how a voice can progress over time. If you have switched from mezzo to soprano, do not leave your mezzo roles off. “What would require explanation,” Morash says, “is if you went back and forth [between Fachs].”
Straight theatre and musical theatre résumés often list the actor’s height, weight, hair color, and eye color. This is not the norm in the opera world, but Lesenger says he likes to see those specifications on a résumé because it “helps to remind us how they look.” He stressed again that Chautauqua hires singers based on how well they sing in the audition, and not on any other factors. “At least as far as I’m concerned, [physical attributes] shouldn’t work against them.”
No matter how hard you work to perfect your résumé, inevitably someone will disagree with the content, the layout, or some other minute detail. But keep in mind that your ultimate goal is to make it as clear, concise, relevant, and professional as possible. With those intentions, you may just get that audition call after all.


For more than 20 years Classical Singer magazine has been an invaluable resource for singers.  Monthly articles feature current and former opera stars who share their secrets of success, as well as their stories of struggle and inspiration.   Classical Singer magazine began in 1988 as The New York Opera Newsletter. For years it provided in-depth insights about the New York opera scene to its subscribers. But interest in the newsletter grew rapidly and the demand for more information by opera and classical singers from around the world stimulated a transformation.   Get a free trial of Classical Singer magazine at