In this business of mashing my hands around on the piano in front of people, one of my least favorite aspects of the job description is bio-writing.
I totally get that a bio is a Very Necessary Thing to have. I know this because my first instinct when I get a program or run across a musician’s website is to greedily flip to the “About the Artist” page or click on “Bio,” because heaven knows you can’t enjoy an artist’s work without first knowing as much personal information about them as you can. I also know this because there is a whole section on bio-writing in the music career bible du jour, and I have also realized when talking to audiences that for some reason people are genuinely interested in Me as a Person and not just Me as a Thing That Mashes Piano Keys.
So of course I have a bio, always ready-to-go and ready-to-be-edited-for-space.
The thing is that I have always hated the fact that I need to have a bio. If I had my way, the “About the Artist” section on all my programs would either be a single sentence clarifying that I play the piano, or be a compilation of my silliest tweets. I do not like quoting nice things people have said about my playing, and I do not like listing all the allegedly impressive things I have done. In this regard, I identify wholeheartedly with Ron Swanson.
The thing I hate even more than having to have a bio in the first place is the fact that the standard practice for bios—in the classical music world, at least—dictates that they have to be Very Serious, with a dash of pretension and hyperbolic braggadocio. It makes sense if you are a superstar, or at the very least a widely-acclaimed youngster cutting a meteoric rise on the international circuit. But in the past couple of years I have seen too many random teenagers flaunting bios claiming they’d been named as being one of the greatest pianists of their generation (by their mothers, probably). This madness has to end, people.
After several years of playing the serious bio game (at some point I featured a number of selectively quoted phrases, like “fiery technique” and “turned heads” and other things my sister made fun of me for), I decided enough was enough. If I have to have a bio, I might as well have fun with it.
I have no idea, honestly, how long I’m going to keep a tongue-in-cheek bio in which the word “pianist” doesn’t appear anywhere. Maybe I’ll even replace the picture with something sillier. At some point a concert promoter or more adult person may kindly suggest that I put a more professional biography on my website, or maybe I’ll just get embarrassed and go back to using one of the
boring alternate bios I have floating around.
But for now, I am a professional finger wiggler because my website says so.
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4 thoughts on “Bios are Stupid”
You are amazing! Heard you play the piano at the Young Artist showcase and thoroughly enjoyed the Brahms performance with cello and clarinet. I find your bio incredibly funny! Would love to hear you play the violin?!
Thank you! Glad you enjoyed the performance and my bio! My violin playing is not terribly good these days, so you’re better off just listening to me play the piano. 🙂
Having edited and read so many musician bios (I worked for years at Royal Festival Hall in London commissioning and editing classical musical programmes, among a hundred other things), I would have looooooved to put yours in a programme. I don’t know how many times I would have to cut these for space (they are always approximately four times too long) and I would literally just scan for orchestras or schools I didn’t know and cut them! Invariably their agent would argue with me, and we’d come to a compromise, and then I would get letters written in shaky cursive from 85-year-old English ladies that the font was too small because I had to make it small to fit the long bio the agent insisted on and and and. *sigh*. Yeah. Fun times.
That’s so frustrating but so hilarious. Bios are a pain in the butt for those reasons exactly!